Lemme guess: You just had a huge fight with your friend group. Or maybe you broke things off with your BF. Or you're just feeling generally not great. All of the above? Regardless, you've decided you wanna ~focus on yourself~ and I can help you do just that.
But, first, a quick disclaimer. If you don't actually know what you're looking to get out of focusing on yourself, this probably isn't gonna go very well. Without reflecting on what you want before you get started (more on that in a min) these strategies might not help, explains licensed mental health counselor Rachel Gersten, cofounder of New York City-based Viva Wellness.
Another tip: Remember that small steps are key. "Sometimes when we set out to better ourselves we tend to want to do everything at once," explains licensed mental health counselor and popular TikTok therapist Micheline Maalouf. "Oftentimes, this can overwhelm and lead to giving up on ourselves." In other words, don't try to overhaul your entire life in a couple of days, K?
Now that we've got the basics down, it's time to get to the good stuff (ya know, the actual advice). Here, 10 therapist-approved tips for focusing on yourself in a way that will actually lead to positive changes. Yay!
1. Reflect on what you *actually* want
Take a walk, meditate, journal, or talk to a friend to get your mind going about what you want and need right now. If you have no idea where to start, reflect on your relationships, career, and general health, and think about whether there's anything you want to improve in one of those areas, suggests Gersten.
If those aspects of your life all feel pretty solid (props to you), think about the bigger picture and ask yourself questions like 'when am I the happiest?' and 'when do I feel the best about myself?' or 'when do I feel the worst?' "That can pinpoint a direction to either get more or less of something in your life," explains Gersten.
2. Start by making small, sustainable changes
As I mentioned earlier, this process is a marathon not a sprint. Once you figure out what you want to work on, create small goals to set yourself up for success.
Let's say you decide you want to work out more as a way to focus on yourself. If you're not usually super active, don't commit to doing hour long HIIT classes six days a week right away. That probably won't end well. Instead, create a smaller goal like walking for 20 minutes a few days a week to set yourself up for success, says Gersten.
3. Focus on your basic needs
If you don't have a specific goal in mind or you're really struggling, start by taking care of yourself in a basic way, says Gersten. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating a good variety of foods (including the ones that you love), spending some time outside, and moving your body a little bit every day. It sounds simple, but you might be surprised what a difference it makes.
Starting with the basics will set you up well to tackle bigger goals later on. "Even just the practice of showing yourself that extra respect and time can open the door to say 'ok, I've done this and now I want to take it to the next level and I have more clarity in something else I want to accomplish," explains Gersten.
4. Try journaling
"Journaling is definitely something to try because it helps you get your thoughts out, which can be really helpful," says Gersten. Grabbing a blank notebook and writing down whatever you're thinking about can make it easier to organize your thoughts. It could help you let go of something you've been worrying about, too, adds Maalouf.
Journaling is also a good way to focus on yourself because it's time set aside to process your thoughts and feelings, says Gersten. Basically, it's some me time that'll be way more productive than bingeing Netflix (although there's definitely a time and a place for that).
If you're not a fan of writing, typing or recording a voice memo will have the same effect, she says. And if you decide you don't like journaling in any form, don't sweat it. It's definitely not for everyone.
5. Find a new hobby
Maybe you've always wanted to learn how to play the guitar, or you dream about taking up hiking. Well, now's the time. "Starting a new hobby can be exciting and fun and if you enjoy it then it's also a self-esteem boost," says Maalouf.
Just make sure it's something you actually want to do, not an activity or skill you think you should do, or want to do because it'll look cool, warns Gersten. Point taken.
6. Avoid people who make you feel bad about yourself online and IRL
FWIW, comparing yourself to others is totally normal. Everyone does it from time to time. But if falling into the comparison trap is a constant problem for you, unfollow the people on Insta or TikTok who make you feel bad about yourself ASAP.
"Curate your feed so that anything you're seeing makes you feel good about yourself or brings some kind of enjoyment," says Gersten. Brb, following five more puppy video accounts.
If one of the people who makes you feel self-conscious is your cousin Sarah, just mute her Instagram, says Gersten. This way, you don't have to unfollow her completely and you can look at her feed when you're in a good head space.
The same goes for your day-to-day life. If you're hanging out with people who make you feel bad about yourself, rethink those relationships and limit your exposure to situations that cause you to think negatively about yourself, says Gersten.
7. Consider taking a break from social media
Relax, I'm not gonna suggest that you delete all your apps. In fact, both Gersten and Maalouf agree that using social media can have major benefits. But if you find yourself scrolling for hours a day, it's probably time to rethink your habits.
One easy way to limit your time on social media is to set phone alarms that remind you to shift your focus to yourself, says Maalouf. You can also try to plan out specific times where you don't look at your feeds. It could be a couple hours a day, or one whole day a week if you have crazy strong willpower.
Whatever you decide, make sure you fill that open time with something that feels fulfilling to you like reading, calling a friend or doing a workout class, says Gersten. This way, you won't feel the urge to open Twitter and you'll be doing something that's focused on you.
8. Focus less on other people
Find yourself FB stalking your ex every night, or wondering what your old high school friends are up to every weekend? Yeah, that's not doing you any favors.
Instead, shift the perspective away from other people and what they're thinking, doing and feeling and towards you by doing something that'll make you feel good, says Gersten. Try taking a walk, listening to music, or making some art in place of Instagram deep dives so that you're spending your time in a way that's all about you.
9. Seek out others with a similar goal
Connecting with other people who are also focused on themselves and prioritizing their mental health is also a good idea, says Maalouf. She's a big fan of online communities, like the mental health focused spaces of TikTok and Instagram. Start by searching mental health- and self-improvement-related hashtags on both apps and you'll definitely find some people you can relate to. If you want some additional inspo or support, these communities a great place to find it.
10. Start going to therapy
Um, I couldn't not include therapy on this list. It's basically the ultimate way to focus on yourself. Therapists are literally trained in how to be an objective third party and help you fix whatever's bothering you.
Plus, it's scheduled time that's all about you. "It's a routine of 45 minutes once a week or every other week to focus on you. That's a great starting point to get into the habit of taking time out to focus on you," says Gersten.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.