Kindness. It’s something we often hear in relation to other people isn’t it? Be kind to others. Have compassion for those in greater need than yourself. Offer kindness to those around you.
But when we start thinking about the kindness and compassion we offer ourselves, we often discover we’re pretty low down on our own list of priorities
Why do we put ourselves last?
In this often busy and frantic world we now live in, we often find there are competing priorities for our time and attention; most often coming out of that small electrical device we keep in our pockets called a phone. Add to that families, busy jobs, social media, friends, hobbies and day to day living and we end up feeling hurried, fed up and washed out.
What’s that got to do with being kind to ourselves?
Kindness to ourselves often becomes something we don’t have time to do. So busy schedules leave us with little time for ourselves, let alone time for trying to offer ourselves kindness.
What other ways do we avoid being kind to ourselves?
By eating unhealthily, using stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol, using negative and critical self talk, and feeling guilty because we want to do something nice for ourselves, or more commonly feeling self indulgent if we show ourselves anything resembling a kind word, thought or action.
Yes, you know, if we try and do something for ourselves we either come up against that nagging guilty feeling that we should be either doing something important, or something for someone else OR that we are being incredibly self indulgent and therefore selfish. End of kindness opportunity.
Why is being kind to ourselves important?
Oh let me count the ways! Kindness is so important for your own self worth, and your mental and physical health. Check out this article from Huffington Post which highlights some of the research that has been done in how being kind to yourself is good for you. The evidence shows that:
- Self acceptance can lead to greater happiness in your life – a bit of a no brainer but nice to know a scientist did a proper study to confirm this.
- Research highlighted that if you offer yourself kindness and positivity, you’re more likely to achieve health goals such as weight loss and exercise plans. So rather than beating yourself up for the 75 mince pies you ate over Christmas, giving yourself some love to stop it becoming 125.
- Studies show those people who give themselves kindness – are less at risk of depression and anxiety and consequently mental health can improve when you start being kinder to yourself.
- Kindness reduces your stress levels! If this is not enough to get you giving yourself a bit of love then there’s no hope! Studies show that with self kindness stress reduces, and stressy habits like procrastination and overthinking also reduce.
- Self kindness increases resilience. We all need more resilience. In this world of trigger happy political leaders, storms aplenty and the never ending Brexit storyline, alongside the daily chaos of our lives, it can be hard to be resilient against the highs and lows of modern living. A self kindness routine can help promote the resilience needed to adapt and cope well with our modern lives, and help you bounce back more quickly from problems and difficulties.
Wow I want me some self kindness. So now what?
So now you identify what would feel kind to you. For one person getting a massage every week would feel like a kind thing to do. For another having an uninterrupted half hour to read a book with a cup of tea is a kindness.
So you need to work out what are the little acts of self kindness that would be good for you. Try doing this nourishing and depleting exercise. This will help you find activities you love, and those that aren’t so good for you!
My self kindness activities
So I do a few things to incorporate being kind to myself into my daily routine and on a more adhoc basis as well.
On a daily basis I try to do little things that make me feel good; like a spray of perfume, half an hour with a cup of tea in silence to unwind after a busy day, a meditation or reading before bed.
These are only small things but they are acts of kindness I give to myself. The perfume boosts my mood and links to my unkindness to myself about my physical body. The cup of tea in silence allows my stress levels to reduce and calm down, it allows me time to settle my thoughts and to take some deep breaths. The meditation helps my mindfulness practice which is very important to me and helps my daily well-being and a read of a book is just a pleasure, and that makes me happy.
On a more adhoc basis I try to look in the mirror without a critical voice in my head telling me what’s wrong with myself and try to see an old friend reflected back. This is harder than it might sound.
I will make some time to go on a date with myself; to an art gallery, a museum, for a coffee or a film. Time for me to do things I enjoy. I will get out in nature, on a sunny day and just glory in how great that feels now I know how to appreciate the present. These are acts of kindness because I am giving myself pleasure, and I do not feel guilty for it.
Those who say kindness is for self indulgent
Critics of being kind to yourself might say these kindnesses are self indulgent, that spare time should be given to family members, friends in crisis, to work or study or to cleaning or tidying. That idle hands and all that. I firmly believe self kindness not only gives you all the scientific benefits above which is going to make you much more resilient and lovely for all your friends, family and colleagues, but also its something we should fiercely protect.
When I allow myself kindness, when I give myself permission to give myself a bit of love, it’s almost like there’s a shift, I feel it in my body. It’s like a soothing feeling. It makes me a kinder person not only to myself, but to others.
Imagine what the world would be like if we were all a bit kinder?
If you’d like to starting being kinder to yourself, I am running workshops in York, UK on learning to be kinder to yourself. The first one is almost booked out but more dates will be added soon. For more information head over to my workshops page.