The practice of mindfulness includes being open and accepting of whatever’s happening in your mind and body. Sometimes, though, what’s happening includes pain, discomfort or difficulties. This can be frightening and there may be times when we’d rather not acknowledge the difficulties we’re facing.
In moments like these, practising mindfulness offers you a way to ‘be with’ difficult emotions or feelings and to be more comfortable with your relationships to them. Combining your mindfulness practice with kindness and compassion towards yourself can help you face whatever’s tough in your life just now.
Being kind to yourself, though, is something we sometimes forget to do – especially if our days are full to the brim with supporting others and perhaps worrying about the future. If something like this is happening to you right now, here are some ways to help you bring kindness to yourself back into your life.
#1: Accept that you deserve self-compassion
Before you start, it’s important to acknowledge that you deserve self-kindness and self-compassion. If you find this difficult at any time, try this:
Think about how you would feel if you noticed a good friend or family member was unhappy or stressed. You would certainly want to comfort and support them. Why not do the same for yourself when you are sad, upset or stressed?
Get started with this exercise from Dr. Kristin Neff: How would you treat a friend?
#2: Listen to the good friend
If you notice you’re focusing on things you don’t like about yourself – faults, flaws or shortcomings – remind yourself of these words from Padraig O’Morain:
Of course we generally find it easier to accept our virtues than our faults! But since we stumble and make mistakes all the time, we are going to feel a lot better if we can accept our faults as well … And it doesn’t have to be an excuse for being slovenly, lazy, irresponsible and so on: it’s about being an accepting and understanding friend to yourself.”
If you’re having thoughts about mistakes you’ve made or things you could have done better, follow Padraig’s advice:
…pause and ask yourself ‘Who is talking now, good friend or harsh critic?’
“If it’s the good friend, listen. If it’s the harsh critic ask, ‘What would a good friend say?’ and then listen to that.”
Read more from Padraig in Self-compassion, the lifelong gift from you to yourself.
#3: Find inspiration to get you started
Choose two or three of these 40 ways to practice kindness to yourself, from huffpost.com. Write them down in a special notebook or turn them into a colourful, eye-catching poster. Put your book or poster somewhere you’ll see it several times each day.
Now see if you can do at least one of these kind things for yourself every day for a month. If you like, you can add a star, tick or heart next to each idea every time you do that kind thing for yourself.
At the end of the month, congratulate yourself on what you’ve achieved – and keep going!
#4: Find more motivation for looking after yourself
As best you can, remember that looking after yourself gives you more strength and resilience for looking after other people. You can’t drive to the supermarket to collect your neighbour’s shopping if there’s no fuel in your car’s tank; you can’t support others if you don’t support yourself by refuelling when you need to.
#5: Read more about kindness and compassion
Start with these mindfulness reminders: