10 Things to Say No to for Happiness and Health

In doing research for my next book, I discovered that most of us put so much pressure on ourselves to do, be, and have more; we exhaust ourselves to the point that we can't do much of anything.

A prime example of this just showed up in my life. I was at brunch the other day with my girlfriends, and all of them expressed how exhausted they felt just from everyday life. One said: “I need to learn how to say no. I say yes to things I don’t want to do.” She went on to say she really wants to get back into art and expressing her creative side, but she is always doing favors for everyone else, and at the end of the day she is just too tired.

I call this the “when you’re OK, I’m OK” pattern. Women are especially prone to taking care of everyone else around them. Many mothers in particular show up for everyone else before they put their own needs first.

Many of my life-coaching clients express this same dissatisfaction with life; they take great pride in being there for others, but it is a double-edged sword in the sense that their own personal needs are never met.

With my coaching clients, we work together to create an action plan to help them show up more for themselves. It starts with adopting a new favorite word: No. Learning how to make no your go-to word is a powerful practice that can help you cultivate better self-care. When we say "no" to others (when it doesn't align with our highest good) it protects our time. And time is the most valuable resource we have. When we say "yes" to things we don’t really want to do, we are saying to ourselves: “You are not worth it. The other person is more important.”

Many people are conditioned to feel worthy by giving and helping others. But as my good friend at brunch expressed—as well as countless other coaching clients—the outcome can be exhaustion, resentment, and regret. Sometimes when we overextend ourselves in this way it can even manifest into physical forms like weight gain or premature gray hair. This is because our stress levels increase when we feel imbalanced. And when we say "yes" to other people at the cost of our own desires and needs, we fall victim to sacrificing our own selves.

So adopt your new favorite word: No.

Saying no to people, things, opportunities, and situations that don’t align with your highest good is a profound act of self-love. It is actually the opposite of that dirty little word our parents would scold us with. If we can reframe the energy of the word, we will get a new outcome. Using the word no is a key step to showing up for yourself. As Steve Jobs said: “It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

In the process of becoming the best you, "no" should be your go-to word.

After all, most of us are overcommitted as is. Saying no can actually help balance your time. The thought of layering additional obligations on top of a job, kids, and everything else can feel prohibitive. What worked for me was cutting out habits or self-imposed commitments that weren't serving me. That means anything that wasn't making me happier, healthier, or better, I’d say no to. Try it out.

Here are 10 things I’m saying NO to, so I can be happy, healthy, and free:

  1. Say no to finishing books that lose your interest. Trust that you've learned what you needed to learn.
  2. Say no to your inner critic and instead turn to your inner voice. Act on your intuitive urges.
  3. Say no to listening to other's opinions about your life. Do what feels right for you.
  4. Say no to thinking 'my life is off track.' You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
  5. Say no to perceiving your flaws as negative qualities. Your imperfections are what make you a gorgeous human.
  6. Say no to deflecting compliments. Instead, accept them with a smile.
  7. Say no to obsessing about how or when your dreams will manifest. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey even more than the destination.
  8. Say no to comparing yourself to other people. We are all on our own unique journey.
  9. Say no to giving more faith to your fear. Instead, choose love.
  10. Say no to putting others before you. To love yourself is not to be selfish. If the inside is nurtured, the outside will flourish.

To make your own Love Your Life to the Fullest list, grab this free guide from the author.


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Shannon Kaiser has been labeled a modern thought leader on the rise by CafeTruth and Top 100 Women to Watch in Wellness by Mind Body Green. She is the best selling author of Find Your Happy, an Inspirational Guide to Loving Life to Its Fullest, and six-time contributing author to Chicken Soup for The Soul. 

She is an inspirational author, speaker, travel writer, and life coach who ...READ MORE