Why is it essential to be kind to ourselves? It’s astonishing that this question would even come up! But it’s more astonishing how many of us don’t think we deserve kindness –– a tragic tribute to demeaning childhood programming and childhood trauma.
Let’s consider some good ways to really get to know how your mind works. You need to know your mind pretty well because. . . you’re going to be using your mind to focus kind thoughts towards yourself. And for many of us, sadly, the mind is habituated to generating unkind thoughts towards us. Here are 5 ways you can change that and start enjoying living your life with a mind that’s friendly to you.
5 Ways to Turn the Mind Toward Self Kindness
1. Practice noticing your first thoughts in the morning. Generate a kind thought of self regard as soon as you can. It can be simple: “I will be kind to myself and others today.”
2. Practice noticing your last thoughts before you fall asleep. Practice thinking a kind thought as your last thought such as, “I give my subconscious mind permission to take me into a healthy, rejuvenating sleep cycle all night long.” You may not experience a change right away, but with regular practice, this repeated act of self-kindness will definitely have a positive effect.
3. Notice things to be grateful for all day long. Little things, like our clothes, our ability to see, hear, feel, smell or taste, if you have some of those abilities. Add anything else you’re grateful for that you may not normally notice, much less take time to appreciate and feel good about. Take to heart how different your life would be without these “little” things so that you recognize that you are actually grateful for them.
4. Appreciate that your very awareness is naturally kind. When we step out of habitual mental patterns (our speedy personal melodrama) and focus our awareness on anyone or anything without adding a story to them,, we easily see that the nature of our awareness is kindness.Think about that! When you break out of habitual focused activity, and actually wake up in a moment of present-focused awareness, you’re welcoming the existence of whatever you are focusing on.You are welcoming it into your awareness. And that is a kindness.
5. Being kind “on the outside” radiates kindness on the inside. The next time you feel stressed or anxious, instead of struggling with that feeling, look around and briefly but genuinely (not speedily) focus on a few different objects and simply name them. “I see this pen.” “I see this chair.” “I see my toe.” “I see the plant.” “I see the sky.” Do this in a relaxed way for 5 minutes and then check your mental and emotional state.You may discover that you don’t have to focus on the stress or anxiety to “deal” with it.
A general note about these exercises: when we are swept away in habitual thinking and activity, we are disregarding our true self in favor of our melodramatic, speedy “self” –– which is not a “self” at all. It is an act! A role we’re playing. The more absorbed we are in our act, playing a role, the less kind we are being toward our true self. Speed, stress, and anxiety are, after all, just different ways we squeeze our mental, emotional, and physical “bodies.” Squeezing ourselves like that is always unkind. Releasing that squeezing is always an act of self-kindness.
Go slow and practice simply –– no pressure, no performance standards. If you accept the invitation to practice these 5 ways of being kind to yourself, you’ll soon discover that you’re simply noticing your own awareness generates goodness in the world. Proof that goodness resides within you!
Before you drift off to sleep, in your last waking moment, affirm your basic goodness:
I, as much as anyone else, deserve respect and kindness.
––Jack Elias & Ceci Miller
The Outrageous Guide to Being Fully Alive