The Collins English Dictionary’s definition of kindness says that ‘Kindness is the quality of being gentle, caring, and helpful’. Nowhere does it state that kindness is just about doing things for others. In fact, never underestimate the importance of being kind to yourself. Ever heard the saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’?! Your capacity to be kind to others will eventually run dry if you haven’t mastered the art of topping it up with being kind to yourself. For most of us, this is work in progress, but is certainly a project worth investing your time in.
I often hear from clients that being kind to themselves feels selfish and like a form of self-pity. I encourage them to consider self-kindness as treating yourself like a good friend – with the same kindness and care and support as opposed to being harshly judgmental.
It can also help to explain that in order to keep self-kindness from being a form of self-pity, two other components are necessary.
One is common humanity – remembering that imperfection, in terms of yourself, your mistakes and struggles, is part of the shared human experience. Self-kindness isn’t a ‘poor me’ feeling, it is simply recognising that life is difficult for everyone.
The third component is mindfulness, which is key to keeping self-compassion from devolving into brooding and feeling sorry for oneself. Mindfulness refers to the ability to step outside yourself and see what is happening, see that things are difficult and hold that suffering in mindful awareness as opposed to getting lost in it or fused to it, which is our more habitual response.
You don’t have to wait until life becomes overwhelming to be kind to yourself. Try and make it part of your daily routine. Practising self-kindness on a daily basis means it is easier to incorporate self-kindness into your life during difficult times.
There are many ways to be kind to yourself, from the inner monologue running through your head to the food you put in your body. Today’s post continues the theme of acts of kindness, although this time the focus is on acts that demonstrate kindness to yourself.
Whilst research shows that helping others can be beneficial to our mental health by reducing stress and improving our emotional wellbeing as well as benefitting our physical health, practising kindness towards yourself is a vital component in self-care. So, prioritise ‘me-time’ in your routine to help you relax and reflect in day-to-day life and remember that self-care is whatever you feel you need – it’s different for each of us. What one person finds relaxing may be torture for another!
Take a break from social media.
Go for a walk in nature.
Buy yourself a bunch of flowers.
Have your morning cup of tea or coffee in the garden.
Take the time to appreciate the sunrise and sunset.
Take a nap.
Do a meditation.
Sit and watch the birds.
Have a soak in a hot bath.
Read a book.
Start learning a new skill.
Decorate your personal space with positive messages.
Clean your room – a great way to show yourself kindness is to tidy your personal space.
Take a friend’s dog for a walk.
Buy yourself a special treat – aim to keep the cost below £15 to prevent buyer’s remorse.
Plan your next holiday.
Take a walk outside.
Finish work on time!
Cook yourself your favourite meal.
Listen to your favourite music and dance round the house.
Call a friend.
Stop engaging with things that don’t bring you joy.
Have an early night.
Watch a movie.
Spend some time with your pet.
Try a new exercise class.
Write in a journal.
Create a scrapbook of old photographs.
Take a step towards fulfilling a dream.
Whatever you choose to do, the message remains the same - don't exclude yourself from the circle of compassion. Seeking comfort in our unconditional goodwill towards ourselves can be a lifeline for our well-being. Remember, you yourself deserve your kindness. “You yourself,” as the Buddhist saying goes, “as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”