Is Being Kind to Yourself an Underrated Self-Care Shortcut?


Are you kind to yourself?

Inspired by an aside in The Artist's Way (the book that led me to a week of reading deprivation), I recently started to try to do one kind thing for myself every day.

It's been quite lovely. The changes have been small but meaningful in making my life just a little bit nicer.

For instance, I cycle to work, rain or shine. One day that was going to just dump rain, I had to leave the office mid-afternoon for a meeting and then immediately go from that meeting to see a show with a friend. I would have biked downtown in the torrential rain, not been able to properly hang my coat to dry, and then put on a soggy, cold coat at the end of the night. I was dreading it.

There is also a seabus that essentially goes straight from my work to downtown. I decided that this day, it would be kind to let myself take the seabus and get downtown without becoming completely soaked.

Immediately the dread dissipated and the day became much more pleasant.

Since then, I have made a list of kind things I could do for myself:

  • Stretch
  • Tidy up
  • Give myself a break from having a perfectly tidy home
  • Drink water
  • Put on a sweater (or dress warm enough for the day)
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Forgive
  • Eat something nourishing
  • Eat something comforting
  • Turn off the TV
  • Talk to a friend
  • Take the seabus
  • Go to bed
  • Let myself sleep in
  • Get up on time
  • Go for a walk
  • Not ordering another drink
  • Write
  • Go to counselling
  • Do something proactive to find a relationship (including going on the stupid dating apps)
  • Stay off the dating apps
  • Floss
  • Cuddle my cat
  • Listen to music that makes me feel good
  • Do something fun
  • Buy the tool I want or need to do a particular job more easily
  • Meditate

You can see that this list is not internally consistent. Tidying up my apartment is kind because it gives me an orderly space to live in where I can feel more relaxed, but if I am completely overwhelmed then it may be kind to give myself permission to do one less thing and have a messy home for a little bit. There is no set rule about what is or isn't kind. It depends on what you need that day.

One thing I realized is that one of the easiest ways to be kind to yourself is to take care of your physical needs. I often let myself feel a little uncomfortable, for no reason: my feet are cold, but the slippers are across the room so I live with cold feet; I feel tight, but I'll just lie on the couch instead of stretching while I watch TV and stay tight.

I also realized that often, being kind to yourself takes a bit more upfront work. It feels easier to stay put on the couch instead of walking across the room (on the cold floor!) to get my slippers or to get up and do some stretches. But that little bit of extra work is a kindness.

Being kind can also mean saying no to yourself. How many times have I ordered another drink because I am in a good mood and my friends are and it's more fun to say yes than no, and then that last drink pushed me too far into drunk-town, my bill past its limit, and the following morning into sluggish-ville (at best). The kind thing is to give myself some boundaries.

Framing the extra efforts and boundaries as a kindness to myself also makes it easier to follow through on them.

Try it with me! Every morning while you are getting ready for your day, ask yourself, "what is one kind thing I could do for myself today?" Maybe you'll wear clothes that are a little more comfortable. Maybe you'll make sure to plan enough time to eat lunch. Maybe you'll avoid social media for the morning.

Maybe, if we keep doing this together, our lives will get a little lighter.

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