At this time of year, it seems particularly important to be gentle with ourselves. There can be a lot of pressure and expectations in the lead up to, and during, the festive period. Many of us can be harsh and critical towards ourselves and sometimes other people might treat us this way as well. This takes away the pleasure from life and makes it tougher. Research has shown that if we are kind and compassionate to ourselves when things are not going as we might have hoped, we will manage difficulties more easily and be happier. Below are some ideas of how to be kinder to yourself and start developing your self-compassion:
- Move away from focusing on the tasks you haven’t managed to do in a day and instead focus on what you have achieved, however small.
- When something goes wrong, practice self-forgiveness instead of self-blame. We all make mistakes at times and these can be great opportunities for learning.
- Increase your awareness of your thoughts, especially those that are self-critical and/or negative. Mindfulness meditation practices can be really helpful here.
- When you notice self-critical and/or negative thoughts, pause for a moment and then imagine that a friend is in your situation. In your mind speak to yourself as you would to your friend. We are often much harder on ourselves than we ever would be on someone else.
- Try to stop using phrases beginning with “I should”, “I must” or “I ought to”.
- Let go of comparing yourself to others. Judging how you feel on the inside in relation to how others seem on the outside is likely to make you feel worse about yourself. People will often hide their difficulties and there may be a lot more going on below the surface.
- Release yourself from any excessively high expectations that others have of you or you have of yourself. It’s good to try to do our best but putting too much pressure on ourselves can cause stress and make it harder to do things well.
- Observe how you are feeling without judging yourself. We all have tough times in our lives. Emotions arise from a complex combination of factors which are not our fault and over which we may have little control.
- Spend 5 minutes each evening recalling kind things people have done for you during the day.
- Plan in at least one enjoyable activity every day, even if it’s just something little like having a relaxing bath or phoning a good friend.
- Each day aim to do one task, no matter how small, to move you towards a long-term goal.
- Choose who you spend time with wisely, select supportive people who help you to feel positive about yourself.
If you would like to learn more about the themes covered here, I offer Compassionate Mind Training and Mindfulness Courses in central Exeter and individual counselling in Exeter and Newton Abbot.