For a tiny word, "no" certainly can make a big impact.
While "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes pursued a year of "yes" in 2015, fellow fierce lady Lena Dunham has vowed to say "no" in 2016. Both concepts may seem simple, but they're important stances we sometimes forget to assert.
In a blog on her new resolution, Dunham detailed how her life started to change once she she began recovering from a "cocktail of self-doubt blended with the need for constant approval" and began using the two-letter word:
It was a slow process, but a polite 'no' soon entered my vernacular ... And something miraculous happened: my personal life followed suit. ... People respond well to honesty, to reality. They understand. And so with those no's, YES sprung back up everywhere. Funny how that works.
It may be worth it to take a page from Dunham's playbook. There's power in putting your needs first. Below are 6 times where it's totally acceptable to say "no":
1. When you're tired.
Sleep certainly isn't for the weak. If you're feeling run down, don't feel obligated to commit to something. Studies show sleep deprivation is no joke: It can affect your immune system and your mood and increase your risk for disease. Not worth it.
2. When you're uncomfortable.
Did you get invited to a friend's birthday party that your ex will be attending? If the thought of going makes your stomach churn, reconsider. Toxic situations are hardly worth the stress.
There are times when taking a leap out of your comfort zone is a great idea, but when your gut instinct is telling you something's off, pay attention. Research shows our internal red flags are a real phenomenon. Sometimes it's better just to listen to them.
3. When you can't manage the time commitment.
People often wear "busy" as a badge of honor, especially in the workplace. However, that mentality can lead to burnout and serious health risks like chronic stress.
"Even if professional success is the most important thing to you, depriving yourself of sleep, never letting yourself recharge, never disconnecting, not allowing any time for quiet reflection and for those you love -- is not a sustainable career strategy," HuffPost president and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington wrote in a blog on burnout. "Not only are quantity of work and quality of work two very different things, at some point -- more quickly than you think -- they become inversely related."
If you find yourself overbooked and overwhelmed, it might be time to flex your "no."
4. When you're uninterested.
Life's too short to spend your energy on circumstances that don't engage your heart or mind. You should constantly be pursuing activities and circumstances that help you grow instead of solely filling your schedule with the mundane.
This idea particularly goes for your professional life: Research shows meaningful work makes employees happier. You need something that ignites your interest. Pursue those opportunities wherever you can.
5. When you're saying "yes" just to please someone.
Constantly putting your needs on the back burner is hardly healthy. According to a 2012 study, people pleasers tend to unknowingly give into unspoken social pressures. In other words, they often say "yes" without processing what they want first.
Remember that you are your own biggest advocate. Self-care is not always selfish.
6. Whenever the hell you want to.
Ultimately, it's your life. Make whatever choices are going to be best for you and your well-being. If that means declining, then say it with conviction. Because by saying "no" to circumstances you don't want in your life, you're saying "yes" to yourself -- and that's a beautiful thing.
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