You may be having a difficult day or a difficult week. It can feel like an uphill climb to get out of that emotional and mental rut and be kind to yourself, but there are, fortunately, many tools at our disposal for resetting our attitude. When we show ourselves kindness, we start to create new habit patterns and neuron pathways in the brain ((Dr. Kim and Dr. Hill: Neutral Plasticity: 4 Steps to Change Your Brain & Habits)). These new “mentalities” take us from seeing everything as negative and grim to joyful, positive, and full of opportunity.
We understand kindness from the perspective of how we treat our family and friends. What if we were to take that same approach to how we treat ourselves? How would our health improve if we listened to our body’s signals and responded with care and compassion? These are profound questions to ask. While having a bad day and feeling down is another part of life, we can start to implement tools into our routine that grow our self-compassion muscle even more.
1. Forgive Yourself Often
This may be the best and hardest tool to implement in your life, but it is so potent! We are so hard on ourselves, and we are often our own worst critic. We can easily forgive our friends and family, but we have a harder time taking that forgiveness within.
Today, practice self-forgiveness. When you get caught up in self-blame, pause and think about how you would react to the same situation with a friend. Often, we need the same kind of forgiveness. At the end of the day, we’re doing the best that we can. When we know better, we can do better. In the meantime, forgiveness is key.
2. Write Yourself a Love Letter
This is a simple yet precious way of writing your thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper. If you really want to add a touch of extra love and be kind to yourself, pull out your fanciest stationary((Live Happier: Love Letter to Yourself))! If you’re having a hard time with writing, imagine you’re writing to your younger self. What would you want to say? Often, it’s words of encouragement.
We hold a lot of compassion for ourselves in hindsight, after life has tested and blessed us. Writing love letters offers us perspective in which to find gratitude! If you want, you can also mail it to yourself, or save it and open it in a few months or even years.
3. Take Care of Your Physical Health
This may look like going out for a walk every day in your neighborhood or favorite park; it may also look like taking a yoga class on a Saturday morning, or joining a favorite gym or fitness club.
When we’re feeling down, our physical body hangs on to all of that pent-up energy and emotion. We need to clear that energy in order to maintain physical health, as well as emotional and mental health((Medium: How To Flush Negative Emotions From Your Body)). Whatever you choose is up to you! Just make sure it feels good and you’re having fun while you’re at it.
4. Nourish and Treat Yourself
This may look like taking yourself out to dinner or cooking a delicious meal for yourself at home! Often, in times of despair, one of the first things that starts to lack is our nutrition. We either don’t eat enough or we overeat, and never the right kinds of food.
Schedule a time on your calendar for treating yourself! It may be ordering food from your favorite restaurant, or spoiling yourself with something that you would never order regularly. Whatever it is, make sure it feels special, something out of the ordinary, and bonus points if it’s healthy!
5. Seek out a Therapist
When it comes to emotional and mental health, seeking out professional health is a major win and a great way to be kind to yourself. We can’t always help ourselves. We need someone to hold space for us, listen and hear us out, and offer perspectives that we wouldn’t have on our own((PsychCentral: Benefits of Therapy You Probably Didn’t Know About)). There is no shame in asking for help.
Therapists will often challenge you to confront the way you think about various situations and experiences, so if you have a problem with negative thinking, therapy can be particularly useful. Just make sure you’re ready to go into it with an open mind and lots of self-compassion.
6. Buy Yourself Flowers
This may seem like a cliché approach to self-kindness, but think about the last time you bought flowers for yourself. How long has it really been? There is great power in treating yourself in the same manner as you would treat someone you loved.
Small gestures, such as buying yourself flowers, are breadcrumbs towards those new habit patterns. When put together, they create a new outlook of joy, happiness, peace, and contentment. To go a step further, take yourself out on a date! You may be surprised how much you enjoy your own company.
7. When You’re in a Rut, Ask Questions
We reflexively jump to outside stimuli when we’re facing a challenge or are in a rut. You may turn to food, drugs, or alcohol; or you may keep yourself mindlessly busy, distracted, or running headfirst into emotional restlessness and poor decisions.
Instead, we can ask ourselves questions to start to dig deeper into our current situation. For example, asking “What do I need right now?” can be a powerful moment of introspection. It not only brings us back to the present, but it also cuts through the noise of mental and emotional chatter.
8. Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People
Our loved ones have a beautiful way of pulling you out of your own funk when you don’t know how to be kind to yourself. Just by being around other people, our energy can lift and shift in ways that promote a new, fresh start to our day. Make sure you find friends who will be patient with you and make space for you to be heard and loved. If you feel like your friends aren’t capable of this, it may be the moment to limit the amount of time you spend with them. Remember to surround yourself with people who can lift you up versus people who can only bring you down!
This also may seem like a simple tool, but it is an incredibly important one! Just like food, hydration is also something we toss to the back burner when we’re feeling down. It just doesn’t seem to be that important until we have a headache and don’t know where it’s coming from.
Drinking water not only regulates our body’s innate functioning systems, but it also heavily impacts our mood((Harvard T.H. Chan: The Importance of Hydration)). Remember to stick to water and avoid high-sugar drinks, such as sodas. If you’re not sure, water is your best bet!
10. Have a “Self-Care” Day
This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can draw yourself a bath, have a picnic outside, or choose to snuggle in for a movie night. A “Self-Care” day is all about being present with yourself and enjoying the little things with more appreciation. There are many ways of enjoying the day that won’t cost you a lot of money, and all with tools already at your disposal in your home or community.
11. Make Time for Meditation
This is a wonderful practice of tuning into your mental state and works to teach you how to be kind to yourself. With so many meditation applications out there, you can find teacher-guided sessions or timers with gentle background music to ease you into meditation. Meditation teachers often say that all of our answers reside within us, so starting this practice in a time when we’re struggling can provide powerful insight.
12. Give Yourself Recognition
There are many successes we simply don’t take the time to celebrate. Instead, we wait for others to celebrate or recognize our accomplishments. Today, think about something you’d like to be recognized for. It could be a project you’ve been working on or something you’ve devoted time and effort to in your life. Then, celebrate it!
Share it with your friends and family, and give yourself a pat on the back! Another fun way of giving yourself recognition is to create a “Brag Bucket.” Each time you accomplish something, drop a note with what you did. At the end of the year, take a look at everything you’ve done and celebrate yourself!
13. Give Yourself a Massage
We already mentioned how the body holds on to emotional and mental baggage. This can show up in tension, tightness, aches, or pains. While it is certainly rewarding to go get a massage, you can also give yourself one. Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga, highlights a particularly healing massage practice called abhyanga, which is an oil massage that you can do from the comfort of your own home((Healthline: About Abhyangha Self-Massage)).
14. Stop Tolerating What/Who Doesn’t Serve You Well
Sometimes practicing self-kindness is about cutting the cords of what no longer brings you joy in life. This may be an idea, routine, or a person. It’s OK to walk away from something that brings you down. When you can let go and distance yourself in such a way, more space opens up for you to fill that void with what actually makes you happy!
15. Rest and Recharge
We live in a society that worships productivity. While that may be needed in some instances, it also creates the assumption that a lack of productivity makes you worth less as an employee and a person and makes it very difficult to find time to be kind to yourself. We need to get back to the flow of nature, which shows us that while much may not be going on, life is still thriving and growing. Likewise, so are we.
We are not designed to thrive in a “grind” society. We don’t always need to work, move, create, and do. More often than not, we need rest! We need to simply be, and we need to know that this is more than OK.
We all have days where we feel down and out. In these moments, we can either wallow in our despair and let it consume us, or we can practice simple yet effective tools to nourish ourselves. At the core of self-kindness and compassion is the fact that we’re all just doing our very best, day in and day out. As the old Buddhist saying goes, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserves your love and affection.”
More on How to Be Kind to Yourself
- The 5-Step Guide to Self Care for Busy People
- 30 Ways To Practice Self-Love And Be Good To Yourself
- 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success