How we feel about ourselves is affected by internal (hey there, self-critic!) and external (relationships, jobs) factors. Some of these you can control; some you need to let go of—a mission statement will help you figure out which falls into what category. Make it simple and action focused, says Joti Samra, a clinical psychologist based at the Mainland Medical Clinic in Vancouver, who suggests filling in four sections—I am, I value, I want, I will—with your personal goals.


“When we’re not feeling confident, we often say ‘When I feel better, I’m going to…,’” says Samra. “All of the research tells us that change happens the other way: When we go through the motions (even when we’re feeling low) of saying hi, getting dressed up, putting ourselves out there, getting that job, going on that blind date—doing it creates an internal confidence.”


It’s okay if you cried when you found out your ex of five years is dating a Chrissy Teigen look-alike. Or that you felt left out after missing that surprise Drake concert that all your friends went to. These are legitimate feelings, says Kate Scowen, a social worker who founded Hard Feelings, a low-cost counselling service in Toronto. “Tell yourself ‘If it makes me sad, that doesn’t make me shallow.’ And then ask ‘Why is it making me feel this way, and what’s the truth in this feeling?’”


And not just self-help books, although some are brilliant. (Scowen recommends those by Brené Brown and Thich Nhat Hanh.) Memoirs are an unexpected rich source of info, says Scowen, because they “help people try to understand themselves within the context of another’s experience.” Or consider alternative resources like podcasts or graphic novels like Hyperbole and a Half, about Oregon-based Allie Brosh’s experiences with depression.


It sounds cheesy, but studies show that being thankful affects
 the parts of the brain that regulate stress and pleasure. Make it as painless as possible by saying out loud (and out of the earshot of roommates) three things every day that you’re happy for—it could be anything from the Gucci spring/ summer 2018 collection to the hot water in your shower. This helps you focus on what you have rather than what you may think is lacking.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.