If you thought that the biggest word of 2018 was “extra” or “woke,” we’re about to rock your world. The real number-one word of the year? Toxic, at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary. And whether you use it to describe friendships, the way we treat the environment, or your relationship with the news, it probably crops up in your own life.
Knowing that toxicity has become so ever-present that it was recognized by Oxford, we want more than ever to help minimize it for you. Life’s too short to be toxic! We reached out to relationship and mental health experts for their advice for keeping things positive — here’s what they had to say.
1. Take stock of your relationships
Toxicity can easily creep into almost any relationship. If you have a sneaking suspicion that the bad vibes you’ve been feeling lately are actually rooted in toxicity, you need to evaluate how you relate to everyone who is closest to you.
Licensed professional counselor and coach Anahid Lisa Derbabian recommends that you consider how mutually respectful, supportive, safe, and positive each of your relationships is. This kind of assessment can help you figure out where the toxicity needs to be tackled.
2. Beware of contagious attitudes and emotions
Like laughter and yawning, feelings and moods can be catching — and that can be dangerous.
“Surrounding yourself with toxic people means you end up toxic,” Happy Brain Science chief happiness officer Scott Crabtree says. “Surrounding yourself with positive people means you end up more positive.” Once you’ve identified the relationships that are especially toxic in your universe, you might consider stepping back from them so you’re not absorbing the negative.
3. Make a list
While relationships are a major source of toxicity for many people, they aren’t the only source. Grab a piece of paper and make a list of all of the things and all of the people that may be bringing you down.
“A list that identifies the relationships and situations that are toxic for you allows you to make clear choices when faced with those circumstances, rather than reacting [automatically],” author and heart healing coach Susyn Reeve tells us. “Start by listing the people and circumstances you are continually complaining about. Remember to include complaints and judgments you continually make about yourself!”
4. Don’t be afraid of boundaries
The word “boundaries” in itself may already be giving you a sinking feeling. Boundaries with the people I love? Boundaries that might keep me from my work or my passions? Yikes! Think again! Once you’ve identified where things are getting toxic in your life, it’s time to set your fear of boundaries aside.
“Strong boundaries ensure that you are the protector of your own personal space and they tell others how to respect those zones,” self-care coach and Boundaries With Soul author Carley Schweet says. “Without boundaries, it’s easy for toxicity to not only slip into your life, but also to negatively affect you on many levels.”
Once you’ve come around to the idea of establishing those boundaries, it’s time to let practice make perfect.
Life coach and licensed therapist Latasha Matthews encourages you to take as many opportunities as possible to hone this tricky craft. Don’t sit back and let negative comments or unreasonable asks pass you by. Instead, set a boundary! Everyone has their own personal boundary-setting style, so give yourself the time and space to figure out yours.
5. Cut back on social media
At this point, you’re probably sick of hearing that minimizing your time scrolling the ‘gram is the root of all of your problems, but you’re going to have to hear it one more time, because licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula says it’s a great way to minimize toxicity. The comparison game that social media has so many of us playing can breed that toxicity inside your own brain. And how can you fight it on the outside if it’s running wild internally?
6. Practice saying “no.”
Glacier Wellness health and wellness expert Samantha Morrison calls saying no your “best weapon in the fight against toxicity.” Arm yourself! When you can be your own biggest advocate and confidently excuse yourself from certain commitments or conversations, you begin to take some of the power away from the negative forces that have previously gotten you down.
7. Seek out a positive community
Battling toxicity isn’t just about eliminating negative influences and cutting the cord on tricky relationships. There are things you can add to your life to dial it back as well. Find a book club, workout group, craft club, or volunteer committee that’s all positive. “Whatever form it takes, the goal is to surround yourself with people who have achieved something that you are striving for or who are also working toward those same goals,” licensed therapist Daniel Olavarria tells us. “You will find that the more you surround yourself with positive influences, the less room there tends to be for toxicity in your life.”