Compassion is defined as “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others.” Oftentimes when we are compassionate toward others, we are also kind to them.
However, having compassion toward ourselves sometimes seems much harder. And in the same way, it’s hard to find ways to be kind to yourself when you also can’t find compassion for yourself.
Wherever you are on your journey to self-compassion and kindness, I want to encourage you. It doesn’t have to be the new year for you to make a resolution or intention to be kind to yourself.
These 11 practical ways to be kind to yourself are some simple things you can do this week and a few bigger things to help you continue cultivating compassion for yourself.
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Ways to Be Kind to Yourself
When we lack the motivation, it’s hard to find the time and energy to be kind to ourselves. The best motivation for me is the fact that the alternative to being kind to myself is burn-out and stress.
I spend too much time worrying about the future and getting things done to the point that I can’t fully enjoy where I am now. That’s what prompted my motivation to learn how to be kind to myself.
I wanted to break out of that pattern and embrace the abundant life God has promised me (John 10:10). As He is kind to me, so I should strive to be kind to myself.
How do I be kind to myself?
Here are 11 good ways to form a new habit of kindness. A habit where some of the kindest things you do all week are the positive things you do for yourself.
- Get Enough Sleep
- Practice Gratitude
- Spend Guilt-free Time doing a Hobby
- Take Care of Your Physical Health
- Talk Things out with a Good Friend
- Take a Break from Social Media
- Journal about Difficult Emotions
- Acknowledge the Inner Critic with Compassion
- Accept Your Mistakes (Past and Future)
- Let Go of Impossibly High Standards
- Write Positive Affirmations and Words of Encouragement
1 – Get Enough Sleep
I underrate sleep all the time. I know it’s important, and I love when I have it. And yet still, I find myself staying up late and telling myself that 6 hours of sleep is “enough.”
Put “get enough sleep” at the top of your list for how to be kind to yourself. Our bodies need rest. Our brains need rest. And we all know our coworkers and friends probably appreciate us more about a full night of rest.
I challenge you to ignore what the hyperproductive culture says about making sure your to-do list is done before going to bed. You need sleep, so prioritize it this week as a way to be kind to yourself. You’ll be saying thank you to your body and recognizing all the hard work it’s been doing.
2 – Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is another great way to show kindness to yourself. I love gratitude because it shifts our perspective and focus from lack to thankful.
A helpful thing for me when it comes to gratitude is start by giving thanks to God for His character. Then I move on to material things, and usually I express thanks for the first things I see. Next, I move inward and express thanks to myself or for myself.
I’m thankful for my body and that it allows me to do some many things. I’m thankful I’m able to go to school today. I’m thankful I have a job I love. I’m thankful my friends and I could go on a walk today and enjoy nature.
Oftentimes, we want to practice more gratitude but don’t because we overcomplicate things. Having a gratitude practice can be a simple as praying to thank God for something once a day to having space in your journal to write what you’re thankful for.
Here are some gratitude prompts to get you started This resource will give you the tools and space to find a gratitude practice that fits into your life.
3 – Spend Guilt-Free Time doing a Hobby
Another great way to be kind to yourself is by spending time doing something that you love and doing it guilt-free. Personally, when I am spending time on a hobby, the guilt that I feel is unjustified. It comes from my perception and pressure from the world that there are more important, pressing, or productive things that I should be doing.
I’m the first to admit that I do feel guilt when I spend time on something other than work. But then I realized that I need time to destress and unwind. Otherwise, I won’t be able to do my work effectively.
So, set aside time this week to do something you want to do that’s relaxing and fun. Ignore the little voice that says you’re not being productive enough. Taking time for yourself is how you have the time and energy levels to do everything else.
4 – Take Care of Your Physical Health
You can also show kindness to yourself by prioritizing your physical health. Taking care of your physical health, while important for everyone, also looks different for everyone. It also depends on your phase of life.
There were some times in my life where a yoga class was all I could do. At other times, I had the time to play pick-up volleyball with friends and got a gym membership. I encourage you to find the type of exercise or movement that you enjoy. Pair that with nutritious foods that gives your body fuel for all that you do.
5 – Quality Time with a Good Friend
Friendship is a joy of life that immediately lifts my spirits. No matter how great or terrible my week was, I can always be uplifted and encouraged by quality time with a good friend.
Schedules and time zones may prevent you from spending as much time with your friends and family as you’d like. But at the same time, we often forget to reach out and set up meaningful time with our friends and family. All healthy relationships require investing time and energy. And the great thing about meaningful relationships is that they give back with encouragement and strength.
This week, I challenge you to set up time to connect with a friend or family member. Share a delicious meal, play board games, go for a walk together, or do something else. Whatever you decide to do, do it together and enjoy the gift of friendship.
6 – Take a Break from Social Media
Another way you can be kind to yourself this week is by taking a break from social media. On social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and hard to get out of it.
Research studies show many links between social media and mental health issues (see MIT Sloan Management article on social media and mental health, for impacts on young adults). And while we often talk about these negative linkages, we don’t often discuss the mental benefits of taking a break from social media.
For example, by stopping social media use for a time, you can:
- reclaim time in your day,
- reclaim headspace and mental energy to dedicate to other tasks,
- focus on spending time with friends and family nearby,
- stop giving other people’s opinions so much weight in your decisions, and
- reduce anxiety (see article from National Library of Medicine on anxiety and social media use).
But reducing social media use without a plan is difficult. Here are tips on how to do a social media detox.
7 – Journal about Difficult Emotions
When I’m full of emotions, it’s really helpful to have an outlet. Being vulnerable with friends and family may be scary. In those cases, I recommend journaling.
