In Practice

Putting social psychology to work for you

5 Quick Tips for Envy

Strategies you can use when you find yourself feeling envious.

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Here are some strategies you can use when you find yourself feeling envious.

1. Don't fight with your feelings.

When you fight with your feelings, they fight back. Typically anything you to do try to push away intrusive, unwanted thoughts will result in experiencing higher frequency of those thoughts.


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Instead try just labeling the emotion. Research has shown that identifying the emotions you're having takes the edge of them. Just acknowledge "I feel envious."

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2. Don't go down the rabbit hole of "Why do I think/feel the way I do?"

Do you find yourself thinking things like:

"Why do I feel like this?"

"What kind of person am I if I feel like this?"

"Why can't I be as successful as I want to be?" 

Thinking these types of thoughts without it ever leading to anything useful is termed rumination. When you mood is low it's highly unlikely you'll have any useful insights so give yourself a break from overthinking and trust that feelings naturally ebb and flow without you needing to do anything.


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3. Train yourself to celebrate other's successes.

Changing your behavior is usually the best way to change your thoughts and feelings. Practice making positive comments and gestures when someone in your life experiences some kind of success. For example, send an email or a card to a friend who gets a promotion.

Try an experiment of doing this regularly for 6 months and see if your issues with envy subside.

4. Challenge thought distortions such as "Nothing ever goes right for me" or "I never get any support."


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It's natural for emotions like envy to cause your thinking to narrow and get more negative. When you're feeling unhappy about luck or opportunities someone else has gotten, you're probably going to underestimate the luck and opportunities you've had. 

5. Recognize opportunity cost.

The term "Opportunity Cost" refers to the idea that whenever we choose one thing we are by default not choosing other things.

We all choose our own path and inevitably this means we don't get to experience other paths. For example, a friend who takes a lot of overseas trips is probably giving up other things like dinners out and fancier furniture. Everybody makes their own choices and no one escapes opportunity cost.

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photo credits:  AJU_photography Schen Photography Florencia Cárcamo wolfgangfoto via photopin cc

 

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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