Join me for a quick second to recall your childhood… What were the things you remember being told to do in order to have a “good” life?
What are some of the things you see in the midst of social media today that you feel you need to do in order to lead a more “fulfilling” life?
Consider things like…
Get good grades in school
Apply for a college program
Eat healthy every meal
Get 8 hours of sleep every night
Discover your passion
Form your career
Make a lot of money
Settle down and have a family
Find time for hobbies
Keep a clean and tidy home
Stay on top of the latest trends in fashion, technology, lifestyle
How many items on that list, and how much of that social pressure, has carried into adulthood and into your daily thoughts?
How often are you thinking about all the things you should be doing?
Constantly thinking about all these things we feel we should be doing can negatively affect our mental health, mood, and feelings of fulfillment…
And yes, while those things on the list above can be exactly what someone might need to lead a fulfilling life, it’s how it’s phrased in your mind that makes all the difference.
Especially in the days of social media, it’s not uncommon to feel that you’re behind. We compare ourselves, our progress, and our list of items we should be doing to the lives we see presented online.
We compare ourselves to the influencer moms who always have the latest parenting hacks and a clean home…
Artists who have both the creativity and business knowledge to be a successful, full-time painter…
Wealthy, young men who display their daily grind that starts at 4:30am with a protein shake and a workout.
If you frequently compare yourself… If you constantly think about the list of things you think you need to get done… Then you probably find yourself feeling guilt when items are not being accomplished.
So why is that?
It’s likely because the list in your mind starts with the word “should.”
I SHOULD be getting 8 hours of sleep
I SHOULD exercise daily
I SHOULD find time for drawing
But if you transform your mindset, you can look at this same list of items and see it instead with positivity (rather than stress, negative comparisons, or feeling like you’re behind).
It’s a positivity hack that will also help you prioritize which items on the list are actually most important to YOU and YOUR personal happiness.
So what’s the secret?
Swap out the word “should” for “could.”
By making that replacement you are re-framing the sentence into a positive from a negative, into an aspiration from a demand.
In other words, swapping out the word "should" for "could" can shift your mindset from a fixed and limiting perspective to a more flexible and empowering one.
When you use the word "should," you end up subconsciously imposing more rigid expectations on yourself, which creates that negative sense of pressure, guilt, or obligation that can tank your mental health.
"Should" implies a duty, requirement, or moral obligation, all of which can make us feel trapped, resentful, or even inadequate if we fail to meet those standards…
Coupled with the influencer world of social media, you might start to feel like you’re not meeting expectations.
On the other hand, when you use the word "could," you open up the possibility of choice, exploration, and growth.
"Could" suggests that there are multiple options and paths available to you, and that the decision on which one to pursue is in YOUR hands. This creates a positive sense of creativity and empowerment. You start to place focus on the opportunities rather than the limitations.
For example, instead of saying, "I should draw every day," which may feel daunting and unrealistic…
You could say:
"I could draw every day.”
“I could spend 10 minutes watching a tutorial.”
“I could learn 1 new technique this week."
This small shift in language, and re-aligning your expectations for yourself, can expand your perspective and help you approach the situation with a more positive and flexible attitude.
After all, progress doesn’t happen at the snap of your fingers. Great things take time to build, and success is not a one-day event. So don't be discouraged by “slow” progress. Just swapping out “should” for “could” is already a huge step in manifesting a healthier mindset and a boost in your mental health!
Another trick that’s helpful for rewiring your mindset is swapping “I have to,” for, “I get to.”
For example, “I have to draw every day,” becomes, “I get to draw every day.”
Just say those 2 phrases out loud and your brain will immediately feel the difference. There’s an important addition of gratitude that gets sprinkled into your thinking, which reframes the situation as a choice, a blessing, or a chance to grow and learn.
If it’s helpful for you, write a reminder post-it for yourself about making this swap in thinking… Set up a notification reminder on your phone about saying “could” instead of “should”... Or share this with a friend so you can become accountability buddies and embark on this mindset shift together!
Whatever way of reminding works best for you, it will be important to be gentle with yourself as you rewire your thoughts, begin to release those unrealistic expectations for yourself, and let go of comparisons.
And with those reminders in place, you’ll be well on your way to making a HUGE change in the way you address your mental health and approach positivity.
For more ways to understand how your mind impacts your mood, check out the book You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay!