How to Feel Better About Yourself According to Science
Imagine catching your reflection in the mirror, like you do dozens of times a day, and instead of seeing your split ends or your smeary mascara or your broken-out skin, you see exactly what you want to see. What does that even look like? You, but Ludwig-filtered? You, but photoshopped? You, but botoxed and lip-plumped and tweezed within an inch of your life? Or you, but just happy?
Self-esteem is one of those elusive things you know you need, sort of like resilience and bravery, but something you probably don’t know where to find. Fortunately, if your esteem isn’t as high as it should be—and if you’re a girl existing in the world, it’s probably not—there are things you can do to improve yours. I’m not talking about looking in the mirror and telling yourself you’re beautiful (although, tbh, that actually does work). There are actual science-backed ways to feel better about yourself that don’t involve locking the bathroom door, repeating positive affirmations, and feeling like a weirdo.
But let’s start with the things you should not do, because not doing something requires zero effort. Stop spending so much time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. It’s no secret that social media can make us feel pretty terrible about ourselves. It’s impossible not to compare yourself to the seemingly perfect lives of your friends (or “friends,” rather, since we’re talking about anyone you’re connected with on social media); but even more detrimental is all the nastiness you come across, something there’s certainly no shortage of online.
According to the Dove #SpeakBeautiful campaign, 8 out of 10 women encounter negativity on social media. Worse yet, 4 out of every 5 negative tweets from women are about themselves. That’s not to say the internet can’t be a place of positivity. It totally can! But if you find yourself obsessing over likes, statuses, and your cousin’s friend’s ex-girlfriend’s vacation photo album, signing out, even for a little bit, is proven to help your sanity.
Another thing you should just not do? Weigh yourself. We’re not going to force you to throw away the scale, though that wouldn’t be the worst idea. But don’t start your day by placing your self-worth on a meaningless number. And while you’re busy not doing things, add watching too much TV to the list. You don’t need to completely stop watching Girls—especially since this season is so good—but limit how much time you spend curled up on the couch hitting next on Netflix.
Now that you know what you should not do, here’s how to fill all those suddenly-free hours and feel better about yourself while you’re at it. Working out is, of course, good. It’ll make your body feel better, but it’ll make your brain feel better too. In fact, not only will it improve your self-esteem, but it’ll also reduce any depressive symptoms you may be feeling. (And let’s be real–we all feel down every now and then.) That means the pure dread you experience while lacing up your sneakers will soon be replaced by very noticeable happy feelings, and even more so if you blast Beyoncé during your workout. You don’t have to transform into a marathon runner or a body builder overnight (or ever, even!). Even breaking a tiny sweat makes an enormous difference.
And if all else fails, go ahead and give some positive affirmations in front of the bathroom mirror a try. It worked for Jessica.
This story is in partnership with our pals at Dove.