How to practise self-love using the kaizen method

Kaizen author Sarah Harvey shares her top tips for how to love yourself and boost your mood when you’re feeling low.

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on the importance of kindness. The Mental Health Foundation has found that protecting our mental health is an incredibly important factor in how we cope with the unprecedented situation we are all living through, and that kindness – both to others and to ourselves – has a huge part to play. Kindness to ourselves, or self-love, can help to boost our optimism, confidence and self-esteem. Here, Sarah Harvey, author of Kaizen, shares how you can practise self-love by using the Japanese method of kaizen to make small gestures of kindness towards yourself.

Learn more about kaizen here.

Self-love sounds like something a crusty old hippy might start evangelizing about on a beach in Goa, BUT it is actually a great way to help combat your inner critic. Self-love or self-compassion is part of Buddhist teachings, which encourage showing patience, kindness and a non-judgemental attitude towards yourself. It is about accepting that you aren't always perfect, and acknowledging that there is always room for growth. As well as opening up to those around you, here are ideas for some small things to try to help you pick yourself up when you're feeling low: 

Check in with yourself 

If you are feeling particularly down on yourself, try closing your eyes for five minutes and doing a body scan. Identify areas of tension and then try taking a deep breath and breathing into them. Try relaxing your tongue and jaw, as this is usually an area that holds tension.

Practise self-massage 

If there are areas of tension in your body, try gently massaging them to see if you can release any tight muscles. Most people can't afford a professional massage every day, sadly, but you will find that a lot can be done with a humble tennis ball! There are lots of online tutorials for how to practise this. 

Use mindfulness to help treat your inner critic with compassion 

If you find that you are overwhelmed with negative thoughts and your inner critic is running away with itself, take five minutes out to meditate. Let the negative thoughts pass over you and acknowledge that they exist, but try not to judge yourself. Note how you feel afterwards. 

Treat your body like a friend 

Rather than feeling like you are battling against your body, try thinking of it as a friend who you have to look after and who supports you. When you think bad thoughts about your body, stop yourself and question whether you would think something like that about a friend. 

Be kind to yourself 

Recall a time when a loved one or colleague has shown you kindness and think about how that felt. Perhaps write it down. Can you replicate that feeling when thinking about yourself? 

Don't beat yourself up 

If you have messed up at work or in a personal relationship, remember that everybody makes mistakes and that it is an experience that you can learn from. If you need to apologize to somebody then do so, then try not to punish yourself further. 

Write down reminders of times when you felt good about yourself

Buy a pack of sticky notes and each morning write down a memory of when you felt good about yourself or proud of achieving something, such as 'The time when I helped the old man next door with his groceries' or 'The time when I looked completely amazing at Suze's wedding'. 

Keep a compliment list or journal 

As well as cultivating memories of when you felt good about yourself, remember to relish times when others have boosted you, too. If you receive a compliment from a friend, family member or colleague, write it down in your journal at the end of the day, or keep a list in the notes section of your phone. Return to the list whenever you feel a bit low and see if it transforms your mood. 

Learn to say 'no' and set boundaries 

Part of practising self­compassion is not over-stretching yourself by doing things that you don't want to do. Do you find that you are overwhelmed with trying to see everybody and fit everything in? Try to designate at least one or two nights per week for vegging out, doing your washing and cooking something healthy. Having more control over your own schedule and setting boundaries can feel wondrously liberating. 

Set yourself a new challenge 

If your confidence is low, learning a new skill or meeting new people can be a brilliant antidote. Remember that it isn't about being perfect but about having fun and opening yourself up to new ways of enjoying yourself and/or new groups of people.


by Sarah Harvey

Kaizen offers a personalised and flexible approach to change which can be applied to any area of your life – whether it’s health, work, money, new hobbies or relationships. Sarah will show you how to build good habits and break bad ones using incremental change, without being too hard on yourself along the way.