Being "weighed down" by a guilty conscience is more than just a saying. Whether it’s missing a lunch date with your beau or forgetting to call your mom, the tiniest slip-up can lead to oodles of guilt--and according to a recent study published in PLOS ONE--the emotional response can be accompanied by increased subjective body weight.
Below are 12 ways to combat a guilty conscience to (literally) feel lighter and more energized:
1. Define whether the guilt fits the crime.
When our guilty conscience kicks in, it’s usually because we feel that we aren't doing things right or not doing enough. Much of the time we feel too much guilt for the “crime” we’ve committed, however. Only assign guilt where guilt is due (if it’s due at all).
2. Correct your mistake.
Luckily, the little things that give us a guilty conscience are usually easy to fix. For example, if you’ve cut out on your weekly girls’ nights one too many times lately, don’t just participate in the next one: Host it! Going the extra mile will help you even the score in your mind.
3. Cut yourself some slack.
Despite that Superwoman cape, you’re only human. When you screw up (or just think you did) it doesn’t make you the worst person on the planet. Don’t believe me? Watch the news.
4. Keep track of your guilt.
Write down every time you feel guilty and why. Periodically analyze your guilt – do you see any patterns? This will help you become aware of when your guilty conscience is about to kick in so you stop the knee-jerk response.
5. Create guilt-free zones.
Create pockets of time throughout the week to do things you enjoy, and make these guilt-free zones. Make a sign that says “No Guilt Allowed” if you have to! It'll probably be more effective than the “No Boys Allowed” sign on your childhood treehouse.
6. Don’t be a doormat.
We make ourselves feel guilty enough as it is, so allowing others to invade your guilty conscious with their personal baggage is just insanity! Stop it. Right Now. Judgemental friends aren't friends at all.
7. Take responsibility and move on.
If you legitimately did mess up, confess it. Whether it's just to yourself, or to a room full of people, do what it takes to clean up the mess you made. As long as you learn from your mistakes they weren’t a waste of time. Taking responsibility goes a long way toward eliminating a gulty conscience.
8. Practice saying no.
I used to feel guilty when family or friends wanted me to do something and I either didn’t have time or just plain didn’t want to. Once I realized that saying no doesn’t mean you care less about the people in your life, I became a “no” connoisseur.
9. Stop playing the “should” game.
I’m really good at talking. It’s amazing I don’t always have laryngitis. Since cutting back on talking to incorporate more doing, I’ve finally stopped playing the “should” game with myself: I should exercise more. I should eat healthier. I should practice mindfulness. Stop saying you “should” be doing things and use that time toward... you know, actually doing them.
10. Talk it out.
Sometimes we’re too close to what’s going on to gauge how valid our guilt is. Talk to a friend or relative who knows you well and ask for their perspective (not necessarily advice!). Guaranteed, they’ll tell you what you secretly already know: You put way too much pressure on yourself.
11. Time your guilt.
If you’ve had a particularly bad day, your guilty conscience could make you feel bad for everything you’ve ever done wrong. In cases like this, set an alarm and give yourself anywhere from five to thirty minutes of uninterrupted wallowing. When the alarm goes off, move on immediately.
12. Use the phrase, “I deserve...”
Anytime your guilty conscience tries to run the show, cut it off and say to yourself, “I deserve…” and fill-in-the-blank with whatever you’re doing in the moment that your guilt’s trying to ruin. You’re no good to anyone when you don’t take time out to refuel.
What’s your top strategy for overcoming a guilty conscience?
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