If you take care of others in your life, it’s essential that you also take good care of yourself. Daily acts of kindness are a great way to spread happiness and good feeling, which also boosts your own wellbeing – see the evidence in David Gaz’s documentary Kindness Is Contagious.
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You know it’s important to get plenty of sleep, eat well, spend time outdoors and get regular exercise. But don’t forget, self-compassion and self-care are vital too.
Challenge negative thoughts and stop beating yourself up
It’s easy to put ourselves down and be more critical of ourselves than we would be of others.
A good test for any critical thought is: “Would I say this to a friend?” If the answer is no, question why you’re criticising yourself and remember to be kind.
Just because you think about yourself negatively, doesn’t mean other people will view your ideas and actions the same way. Don’t hold yourself to a higher standard than other people.
Read our guide to challenging negative thoughts to help get you on the right track.
Set time for self-care every day
A massage is a great way to relieve stress and tired muscles, but you may not always have a willing friend or partner to treat you.
Instead you can try using a foam roller when you’re watching TV in the evenings. The textured surface means you can give yourself a deep tissue massage and a great stretch, which releases stress and boosts blood flow and circulation.
Lots of runners use foam rollers after training, but it can also help you relax your shoulders and back after a long day, especially if you work at a desk.
And try occasionally swapping your shower for a relaxing bath, and add magnesium to the water. Magnesium is sold as flakes or labelled as Epsom salts, and most people are deficient in this essential mineral.
Adding magnesium to your bath water will relax aching muscles and joints, and is easily absorbed through the skin. Soak in the water for 20-30 minutes, and it’s safe for children too.
The new body confidence rule
When it comes to body image, we’re all about loving and respecting our bodies, whatever our size and shape. So instead of debating whether one body is better or healthier than another, let’s break the habit and change the way we talk about bodies. Be kinder to each other, and to ourselves. The one simple rule is: respond to the feeling, not the body.
When we comfort someone with, “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful”, we’ve fallen into the trap of saying that you can’t be both fat and attractive. Yet of course that’s not true, and it’s not what we meant. Instead, focus on the feelings, rather than the appearance. If a friend is celebrating losing weight, say “It’s great to see you so happy”. If a loved-one is feeling down about their size, comfort them with “I’m sorry you’re feeling down. I love you.”
Equally, accept compliments from others with the good intentions they were giving, and feel grateful for the positive energy.
The same is true with the way you respond to yourself. Give yourself compliments, and as your heart opens, you’ll become less critical. Notice the good things in people all around you.
Make time to laugh
Laughing releases endorphins in the same way as singing and dancing, and reduces stress hormones and adrenaline. So laughter helps you to relax and is even a natural painkiller, according to a study in 2011.
So find whatever makes you laugh – silly videos on Youtube, a stand-up sketch on TV, or a funny book. Or even try laughter yoga, which is based on the idea that your body can’t tell the difference between real and pretend laughing.
And remember that laughter is infectious, so if you can laugh in a group the benefits are increased – gather some friends round your phone to watch some slapstick clips or share a funny story.
Write a diary
Making a conscious effort to record the positive parts of your day has been proven to boost your wellbeing.
It can help you to cope with negative emotions and become more resilient in the long-term.
You can read more about the benefits of journalling here.
Enjoy deep reading
Reading a book forces you to slow down and reflect on life – it’s an almost meditative experience if you slow down and stop skimming over the words.
It also gives you the chance to step back from the worries of everyday life, even if just for a few minutes. Learn more about mindful deep reading.
Photos by Brigitte Tohm, Siddharth Bhogra, Eye for Ebony, Brooke Cagle, STIL on Unsplash