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    7 Small Words And Phrases That Make A Big Impact On My Mental Health

    Don't call something a "problem" — call it a "challenge."

    Thanks to therapy — and plenty of time spent monitoring my negative thinking — I've learned some small but significant ways to shift my language and improve my mental health.

    Here are some of the most effective changes I've made:

    1. Say "I get to" instead of "I have to."

    @the_rewm / Via

    Something that's changed my perspective on my daily to-do list is telling myself that I "get" to do this stuff, which allows me to view any tasks or events as opportunities, not obstacles. I've made this a habit over time and noticed that it's boosted my feelings of gratitude — toward everything from calling my parents to meeting friends for drinks. For example, thinking "I have to meet them for drinks" reinforces the feeling that socializing is a chore, while "I get to meet them for drinks" is a nice reminder that I'm lucky to have friends in my life who want to catch up.

    2. Remove "should" from your vocabulary.

    @michellenope / Via

    This is a hard one to paint over after years of using it, but avoiding the word "should" has worked wonders for my mental health. Whenever a "should" creeps up in my mind, such as, "I should feel better about that by now," I stop myself. The inevitable ending to that thought is "but I don't," which doesn't change a thing and actually makes me feel worse. Instead, I rephrase it as a question — "Why don't I feel better about that?" — and meditate on my experience, which is a much more productive and healthier way to resolve the issue.

    3. Ask "what if it works out?" instead of "what if it doesn't?"

    @tomgvellner / Via

    It's natural to worry about the worst-case scenario when you're thinking about the future or heading into a new experience, but I've learned to stop that negative thinking in its tracks by wondering about the best-case scenario instead, which is just 👏 as 👏 possible 👏. I ask myself, "What if it works out?" or "What if I nail this?" It takes effort, but giving my brain the chance to ruminate on a successful outcome is refreshing and empowering. Let your imagination run wild with the positive possibilities for a change.

    4. Swap "but" with "and."

    This is one of my favorite tips from a therapist I used to see: It was one of my first sessions with her, and I had just moved in with my boyfriend, which (spoiler!) is a big life change for anyone. I said something to her along the lines of, "I'm so glad I moved in with him, but I really miss having my own space, so, like, what gives? I thought this is what I wanted." She asked me, "Why does it have to be a 'but'?" My desire for more alone time, she explained, didn't negate my decision to move in with him. Replacing "but" with "and" ("I'm so glad I moved in with him, and I miss having my own space") allowed me to make room for both emotions. Instead of driving myself nuts like, "WHICH IS IT? WHAT DO I DO?" I was able to shift my focus from conflict to resolution: finding ways we could still be independent in our shared apartment.

    5. Don't call something a "problem" — call it a "challenge."

    @tomgvellner / Via

    Those words might not seem that different, but when I think of something as a "problem," it feels burdensome, like something difficult I'd rather just avoid. (A new week that's filled to the brim with meetings, anyone?) When I reframe it as a "challenge," however, it feels as if I'm being called to use my skills to overcome or defeat it, like in a video game. The word "challenge" puts me in a mindset where I believe I have the power to determine the outcome. I feel more motivated to crush the week ahead.

    6. Don't just say "I hope" — make a strategy.

    @michellenope / Via

    I'm not saying you shouldn't be hopeful. Hope is as necessary as breathing. BUT, when I'm feeling anxious about something, instead of leaving that feeling open-ended by saying, for example, "I hope I don't mess this presentation up," I rephrase it in a more productive way, such as, "I won't mess this presentation up if I memorize my five well-researched points." Focusing on what I can control about the situation is more calming for me than sending a vague hope out into the universe. I still cross my fingers that I do well, but I give my anxiety the bit of concrete action it needs to settle down.

    7. And secretly wish for someone to be happy.

    @tomgvellner / Via

    This one's cheesy, I'll admit, but trust me, it's effective. Whether I'm at work, on the street, in line for bagels, or wherever, I privately wish for someone there to be happy. Compassion is considered the happiest mental state, so it makes sense that when you wish for another person to have a great day or to be successful at work, it instantly shifts your mood. Rather than let agitated thoughts brew in my brain ("IF THIS DUDE WALKS ANY SLOWER I WILL CALL THE POLICE"), I free myself from the rage cycle and secretly send someone around me positive vibes ("I hope this slow walker sees a corgi puppy today"). This strategy will always offer you a moment of joy.

    If you need to talk to someone immediately, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. Suicide helplines outside the US can be found here.