It happens. We think we’re better than that, but as soon as our partner’s dreaded ex-girlfriend calls, we can almost feel our skin turning green with a primal urge to scratch her beady eyes out. Regardless of what her intentions are, you don’t need to be a genius to realize that jealousy isn’t healthy for your mental state; and it’s not much better for you physically, either.
Why we feel threatened or envious is an old human trait likely connected with our survival instincts—we’d fill with rage and envy over others who had access to things we needed, like food, shelter, water, in order to help us attain them. But its mutation has led us to feel threatened, even when it’s unwarranted, and instead of being grateful for all we do have, we can often become envious and jealous over a number of absurd things including the innocent call from an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, the friend we perceive to be prettier than us, the co-worker that got the promotion, and so on.
A study published in Developmental Psychology found that jealousy—especially during teenage years when many of our habits begin to stick—contributes to some major issues including more physical and passive aggression, anxiety, stress, loneliness and depression. Consistent feelings of anxiety or stress have been connected with an increase in signs of aging, decreased immune function, more likelihood of developing serious illnesses, including heart disease, hypertension and certain types of cancer. And like any habit, the more we allow ourselves to feel jealousy, the quicker we snap into it. Try these tips to abate the green monster and decrease jealousy’s negative effects on your life.
1. Identify the Issue: We often are so caught up in our envy we don’t really even notice what it is specifically we’re jealous over. When we take the time to understand what’s triggering the issue, we also understand why it may not be warranted, either. If you think it’s the ex-girlfriend calling, perhaps that’s just illuminating something else lacking in your relationship. Feeling envy over a co-worker’s promotion may actually mean you’re disappointed in yourself for not trying harder. See if you can follow the jealousy trail all the way in to the issues you can change.
2. Forgive: Forgiveness can be done solely within you, without involving anyone else, especially the person you’re feeling jealous over. By forgiving them—and yourself—you allow the issue to become a non-issue and something you can move past.
3. Make Changes: If that new outfit on your BFF really is making you feel jealous—then go and get one like it. By simply making an effort to feel better about ourselves, we can replace that jealousy with pride and confidence. If you’re worried it’ll look weird having the same item, do something else for yourself to boost your confidence and push out that jealousy.
4. Don’t Take it Personally: Most things that happen to us aren’t actually about us. The ex-girlfriend calling, the co-worker getting promoted—they really have nothing to do with us, or anything we’ve done. When we learn how not to take these things personally, we free ourselves from the reactions and the judgments.
5. Seek Support: Emotions can often be overwhelming. They may be related to current issues, or they can often be connected to things of the past we’re still processing. Sometimes they’re also the result of chemical imbalances in our brains. If feelings like jealousy seem to consume you no matter what you try, seeking the assistance of a professional can help you learn how to deal with them.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger