Learning to say no is hard for many people (myself included), but it can really make you healthier, both physically and mentally.

How often have you said “yes” to something and regretted it afterwards, feeling anxious and stressed?

This happens to every one of us and most of it is due to our education and upbringing. We associate saying no with being unfriendly or selfish. It also often feels like we’re letting other people down. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Not saying no will often lead to stress as you are taking on too many things. It’s not that you can’t handle them, but it’s just that you won’t have any time for yourself.

Many people, who overburden themselves, also experience worsened sleep, no time for exercise and a worsened diet. This is because they are so busy fulfilling all those commitments that there is no time left for themselves.

Not saying no can be detrimental to your health as research confirms. They found out that living this way, not saying no and overburdening yourself with too many commitments, will result in a decreased immune system function, chronic inflammation, diabetes, obesity and heart problems.

As already mentioned, saying no is no easy thing to do, but mainly because we didn’t learn to say no. In order to say no to other people, you have to value yourself enough to put your needs in front of their needs. That might sound selfish but think about it this way.

Only if you are healthy enough and feel good enough you are able to help other people. If you are sick and stressed you won’t be much of a help for them.

As with everything, start slow. Commit to saying no once a week if something turns up you actually don’t want to do. At first, you will feel nervous and anxious, but always remember that saying no to somebody else is saying yes to yourself.

You also don’t have to come up with a reason. If there is a real reason you can’t do something you can say it, but never make up a reason, just because it might feel better. Lying is not something that is necessary to choose yourself.

The most important thing is that you shouldn’t seek anybody’s approval. Your own approval is enough for yourself so you shouldn’t seek other’s by saying yes to them all the time.

There is also some interesting research regarding your own use of words, which have more power than you think. Researchers conducted a study with two groups of students. Both of them were faced with a temptation, ice cream, and one group had to say “I can’t eat it” while the other group said, “I don’t eat it”.

On their way eat, each group was either offered a chocolate bar or a healthy granola bar. The group who said “I can’t”, opted for the chocolate bar 61% of the time, while the “I don’t” group only chose it 36% of the time. Although this is based on a slightly different subject, you can try to use a different version of saying no, for example: “I can’t do that.” vs. “I don’t do that.” to see how you are feeling afterwards and how each phrase is working.

Always remember: it’s your life and you are in charge of it. Don’t do things you don’t want to do. If somebody asks you to do something be honest and tell them that you won’t do it. If the person will be mad at you or even blame you for not doing this, you might rethink your relationship with them. Learn to say no.

Steps to take:

  • Think about whether you’ll regret saying “yes”.
  • Don’t justify yourself, just say no.
  • Say “I don’t” instead of I “can’t”.


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