Saying “No” is Good For Your Health

How does saying "No" help you stay healthier?

We all have things we would rather not do, but we do them anyways.  Sometimes, it’s because we care about the person asking, and we want to make them happy.  Sometimes we do it because we want to keep other people from being disappointed in us.  The problem comes when you really don’t want to do the thing, and you resent being asked.  Like, when your friend wants you to help her with her yard sale on Saturday, but that is the absolute last thing you want to be doing after a long work week.  Or, when your boss asks you to write a report, but you know that when you agree to it, you will be up until all hours of the night completing it.  

The resentment raises your cortisol levels, which then suppresses your immune system and sends your brain into ‘fight or flight’.  In this state, your brain stops sending oxygen to parts of your body that are not necessary for immediate survival from a life-threatening event.  Now, you start having digestive problems, migraines, or some other unwanted health symptom.  

If you were to say “No”, in a kind way, you would not have to do the thing that causes resentment and stress, which harms your health.

"But, it's so hard to say no!"

For us sensitives, it can be really hard to say no to people we don’t want to disappoint.  Begin by practicing with the people who love you most, and you feel safe with.  

Try these statements:

-“I would love to, but I can’t this time.”

-“Thank you for thinking of me, but I have plans.” (You can have plans to sit on the sofa and watch Netflix, and that is okay.)

-“Thank you, but that’s not really my thing.”

-For the friend with the yard sale- “I can’t help you with (the yard sale), but I will be happy to (help you price things, drop the leftovers off at a donation site).”

-With that boss- “I can do this report, but that will mean I don’t finish ____________.  Which would you rather me work on?”

If you’re caught off guard and don’t know what to say, you can create a buffer by saying, “I need to check my calendar, and then I’ll get back to you.”

Make a list of your own ways to say no, so you will be prepared when the time inevitably comes up.

What if the person asking gets mad?

Occasionally people will get mad when you say no.  Usually the people that get mad, are the people that are used to taking advantage of you, like your family, a close friend or a coworker.  Your health depends on you staying in integrity with your own wishes and desires.  

I recently heard Martha Beck speaking with Marie Forleo on her YouTube channel about this.  She said, “The second we leave our truth, our own immune system goes down, our heart rate goes up (this is why polygraphs work), our adrenaline goes up and all of our stress hormones increase.  The moment we start telling the truth, everything settles in.”

Anita Kelly, Ph.D., et al. did a study on lying and health.  In this study they found that when people told even three less lies a week, physical and mental health symptoms were reduced.  These were not big lies either.  The people in the study had been telling ‘white lies’, (lies that were not necessarily harmful to others) like exaggerating successes, or giving excuses on why they were late.  When you say you will do something, but you really don’t want to, you are lying.

Mistakes when saying no

Don’t make the mistake of explaining too much.  When you try to make excuses, you leave room for other people to try to talk you out of your decision.  Here’s a sample conversation before and after following the tips for saying no.


A conversation between you and a friend:  

Friend:  “Hey ________, come over this weekend and hang out with me and Stephanie.”

You: “Oh, I can’t.  I have to clean out my closet and do some laundry before work on Monday.”

Friend:  “Oh, you have to come.  We haven’t seen you in so long.  There’s always time to clean out your closet.  Don’t be a party pooper!”

You: (Thinking of more excuses) “Well, my husband needs me to help him with some stuff in the yard too.”

Friend: “What? Tell him you always work in the yard.  He won’t mind if you come hang out with me for a while, would he?  Surely he wouldn’t expect you to do yard work on a Saturday evening!” (Now you feel guilty for making your husband look like a jerk.)

You: (reluctantly) “Ok, I’ll come for a little while.” (Now you resent your friend and having to go to her house when you don’t want to.)

After, with healthy boundaries:

Friend:  “Hey ________, come over this weekend and hang out with me and Stephanie.”

You: “Sorry, I can’t this weekend.  Maybe next time.”

Friend:  “Oh, you have to come.  We haven’t seen you in so long. Don’t be a party pooper!”

You: “Sorry, I can’t this weekend.  Maybe next time.”

Your friend could keep arguing, but then she will look like the jerk.  

As an empath or highly sensitive person, we don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, so it is okay to say no gently.  Having a list of Absolute “No’s” can help you stay in integrity.  Make a list of all the things you don’t ever want to spend your time doing again.  Of course, there will always be the things that you love to do, but sometimes you don’t have the energy for, and there will always be some things you don’t like to do, but will do to help someone else out.  Take those on a case by case basis.  Use the buffer of checking your calendar when you’re not sure.  

You also reserve the right to change your mind.  Don’t leave people in the lurch, but your health is more important than some other things in life.  If you need to get out of an obligation and can do so without causing financial strain or stress for someone else, do it.  You can always help them find an alternative if necessary.  

Your health depends on it

You’ll find that when you spend more time in alignment with the things you really want to do in life, and cut out the things you don’t want to do, you will find peace and joy.  With peace and joy comes the best health.

Yes, yes, I know we can’t always say no to everything we don’t want to do, but most of the time we can.  Examine your job, your friends, your family and the times you want to say no.  It is okay to change jobs and limit your time with people that don’t respect your boundaries.  Your health depends on it.

Join my Facebook group, Rebooting Health For Empaths to get the weekly intentions and a weekly live video on all things about empaths and their health. To learn more about my coaching and programs, go here.


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