3 Women Share the Swaps They’re Making to Let More Joy Into Their Lives

When your negativity, unproductive nighttime habits, and social media addiction are holding you back, what do you do? You switch them out for habits that make you feel happier and healthier. Here's how three women are doing just that to find their joy.

How I’m swapping negative self-talk for kindness to others

by Abbi Henderson

Negative self-talk has been a daily – albeit unwanted – ritual for as long as I can remember. Like hushed music playing in a store, it’s always babbling away in the background. Sometimes it’s drowned out by sounds that override it; the reassuring voices of loved ones, or that of my more positive mindset. Other times, the volume is cranked and the playlist switched to tauntingly play Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head on repeat. Imagine. During those times, there are endless faults I internally scold myself for, from the everyday (“you spilt coffee and missed the streetcar, can’t you do anything right?”), to the overdramatic (“you are entirely unsuccessful and a complete eff-up”), to the downright ludicrous (“everybody hates you and rightly so because you’re awful and unworthy of friends”). My inner critic has a persona much like that of Miss. Trunchbull; it’s malicious, cruel, and void of compassion.

Fatigued by constant mental flogging for my perceived flaws and failure to silence the negative commentary, I chose to try something besides succumbing to my Trunchbull’s twisted words. I suspected I wasn’t the only one in a brain-brawl with my inner critic, so I decided to shift focus from my own internal mean comments and instead try to help others quiet their own by offering kindness. Now, when friends complain of feeling “fat” or “unattractive” (their personal Trunchbulls at play) I instantly retort that they are goddesses, that they have uncountable talents and that their appearances are the least interesting of their many traits. I make a conscious effort to celebrate others’ successes, I offer encouragement when those I care for doubt their abilities, and I dish out compliments like candy at Halloween. Sometimes, I make a point of asking friends to share something that made them smile that day in an attempt to remind them – and myself – to search for the small fragments of happiness. I try to be kind, in some small way, every day.

My intention was never to feel better about myself (as I considered that to be a lost cause), rather to try to encourage others to challenge their own negative self-talk, and provide them with an alternative, more positive dialogue. What I have found, though, is that I feel a bit better as a byproduct, like my kindness proves my critic’s comments unfounded. It allows me to hit skip on the Kylie playlist, and start blasting Lizzo (who else?). And my experience is no exception to the rule; a review in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that completing acts of kindness does, in fact, have the potential to boost your mood.

Full disclosure; I haven’t yet succeeded in silencing my Trunchbull altogether and, honestly, I’m not sure I ever will. Some days I can be compassionate, forgiving and generous to others whilst simultaneously giving myself a mental bashing. It’s complex, and perhaps simply being kind is not a solution for permanently quashing negative self-talk. It is, however, an easy way to pass an earphone to another, tweak their mental tune, and let them have a little listen to Lizzo for a while.

How I’m swapping listening to podcasts before bed with reading

by Sara Cation

I love the way podcasts lull me to sleep. I sip my last sip of Nighty-Night tea, turn the lights off, put my headphones on, press play, and a sweet soothing voice sends me to Sandman. I feel like I’m being told bedtime stories—albeit with more mature themes—like when I was young. It’s easy. It’s comforting. So why am I giving up the nightly habit? I want to make way for a better habit.

The mental benefits of reading at any stage of life are staggering. Reading not only builds knowledge, vocabulary, and writing skills but it can also help improve focus, analytical thinking, and memory. It reduces stress, increases empathy—and best of all (in my opinion), it offers an escape from the everyday to a place you get to pick.

Also, I want—nay, need—to sleep better. Cell phones emit a blue light that studies have shown to have a significant effect on sleep patterns. People who stare at their cell phones before bed produce less melatonin, causing them to wake up more often and achieve REM far less frequently. As one of the many who suffer from inconsistent sleep—I’ve even seen a sleep specialist about it—I’ve made a resolution to follow the doctor’s orders and return to an old-fashioned alarm clock in favour of keeping my cell phone in another room (meaning no more pre-bed binge-watching or podcast-listening).

Lastly, I want better dinner party (and Zoom party) fodder. There is simply not enough time in the day to read all the books I want to read. In addition to new books topping my list, I want to cover the classics not covered in English Lit as well as career development books and modern history tomes. I could spend an entire sabbatical year turning pages and still not make it through the pile. But setting aside an extra half hour every night will get me closer. If the average book is 300 to 400 pages, and I devote 20-30 minutes a night to reading, I’ll finish around 20 books this year.

The Sara stepping into the world after quarantine will be more interesting, well-rested, present of mind and the best darn dinner guest around—all thanks to this one small switch-out!

How I’m swapping Instagram for Babbel

by Renée Reardin

Like most people, picking up my phone and tapping on the Instagram icon has become as habitual as tucking my hair behind my ear. I do it without even thinking. I do it when I’m waiting to cross the street, holding a workout pose, or bored during a work task. Behind my every tap of the app is the hope that a scroll will make me feel happier, more hopeful, or some other positive emotion.

But do I really feel that much better after looking at pictures of stylish people, French pastries, and memes? Well, sometimes. However, I got to the point where I felt like scrolling through Instagram was actually keeping me from attainting longer-lasting joy.

My dream is to move to France, but for that, I need to learn the language (amongst other things). So I wondered: What if I devoted all the time I spent scrolling through Instagram on a language-learning app instead?

I downloaded Babbel, with the idea that I would learn French as fluently as possible via the convenience of my phone. But for months, the app sat untouched. Whenever my fingers would hover mindlessly over my phone, they also went for the Instagram icon.

Then quarantine came around. The hustle and bustle of everyday life quieted down, and my goal of learning French sang a little louder in my head. So, I made it a priority. I got a French tutor, whom I meet with via video chat for two one-hour lessons a week, and I made Babbel a daily priority. I started doing 1-3 lessons a day plus reviews of previous lessons. I even find it fun, thanks in most part to the very generous praise it gives me.

Six weeks in, and my relationship with Babbel is still going strong—but I’m still seeing Instagram on the side (how French, right?). In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen how beneficial social media can be to individuals and society as a whole. It’s not just a place to get inspired to make a purchase, bake a cake, or have a laugh, it’s a place where you can hear other voices, learn personal and collective accounts of events around the world, and join in with your community to take a stand and fight for justice.

Like most things in life, social media is about balance. If you have a satisfying taste of it, and don’t over-indulge, you can reap the benefits that can do you and the whole world good—and you’ll still have time for your dreams.