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Posts Tagged ‘self-kindness’

There are plenty of reasons for developing a kind and generous spirit.  I think its foundation springs from the wish that other beings are well and a willingness to see the world from another’s point of view.  And anecdotal evidence has long maintained that by practicing kindness we can reduce our own pain and boost our well-being.

By sending genuine wishes of kindness to someone, we can open our hearts and perhaps increase feelings of self-kindness and quiet our inner critic.

As you journey through your day, there are simple actions you can take to strengthen your kindness and generosity muscle.

Engage with the people you interact with: the grocery store clerk, a receptionist or people on the street.  Listen when they talk.  Gently smile and silently wish them goodwill.  You might be surprised at the pleasant feeling you will reap.

Offer acts of kindness.   The other day I noticed a young boy rush over to open a door for someone carrying a large box.  He was beaming when he walked back to his dad.  Gestures such as that can activate a pay-it-forward climate of generosity in your little corner of the world.

And practice self-kindness.  You can do this at various times, throughout your day.  When you shower, notice the feeling of the water cascading down your body and take a moment to relish it.  Set an alarm on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day and when you hear it, take a breath or two and send yourself thoughts of kindness.  “May I be happy and safe.”   “May I live with ease.”  “May I be healthy.”

Extending kindness to oneself and to others is a simple but powerful expression of mindfulness that can make a significant difference in your life.

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It’s the second week of January, and are you are still gung-ho about your resolutions? Or maybe you didn’t make any, so you are avoiding all those people who did and go on and on about how wonderful they are. And you resist saying, “I saw you eat that candy bar.”

The number one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. Most of the people who make that vow abandon it by Valentine’s Day.

There are a variety of reasons why that happens:

  • Goal is too lofty – “I’m going to lose fifty pounds by March”
  • Goal isn’t maintainable – “I will eat only lettuce and drink only water for one month.”
  • Goal is constricting – “The only way to lose weight is to never eat any of the foods I love.”

There is plenty of information out there to guide you in being successful at sticking to your resolutions. And my role as a Coach would be very beneficial in that regard. But that’s not the purpose here. I want to give you some advice on what to do when you fall off the wagon, eat that brownie while hiding in the bathroom, or buy a gym membership, all the right clothes for exercise, and never use it.

If any of those or similar situations happen to you, give yourself some compassion. Practice Self-Kindness.  If your inner voice continually criticizes and berates you for making a mistake or not reaching your goal, you often end up in a negative cycle of self-sabotage.   You “throw out the baby with the bathwater” and resolve that next year will be different. Or make your mantra, “You fail at everything you try so why bother!”

If you eliminate harsh self-criticism and treat yourself as you would a good friend, you’ll come out a winner. We are usually kind to those we love when they mess up. We reassure them with respect and support and remind them that they are human. We encourage them to pick themselves up and try again. We counsel them. Yet we often deny ourselves this same compassion.

So when you find yourself in this place of self-degradation, take a self-compassion break. Here’s how:

Sit comfortably and place your hands on your heart

Breathe deeply in and out

Then speak these words or similar words in a warm and caring tone, out loud or silently. (If you are in the restroom at work, you may want to say them silently.)

This is a small detour from my goal

I will be kind to myself

I will give myself the compassion I need.

Repeat the words several times until you feel a sense of warmth and compassion emanating from you for you.

From this place, you can reevaluate your goal, rather than completely abandon it. Here are some things to think about.

Was it difficult to achieve? By breaking it down into smaller bites, it’s not as daunting.   Change one thing at a time. Use a smaller plate. Eat more slowly to recognize when you are full. Replace one unhealthy food you eat regularly with a healthy one.

Is there another variation easier to accomplish? Losing weight isn’t just about restricting what you eat. Perhaps starting to move more is a better start for you.

Is it your goal, or someone else’s?  Everywhere we turn we hear that we need to eat healthier and maintain a slim body. Any goal is more challenging if you are doing it for someone else. Your best chance of success is doing it for you. It may still benefit someone else, but you decide that you want to do this because you deserve: to be healthy, to have more money in the bank, to be happy.

Do you need additional support to achieve it? Make sure your support system includes people who will call you on your excuses. Remind you of all the reasons why you wanted to do this in the first place and all the benefit you will reap.

“I get by with a little help from a friend.”  Treat yourself as you would your best friend.

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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