Journaling gives you space to process all the difficult emotions and/or positive emotions that you’re feeling in a judgement free zone. It’s just you and an empty page as you put your thoughts to paper.
An additional benefit of journaling is that it can help you clear your head. Sometimes, I can’t think clearly or make a decision simply because I’m trying to sort through too many emotions or feelings at once. Journaling allows you to shift your perspective and clean out your thoughts so you can respond and process them.
8 – Acknowledge the Inner Critic with Compassion
You’ve probably heard before the quote, “I’m my own worst critic.”
Part of being kind to yourself is recognizing the times when it’s hard to be kind to yourself. Many people have an inner critic or little voice in their head that’s critically analyzing their thoughts and actions.
This critical analysis usually ends in negative self talk. Negative self-talk is when we think negative things about ourselves that we think are truth, but are rooted in lies and biased assessments of ourselves and the situation at hand. (More about negative self-talk from NPR.)
Personally, when I acknowledge the inner critic, I end up in a spiral. The spiral starts when I get upset at myself for being so critical of myself. Then, I’m critical of the fact that I’m upset about being critical…and the pattern continues.
A better way to acknowledge our tendency to critic ourselves is to respond with self-compassion. It can be as simple as saying to ourselves:
“Hey. I’m having these really negative thoughts right now, and it’s upsetting me. I think these thoughts are hard to face, and others would likely feel the same. I’m not sure how to handle these thoughts, but I want to just acknowledge that they are there and that I’m having a hard time with them.”
But the first step in fighting negative thoughts is not to heap on more negative thoughts about the thoughts. In fact, it’s to give yourself compassion and recognize that having a tough inner critic is hard.
9 – Accept Your Mistakes (Past and Future)
The second way to be kind to yourself this week is to accept your mistakes. A common experience of all human beings is that we all make mistakes.
However, we don’t all have the same knack for letting go of our mistakes and forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. For me, some mistakes I can let go of easily while I hang on to others in a toxic cycle of unforgiveness.
One of the best ways you can be kind to yourself this week is by recognizing that you have made mistakes and will make mistakes. More than that, understand and know that your mistakes are not defining moments of your life. They are simply parts of your story and journey.
Secondly, you should pursue forgiveness for yourself. Work to process your emotions–good and bad. If you can, take a step toward forgiving yourself this week with positive-self talk. I made a mistake in the past, but I’ve learned from it. I can’t change what’s happened in the past and I’m still uncomfortable with it. But, look how stronger I am now. I can move forward.
10 – Let Go of Impossibly High Standards
Building off the last way to be kind to yourself, another part of accepting your mistakes is acknowledging that you will make mistakes in the future. Having an expectation that you won’t make mistakes is one that you will never meet. Again, we’re all human beings and have to face the imperfect nature we have.
Even bigger than past or future mistakes is impossibly high standards. These standards are expectations that we put on ourselves yet would never put on someone else.
For example, I love it when my friends are there for me. But I don’t expect 1 friend to be there for me 24/7. Stuff comes up. She has to study or prep for a work meeting or is at the doctor and can’t drop everything to run to my aid.
However, I have noticed that I expect that of myself. I expect that I should be there for my friends all the time. If I have to cancel last minute or can’t swing by after a long day of work, then I’m a bad friend.
Incorrect! This is an impossibly high standard that I’ve put on myself.
When I don’t meet it, I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself. This only gives the critical thoughts more power and for negative self-talk to run rampant.
Sometimes, the solution is self-compassion and positive self-talk to combat the critical little voice in my head. But, we could also look at the bigger picture. I could be kind to myself by letting go of the impossibly high expectation. I could accept that I need to take good care of myself, too, in order to be kind to others. I could accept that I can’t do it all, but I’m also doing the best I can.
This leads us to the next way to be kind to yourself.
11 – Write Positive Affirmations and Words of Encouragement
In the last section, I mentioned that I remind myself that I’m doing the best I can in order to let go of impossible standards. This is an example of a positive affirmation.
Positive affirmations are the opposite of negative self-talk. They say positive, true things about ourselves regardless of whether we feel like the statement is true. The second part of this is super important.
Before we face a hard time or difficult feelings, it’s helpful to have written in advance positive affirmations or statements of truth. Then, we can say or think the positive affirmation to curb the negative thoughts.
For example, I have sticky notes around my office with Bible verses, which are statements of truth, and positive affirmations. When I am stressed or overwhelmed with school, I can easily read a Bible verse and remind myself “I am worthy of love” or “God is with me; I am not alone.”
If I am stressed, I may feel alone. But that doesn’t mean my feelings are true. Hebrews 13:5b says, “for [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” I hang onto this positive affirmation when I am discouraged.
In the same way, you can write words of encouragement to yourself in a journal, planner, or school notebook. That way, you can easily see them during difficult times.
Set aside time this week to write down Bible verses, words of encouragement, and positive affirmations and display them in your home, apartment, office, car, or anywhere else you can easily access them.
These 11 ways to be kind to yourself are things you can start to do this week. Make a commitment to reach out for help from a therapist, reframe your negative thoughts, get enough sleep, and take a break from social media. Do some of the small things or the whole list of the things. Whatever you decide, know that I’m rooting for you to see positive changes soon.
Don’t miss this! More posts in the Living & Adulting Category:
- 7 Reasons to Prioritize Taking Time for Yourself Now
- The 15 Top Productive Hobbies to Promote Personal Growth
- 7 Steps for How to Stop Social Media from Ruling your Life
- 5 Authentic Responses to What am I Doing with my Life?
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