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Healthy Minds Learning Lab: How to Say No and Feel Good About It

Watch the recording of our live Healthy Minds Learning Lab: How to Say No and Feel Good About It, and read our toolkit below!

Healthy Minds Learning Lab: How to Say No and Feel Good About It (May 16, 2024)


Key Things to Remember:

  1. Saying yes, when we should say no, impacts our well-being which can cause stress, overwhelm, anxiety, anger, and more.
  1. Insight helps us gain greater self-knowledge about how thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and other factors shape our subjective experience, especially our sense of self. 
  1. Insight helps open our minds to new possibilities, allowing us to break free of habitual ways of responding. 
  2. Self-compassion helps us work with the self-criticism and self-judgment that can arise when we recognize our habitual patterns.
  3. It can take time to reverse habitual patterns. Start small in an area of life where it feels easier.

Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies growth and freedom.” –Viktor E. Frankl

Tips to Practice in Daily Life

  1. When faced with a decision, pause before responding. Say something like “Can I think about it?”, “Can I let you know tomorrow?”, or “Can we regroup on this in a couple of days?” Pausing can help increase decision-making accuracy.
  1. Get clear about what you want. Consider: Is this something I really want to do?
    1. Tune into your body and notice any sensations that arise when you reflect on your options.
    2. What is the impact of saying yes on your time, energy, stress level, and important relationships?
    3. How will this impact other goals and aspirations in your life?
  1. Once you have made a decision, appreciate something about yourself and the good that will come from saying no. 
  1. Just remember, just because something feels uncomfortable or “bad” doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.

Deeper Reflections:

Saying “no” can be challenging for many reasons, often deeply rooted in our upbringing, beliefs, societal expectations, and personal fears. However, learning to say no is essential for maintaining boundaries, managing time and energy, and prioritizing our well-being.

Use these reflection questions to get curious about what makes it so hard to say “no.”

  • Take a moment to reflect on how saying no benefits you,  as well as your friends, family, and community. For example, perhaps you have more time to spend doing what’s important to you.” See what naturally comes to your mind. 
  • Next, reflect on previous situations where you struggled to decline requests or set boundaries. What emotions did you experience in those moments–perhaps guilt, fear of rejection, or a desire to please others?  
  • Think about the messages you’ve received from society, your upbringing, or other influences about saying no. Are you conditioned to believe that saying yes is the right thing to do? Why?
  • Once the reflection has run its course, let go and rest in open awareness.

You can start training your mind with the Healthy Minds Program App, freely available thanks to the generosity of our donors wherever you get your apps.

In the news Learning Lab Mental Health