5 Easy Ways to Overcome Envy

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The Challenge: Envy is an instinctual, often uncontrollable emotion that can hurt our relationships.

The Science: Research shows there are ways to keep your jealousy at bay.

The Solution: Try some of these tips the next time you feel envious.

This might be hard to hear: even within the best of us, there is a little green-eyed monster called envy. It often reveals itself at the most inopportune and inappropriate moments. For instance, have you ever heard about a friend’s accomplishment and felt jealous? And then guilty for feeling jealous? The way to overcome the green eyed monster is to train your mind to overcome it.  Here are five strategies you can use when you find yourself feeling envious:

Don’t fight with your feelings.

When you fight with your feelings, they fight back. Typically anything you to do try to push away intrusive, unwanted thoughts will result in experiencing higher frequency of those thoughts.

Instead try just labeling the emotion. Research has shown that identifying the emotions you’re having takes the edge of them. Just acknowledge, “I feel envious.”

Don’t go down the rabbit hole of “Why do I think/feel the way I do?”

Do you find yourself thinking things like:

“Why do I feel like this?”

“What kind of person am I if I feel like this?”

“Why can’t I be as successful as I want to be?”

Thinking these types of thoughts without it ever leading to anything useful is termed rumination. When you mood is low it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any useful insights so give yourself a break from overthinking and trust that feelings naturally ebb and flow without you needing to do anything.

Train yourself to celebrate others’ successes.

Changing your behavior is usually the best way to change your thoughts and feelings. Practice making positive comments and gestures when someone in your life experiences some kind of success. For example, send an email or a card to a friend who gets a promotion.

Try an experiment of doing this regularly for 6 months and see if your issues with envy subside.

Challenge thought distortions such as “Nothing ever goes right for me” or “I never get any support.”

It’s natural for emotions like envy to cause your thinking to narrow and get more negative. When you’re feeling unhappy about luck or opportunities someone else has gotten, you’re probably going to underestimate the luck and opportunities you’ve had.

Recognize opportunity cost.

The term “Opportunity Cost” refers to the idea that whenever we choose one thing we are by default not choosing other things.

We all choose our own path and inevitably this means we don’t get to experience other paths. For example, a friend who takes a lot of overseas trips is probably giving up other things like dinners out and fancier furniture. Everybody makes their own choices and no one escapes opportunity cost. So if you’re feeling envious of someone else, remember that every decision is often coupled with a sacrifice somewhere else.

It’s hard to check your emotions, especially your negative ones, but with these five tips, you can embrace others’ success instead of envying it.

This article originally appeared at Psychology Today.


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Alice Boyes

Alice Boyes

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. has had her research about couples published in leading international journals, including Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Her work focuses on how people can use tips from social, clinical and positive psychology research in their everyday lives and romantic relationships. She is regularly interviewed for magazines and radio about a wide range of social, clinical, positive, and relationships psychology topics. She can be contacted for media interviews by emailing admin@aliceboyes.com
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