HEALTHY LIVING

How To Stop A Jealous Thought In Its Tracks

02/22/2015 09:48 am ET | Updated Feb 23, 2015

We've all been there. We see our partner (most likely harmlessly) flirting with the waitress or hear about our co-worker getting the promotion we really wanted. The knowledge of these events can launch us from content to seething in a matter of moments.

Jealousy and envy both have a tendency to bubble up unexpectedly -- one little observation can have a huge impact on our emotions. But how we handle them is what truly matters.

We all get a visit from the green-eyed monster from time to time, but that doesn't mean we have to let him rent space in our minds. Below are a few tips to help you manage jealousy or envy -- without losing control.

Voice your concerns.
couple talking

The simplest way to deal with these emotions is to plainly discuss them, Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, told The Huffington Post. This shouldn't be a rage-filled conversation, but rather an opportunity to explore what's really going on and open the lines of communication. "Bring up your feelings, but not in an accusatory way," he said. "Use it as a way to talk about what's going on and what behavior you're seeing that is causing these emotions."

Take differing opinions into account.
What you may view as a cause for jealousy could mean something different for your partner or friend. Make sure to have open communication within your relationships so you're better able to process these emotions if they arise.

Take some time to figure out what is causing you to feel this way.
thinking

Have there been discrepancies with this person in the past? Are you upset over a lack of communication? Do you feel that you're just not being appreciated enough? Ask yourself questions that may help you reframe your perspective on the situation and your uncertainties, Humphreys advised. There might be an underlying issue at play, which you can then address head on.

Consider jealousy as a cue for change.
"Jealousy can sometimes be a spur for us to do something productive," he said. If you're feeling jealous, consider it as a prompt for reasonable action -- whether that's within yourself or within the context of your relationships.

This could be as simple as clearing the air with your friends or partner, or it could lead to a bigger conversation that, quite honestly, you may have been avoiding. "It isn't pleasant, but at least you have a way to respond to these emotions," Humphreys said. Negative emotions aren't worth staying bottled up and unresolved.

Accept that the only behavior you can control is your own.
calm

"You do not have the power to make the person you love do everything you want them to do -- and in a way, that can feel frightening," Humphreys said. "Accepting that is part of growing, even though we may not like it. It shows how vulnerable we are."

The sooner we acknowledge this truth, the sooner we can let go of unhealthy, jealous habits. "You won't do a lot of behaviors designed to control or monitor your partner or friend," he said. "Those reactions can be really destructive" -- to others and yourself.

Remind yourself that envy isn't going to benefit you.
What excessive jealousy is to relationships is what envy is to ourselves: Toxic. Someone's success isn't your failure. "Envy and being angry at ourselves for something we don't have is completely unproductive and endless," Humphreys said. "It doesn't contribute anything meaningful to our lives."

Ultimately remember you're not looking at the whole picture.
jealousy

Don't underestimate what someone is going through or dealing with in their own lives, Humphreys cautions. Everyone has their hardships and we often forget that when we're seeing green. "When we're envying people, we're often filling in a whole life for them that is way better than it actually is," he said. "No one's life is perfect, so don't beat yourself up with a fantasy."

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