At my first Yoga class after the Christmas break, my Yoga instructor advised us she hadn’t made New Years Resolutions, but she had certain ‘intentions’ she wanted to implement into her daily life; the main of which being kindness. Specifically showing kindness to others and trying to impact peoples’ lives in a positive way. Which is of course lovely, and what better way to start a new year than with an intention of inherent ‘goodness’?
This got me thinking about the idea of kindness and how easy it can be to forget to enact it. We can be harsh, unfeeling, hurtful, obtuse. That’s all fine to an extent; we are multi-faceted, but often something as simple as a kind word, or choosing to bite our tongues in an argument can be forgotten. The impact of kindness is not to be sniffed at. The most memorable experiences from my countless hospital stays have been the moments in which a nurse or a doctor showed me kindness. My favourite school teachers were patient and kind. The people I love most in the world are innately kind.
Kindness is always important. But how often are we kind to ourselves?
Living with chronic illness means we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. We are forced into selfishness as we have more general ‘upkeep’ of our own bodies and health to undertake. We are forced into actively monitoring our conditions and listening to our bodies in order to ensure we are looking after ourselves as well as we can. This can feel selfish as recovery, and general maintenance of a chronic illness are trying and time consuming. They eat away chunks of our days. They can stop us eating, drinking, having a social life, keeping a job. So, when we are well, we generally have to catch up with ourselves; the work we’ve fallen behind with, the housework we’ve had to neglect, the social events we’ve had to reschedule. It can feel we are constantly working to a different calendar.
We can forget to show kindness to ourselves. Sometimes we just can’t (or wont) find the time for it. The kindness we would show to a loved one should be equal to the kindness we show ourselves.
So here are a few simple ways to show a little more kindness to ourselves day by day so we can be a bit easier on ourselves, and make my Yoga instructor proud which lets be honest is what we are all aiming for.
Stop Tearing Yourself Down – Kindness involves forgiving ourselves. Everyone makes mistakes, the trick is to accept our faults and look at how we can improve on them rather than beating ourselves into submission with a proverbial stick. On the occasions we are angry at ourselves, kindness involves calling a halt to blaming ourselves, and instead resolving to do better next time and not wallowing in our misery.
Soothe Yourself – We all know how to ‘self-soothe’. It’s important to find a spot after a hard day to do something just for us, something that makes us feel good. Be that soaking in a bubble bath, getting lost in a good book, cooking your favourite meal or screaming incoherently at passing cars; whatever helps you to relax. I appreciate it might be harder for some of us to find this space in our day; you might have 14 children and 5 husbands – maybe lock yourself in a wardrobe with essential oils or something I don’t know I can’t be expected to do all the work.
Silence Your Internal Critic – Ok, this one is easier said than done, as my inner critic is a LOUD MOUTH. Seriously she will not shut up about how awful I look, sound, perform in every activity from my work to simply breathing. (How can you breathe wrong?!) We all have a voice in our head who loves to judge and criticise us; most of us listen to this voice a lot more than the other voice who defends us. Banish the inner critic by thinking logically and focusing on our positives rather than how weirdly we breathe.
Remind Yourself You Are ‘Enough’ – Nothing has to happen to make you ‘worthy’ of anything or anyone. You are already enough. This is an idea many of us struggle with. There are occasions in everyday where we feel not attractive enough, intelligent enough, strong enough. We deserve happiness and success and listening to our self-doubt just stunts our growth. Ignore it.
Carve Out ‘You Time’ – Try to find a space in each day to do something just for you. Take a moment to undertake something that brings you joy. That might be anything from leaning into your creativity; writing, drawing, playing an instrument, to binge watching a box-set, having a bubble bath with a book or enjoying another lovely 12-person orgy. You do you.
Recognise Your Achievements – We are quick enough to acknowledge the achievements and successes of those we love, but rarely stop and pat ourselves on the back. Identify that acknowledging work we are proud of isn’t arrogant or egotistical, but a natural response and one we are allowed to dwell in for a little. Dip a toe in the self-confidence pool, the temperature is lovely! Only 5 children have peed in here!
Show Yourself Compassion – Consider what you would tell a loved one who is struggling or hurting. Be your own cheerleader, your own best friend; treat yourself as you would treat others. Show yourself the same compassion you would show someone you love. Reassure yourself as you would them. Care for yourself as you would them. Just don’t try cuddling yourself too, especially not in front of your living room window as your neighbour Greg might see and it would be incredibly embarrassing. I WOULD IMAGINE.