SIX TIPS FOR SELF-KINDNESS

Carla Ford

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Oh the irony! Sitting in front of the computer, trying to write a blog for World Kindness Day, and I catch my internal narrative, “Come on! It’s not difficult. Why are you being so slow?” 

Can you imagine if one of my colleagues said that to me? We’d all be horrified. In fact, if you had a colleague that was struggling with something, you’d be far more likely to offer sympathy, and perhaps help out if you could. Chances are you wouldn’t berate them. That wouldn’t be kind.

Kindness is one of the most prevalent character strengths in both adults and young children. It is a strength we morally value and one that has both biological and social purposes in life. Toddlers spontaneously develop kindness behaviours and appear to experience happiness when being kind to others (Warneken, Chen, & Tomasello, 2006; Aknin, Hamlin, & Dunn, 2012). Kindness has also been shown to help buffer against the negative effects of stress and trauma (Niemiec, 2017).

There are a lot of benefits in being kind to yourself. Research suggests that higher levels of self-kindness is associated with greater optimism, compassion, forgiveness, and goal mastery, as well as lower rates of anxiety, self-criticism, and perfectionism (Niemiec, 2017; Neff & McGehee, 2010; Neff & Pommier, 2013). When we are unkind and criticise ourselves, we may feel under threat, which can shut us down. If you think about how you motivate the children in your care, being kind and encouraging is far more likely to get longer-term results than haranguing them. When I’m kind to myself, it feels good, and that positive emotion helps me to be more outward facing, better at problem solving and critical thinking, and more creative (Fredrickson, 2001) (so writing this blog becomes easier).

Cultivating self-kindness is not only important for improving the way we nurture and care for ourselves, it also helps us be kind to others. When we experience self-kindness, we’re more likely to feel social connection (Neimiec, 2017) and I know I feel more giving towards others when I’ve taken time out for myself. In the same way that showing kindness towards others can have a ripple effect, impacting those beyond the immediate beneficiary, being kind to ourselves may positively impact those around us.

Researcher, Kristen Neff, defines self-kindness as, “extending kindness and understanding to oneself rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism” (Neff, 2003). It is a key ingredient of self-compassion which is strongly associated with wellbeing amongst adolescence and adults (Neff & McGehee, 2010).

Why aren’t we always kind to ourselves? What stops us? It could be that we’re time poor, or under stress at work. Or perhaps we feel we don’t deserve kindness? Or that others deserve it more? It could even be that we’ve never stopped to think about it. And yet, with World Kindness Day on the 13th November, perhaps it’s the perfect time to stop and think about how kind we’re being. To look at it another way, if you treated a friend the way you sometimes treat yourself, would you still be friends?

Tips for self-kindness 

  1. Carve out time for yourself to do something that feels good – go for a coffee, have a bath, read a good book; do something that brings you joy.
  2. Notice your self-talk, and cut yourself some slack. Everybody makes mistakes and nobody is perfect. Speak to yourself as you would a friend.
  3. Discover JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out) and give social media a miss for a while. Everybody posts their best selves and it can make us feel bad that our lives don’t match up. Be kind and have a day free of social comparison.
  4. Acknowledge your successes. We’re always quick to do that for others, so why not take a few minutes and consider all you’ve achieved. Well done you!
  5. Hang out with your cheerleaders. Spend time with the people who uplift you and support you. The ones that fill your tank.
  6. Take your daily ‘MEDS’ (Mindfulness, Exercise, Diet and Sleep). Looking after your mind and body is a great form of self-kindness.

And so, the blog post is written. But not before I Walked the Talk - on noticing my unkind thoughts, I went for a walk outside, tuned in to the birds singing, relished the breeze on my face, and took a few deep breaths. In other words, I was kind to myself.

Is there something you can do to be kind to yourself today? Is there something you can do right now?

Useful resources

https://self-compassion.org/ (Kristen Neff’s website)
http://www.kindness.com.au/world-kindness-day.html (World Kindness Day)

References

Aknin, L.B., Hamlin, J.K. and Dunn, E.W., 2012. Giving leads to happiness in young children. PLoS One, 7(6), p.e39211.

Fredrickson, B.L., 2001. The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American psychologist, 56(3), p.218.

Neff, K., 2003. Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and identity, 2(2), pp.85-101.

Neff, K.D. and McGehee, P., 2010. Self-compassion and psychological resilience among adolescents and young adults. Self and identity, 9(3), pp.225-240.

Neff, K.D. and Pommier, E., 2013. The relationship between self-compassion and other-focused concern among college undergraduates, community adults, and practicing meditators. Self and identity, 12(2), pp.160-176.

Niemiec, R. (2017), Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners

Warneken, F., Chen, F. and Tomasello, M., 2006. Cooperative activities in young children and chimpanzees. Child development, 77(3), pp.640-663.
 
Carla Ford
Carla Ford


Carla Ford is a Trainer and Content Developer with the Institute of Positive Education. She has designed and developed curriculum and training programs in Australia and the UK, and is passionate about creating light-bulb moments of understanding. She is a qualified teacher and adult-educator, and holds a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology.