Everybody knows that feelings of envy and jealousy are not making you feel happier. But how do you actually stop being envious? This is easier said than done, as humans are “designed” to feel envious in some situations.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t stop this negative emotion. There are actual ways to stop being envious, and these are all things that you can start doing right away. So even though jealousy and envy are emotions that you can’t simply “turn off”, there are actionable methods to help you deal with them in a positive way.
In this article, I’ll discuss how feeling jealous can negatively impact your life, while showing 5 ways to stop being envious all the time.
- How envy keeps you from living a happy life
- 5 ways to stop feeling envious
- Wrapping up
How envy keeps you from living a happy life
Feeling envious is a natural reaction to some situations. It’s a human behavior that can be traced back to the time when “survival of the fittest” was the way of life. If someone has a bigger house, or a nicer set of clothes, feeling envious can help you get motivated so that you want to close that gap. Without these envy feelings, you’d be more likely to be left behind and eaten by saber-tooth tigers or trampled by mammoths.
Luckily, we live in a day and age where envious feelings are less crucial for our survival. In fact, feeling envious has almost no positive impact on your mental health at this stage.
Being envious is associated to lower life satisfaction
This study of 18,000 persons found that envious feelings are a strong predictor of worse mental health in the future. The researchers found that whenever someone goes from feeling the lowest to the highest level of envy, it was associated with a significant decrease in happiness.
The study also found that younger people are more susceptible to feeling envy, and levels of envy decrease as we grow older.
Feeling envious used to be a human feature, now it’s a bug
Thousands of years ago, before we had such a well-functioning and safe society, feeling envious was an emotion that helped us survive. By experiencing envy, we were more motivated to become better and fight harder for the things that we missed. It was something that arguably made us better people.
However, that feature has now turned into a bug. Although some people don’t want to admit it, we don’t live in a dog-eat-dog world anymore. Or at least, not in the same way we used to thousands of years ago.
Therefore, the actual application of envy has lost its purpose. We all still experience jealousy and envy, but it doesn’t actually help us live happier and longer lives. This same study found that higher levels of envy don’t lead to better mental health, nor does it lead to economic success.
In other words, feeling envious doesn’t help you get where you want.
Envy stops you from helping others
Feelings of jealousy and envy have even been found to keep us from helping others. In fact, feeling envious might lead us to make decisions that can actually harm those around us.
This indirectly hurts our ability to be happy as well, as it’s been found that spreading happiness actually increases our own happiness as well.
So if you want to make the world a better place, you need to continue reading as you’ll want some help on feeling less envious.
5 ways to stop feeling envious
Even though envy keeps us from living a happy life, it can be hard to get rid of these feelings. After all, they were originally designed as “features” of a human in order to help us survive. How do we counter those natural instincts, now that we know that it’s only affecting us negatively?
It’s actually more simple than you may think! Here are 5 ways to help you stop feeling envious.
If you are sick of feeling envious all the time, there is really no excuse to not delete your social media accounts.
While researching this topic, I stumbled upon this small study of 180 university students. The study found that people who specifically spent more time on highly visual social media are more likely to experience envy.
For those who are wondering what highly visual social media means, think of Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.
- Spending time on these social networks leads to feelings of envy.
- Feelings of envy result in decreased mental health (as found by lots of other studies as well).
The study also found no positive effect of highly visual social media.
What should you do with this information? The best gift you can give yourself is to log off for a while. While it may sound drastic, what’s keeping you from deleting your accounts altogether? Is it really so important to be active on these social media platforms?
If you can’t do that for some reason, then use the mute function and unfollow features that don’t add any value to your life and curate yourself a feed that lifts you up instead of bringing you down.
2. Only compare yourself with your past self, not with others
You probably know that it’s not always good to compare yourself to others. Everyone moves at their own pace and circumstances are different, and so on. But you probably find yourself making comparisons to others and wondering why you can’t stop.
Comparing yourself to others isn’t always bad and sometimes, it can maintain or even enhance your self-esteem. That’s what makes it so hard to stop, even if comparing yourself to others decreases your overall happiness.
Everyone has different good (and bad!) attributes. It’s easy to compare your own work with the work of your co-workers. But if your conclusion from this comparison is that you’re not good enough as a person, then that’s wrong.
What you need to do instead, is to compare yourself only to your former self. Try to focus on how much you’ve grown yourself, instead of feeling envious of where somebody else is.
In my case, I once ran a 15K run and was super excited to finish it in 1:08. It was one of my best races, but I later found out that a close friend of mine ran it as well, and he finished in the top 100 with a time of 0:55 or something like that. “Damn, I could never ever run that fast”, I thought.
But instead of focusing on this useless comparison, I found more happiness in being proud of what I had accomplished. I compared myself to my former self – back when I struggled with running a 5K – and quickly realized that I should be happy instead of envious!
3. Try something new
Feelings of envy are often combined with boredom and a lack of energy. A good way to deal with all these problems at once is to distract yourself with something exciting!
For example, I once signed up for a Bob Ross painting workshop. I never held a brush to a canvas in my life, so it was all really exciting. Even though there were people in the class who painted much better than I did, I still had the most fun. I did something I’d never done before, and I literally couldn’t be bothered to feel envious of others.
You don’t have to do something big for this to work. The point here is that by trying something new, you’re adding excitement and spontaneity to your life. There’s more than one benefit to doing this, as you may find a new hobby or passion in your life! You will also keep your mind occupied, so you won’t even have time to feel envious.
4. Find out what’s important to you and bring more of it into your life
Instead of trying something new, you can also just focus on the things that are already important to you.
It comes down to this simple piece of advice: do more of what makes you happy.
If you’re self-aware enough to realize that doing one thing makes you happier, then just try to do more of that.
In my example, I used to feel envious and jealous when my girlfriend and I were in a long-distance relationship. She was studying abroad in Australia while I was back at home feeling miserable.
Luckily, I knew that I enjoyed running as a hobby, so what did I do to keep my mind from feeling envious all the time? Yup, I signed up for my first-ever marathon. This was not only a great way to keep my mind occupied. It also increased my mental health and happiness significantly, as I already knew how much I loved running.
While running did the trick for me, it can be anything for you. Whether you’re into reading, bowling, rock climbing, or volunteering. If you already know what’s important to you, why not try to bring more of that into your life? It’s really that simple.
5. Plan things to look forward to
This last tip is a great way to focus on positivity instead of negativity. By planning things to look forward to, you’re shifting your mindset from negative feelings of envy and jealousy to hope, joy and optimism.
It doesn’t take much to experience the positive effect of planning things to look forward to. Even the idea of doing something fun can bring a sense of happiness. For example, this study found that people who are planning a vacation experience higher levels of happiness.
You don’t even have to plan something as big as a holiday in order to benefit from this effect. The next time you’re feeling envious, drop what you’re doing and plan something fun to look forward to. Whether that’s going to the park, making a reservation at a restaurant, or just seeing a close friend. These are all things that you have control over and will make you stop being envious.
Even though envy and jealousy are natural emotions, you may be surprised to have learned that you can actually control how you deal with them. I hope you know how to stop being envious by using some of the 5 methods I’ve discussed here.
Did I miss something? Was there anything you would have liked me to cover? Or do you want to share your own experiences in dealing with envy and jealousy? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!