Being Kind to Yourself Has Hidden Benefits Here’s How to Do It The Right Way

There’s a misconception that if you are kind to yourself then you are not going to be successful and ambitious. You will be too busy soaking in lavender bubble baths, massaging your feet, and lighting incense. On the contrary, learning how to be kind to yourself is a powerful tool that can help you reach your goals. Beating yourself up or taking poor care of yourself physically and emotionally is not the answer to success. That approach will leave you burnt out, not thinking clearly, and lacking in energy.
But how do you break the cycle? How do you adapt your inner dialogue to one of kindness while taking better care of yourself? And how do you do it when you’re already feeling emotionally drained? Here are some concrete steps to start you on the right path.
1. Manage your mind.
Sit down and do an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Figure out what you need to do the self improvement work. Are you struggling with depression or anxiety? Do you find yourself in obsessive circular thoughts? Do you have trouble focusing on your work? If addressing these things on your own feels too overwhelming, you may need the help of a mental health professional. If cost is an issue, keep in mind that there are low-fee clinics all around this country that will see you based on your ability to pay. Another option is bibliotherapy in the form of great resources like self-help in books, websites, and social media. Just make sure that you are taking advice from a credible source, ideally someone who is licensed and experienced in psychology.
2. Change your self-talk
The way we talk to ourselves has a huge influence on how we feel. Oftentimes—especially if we come from a home that was verbally or emotionally abusive—we internalize the voice of the person who spoke to us in mean or cruel ways. We tend to speak to ourselves in that same way, which only makes us feel worse and perpetuates a negative cycle. While it is important to take subjective information that can help us improve ourselves and do a better job at an important task, negative self-talk is a different animal. Negative self-talk is when we speak to ourselves in ways that are cruel, mean, critical, or catastrophizing. We decide that because the date went poorly that no one will ever love us. We put on a couple of pounds and decide that our body is unattractive. We get a bad grade on a test and think that we are going to be a failure forever. When we take a negative experience and turn it into a character defect, a harbinger of our future, or a sign of imminent failure, we deny ourselves the ability to learn from it. When we can be neutral and take in the information, we can utilize it to better ourselves and grow.

To change your negative self-talk, try taking a piece of paper and put a line down the middle. On the left-hand side, write down some of the things that you typically say to yourself when you are engaging in negative self-talk. On the right-hand side, write down five responses to the negative comments. Try to imagine what you would tell a friend or a child who you were caring for. Try to make the responses in the present tense and do not use negative words like “not.” For example, if your negative comment is, “No one is ever going to love me.” On the right side of the page you might write things like, “I am lovable” or, “I trust the universe to provide me with a loving partner.” Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. You may not always believe all of the positive statements in the beginning, but you need them in order to rewire your brain. 
3. Change the way you think about failure
You cannot succeed without having lots of experiences with failure. If you take failure personally, are devastated by it, or spend too much time fearing it, you will not take any risks and will not live up to your potential. Every failure you have is an opportunity to learn, much like when you’re playing a game of darts and you alter your next throw based on where the last one landed. Missing the mark in life allows you to adjust accordingly based on your experience. Before publishing my first book, I received 42 rejections from different publishers. With each one I received feedback that helped me hone my proposal and ultimately get it published. The questions you want to always be asking yourself, “What can I learn from this experience?” and “How can I use this to make me better?” 
4. Practice gratitude.
It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed at the same time. The two emotions are at odds with each other. Practicing gratitude is a crucial part of being kind to yourself because the benefits occur in so many different categories. According to Robert Emmons, PhD, the world's leading researcher on gratitude studies, studies show that people who practice gratitude by using gratitude journals or other gratitude practices develop physical benefits like a stronger immune system, fewer aches and pains, lower blood pressure, and better sleep. Emotionally they report more positive emotions, increased optimism, and feeling more alert and awake. Socially, those who practice gratitude report feeling less lonely, less isolated, and more forgiving. They report feeling more helpful, generous, and compassionate.
5. Stop pathologizing yourself.
It’s become en vogue to diagnose yourself and spend a lot of time talking about our emotional unwellness. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re struggling with something, you should talk about it and get the support that you need. But I’m talking about something different. When your less favorable attributes become your identity, you are more likely to hold onto them and less likely to change them. Instead of talking about all of the negative traits you see in yourself or how much you don’t like yourself, try talking about positive things going on in your life. Work on constructing a different self identity that is based on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Also, recognize that we all go through difficult times and that is a normal part of our emotional process. If you feel that you’re going through something more significant, get the help you need from a professional.
6. Be selective about who you allow in your circle.
Get rid of people in your life who are critical, make you feel bad about yourself, or are hurtful or abusive toward you. It is great to have friends around you who call you out on your crap because they care about you and want to see you improve yourself. Get rid of the ones who just enjoy picking on you. Actively work to surround yourself with people who are loving, trustworthy and who feel good to spend time with.
7. Do the things that you are passionate about.
Make the time to do things that you love to do. It’s too easy to sit staring at a screen and feeling bad about ourselves. Participating in hobbies, creative endeavors, and passion projects fuels us. Part of being kind to yourself is carving out time to do things that you love. 
8. Practice quality self-care.
Practicing self-care is not selfish. It is necessary for longevity and well-being. If you have children, it is crucial to model good self-care in order for them to learn the habits. “But I’m too stressed out and busy to practice self-care!” you may be saying to yourself. A study of medical students found that those who practiced self-care were less stressed and reported a better quality of life, both physically and emotionally.'

Doing activities that put emotional gasoline into the tank are really important. We tend to think of things like bubble baths, mani/pedis, lighting candles, playing soothing music, getting a massage, and wonderful things like that. However, self-care can include many activities you can do at home that are free or inexpensive. I recommend keeping an ongoing list of activities that help you destress and relax that you constantly add to as you discover new ones.
9. Practice lifestyle self-care.
The other kind of self-care is what some doctors refer to as lifestyle medicine. This involves therapeutic lifestyle interventions, many of which you can do on your own. The six pillars of lifestyle medicine are: 
  • Nutrition. Making sure that you have access to healthy nutritious food is important in order to make sure that you have energy and treat yourself well. Taking the time to buy and prepare food so you have what you need on hand is crucial. Many doctors recommend emphasizing whole food plant-based foods in your diet. Needless to say, if you have an eating disorder or struggle with those issues, addressing that with a therapist trained in that area is crucial.
  • Physical activity. Regular, consistent physical activity is important for energy, longevity, disease, prevention, and mood. This is especially important for managing depression and anxiety.
  • Stress management. Utilizing stress management techniques—meditation, deep breathing, yoga, time management, reducing social media, listening to music or playing with a pet—is important for self-care. Increasing your tools to handle stress will help you become more resilient.
  • Sleep. Make sure that you get the recommended eight hours, or whatever you need personally, in order to feel well rested. Getting a good night of sleep can improve mood, attention, span, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. In addition, it can improve insulin resistance, reduce hunger, and improve energy.
  • Social connection. Over and over, it has been shown by research that having positive social connections can improve health on every level, both physical and emotional. Make sure that you spend time every week connecting with people who energize you and make you feel good.
  • Substance avoidance. The use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs have been shown to increase risk of chronic diseases. Also, many of those substances act as depressants and can make you feel way worse the next day and also encourage you to make poor decisions while you are using them.
Treating yourself with kindness means practicing self-care across the board. I encourage you not to be all or nothing about your approach but, at the same time, attempt to take care of yourself in all different categories. 

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