In this difficult time, where we're likely to be feeling more anxious about world events and more stressed by disruptions to our daily lives, it's important to make sure we're looking after ourselves as well as others. Shahroo Izadi is a Behavioural Change Specialist and the author of The Kindness Method. In her book, she shares her revolutionary message that only through being kind to ourselves can we make positive changes that last, from improvements in our emotional wellbeing to kicking bad habits. Here, she shares five ways to be kinder to yourself today.
1. Be a mega-cheesy motivational coach for a day
Just for today, decide to respond to any self-doubting or critical thoughts with compassion, encouragement and the most motivational speech you can possibly imagine. Even if you (god forbid) do something like drop your phone and smash the screen. Try to be more fair in what you decide it means, and speak to yourself with a greater sense of perspective. If someone else had done the same thing, perhaps you’d respond by saying something like “How annoying! I’m so sorry mate, that’s rubbish. Let's find ways to get it sorted ASAP. It’s not the end of the world, don’t worry, we’ve all been there.” Yet when it comes to the conversations we have with ourselves, often the script is more like “Typical. Of course this would happen to me. I’m clumsy and thoughtless and I always have been. Now I’ll have to pay to get this sorted, with money I don’t have, because I’m so irresponsible and rubbish at budgeting.” The kinder approach helps you ‘cut to the end’, take positive action and start feeling better about the incident as soon as possible.
2. List positive headlines from the day
Create a rapid gratitude list in the notes on your phone (or on the computer), that you add to as and when you notice positive things happen over the course of the day. The list can include anything from getting the last croissant at Pret, to receiving positive feedback at work, to hearing some good news, to getting a seat on your commute home. This practice can help us tune in to all the little ‘wins’ we so often forget, especially in those moments when life challenges us, and our minds temporarily allow us to believe that our lives aren't as filled with wins as they really are.
3. Create tech-free windows
For those who want to spend less time on their phones, there are lots of tiny tech-free habits you can integrate into your daily routine without feeling deprived or like you’re missing out. One that I’ve recently introduced is not checking my phone before I’ve showered after a spin class. It seems like such a small change (and it only means I wait another 10 minutes or so before opening my locker), yet it’s really extended the amount of time I spend feeling mindful before I need to think about how I’ll respond to emails or WhatsApp messages. I realised the opportunity for this tech-free window when it occurred to me that I can’t respond to emails in the shower anyway, so I may as well enjoy myself for a bit longer. Try to notice tiny tech-free window opportunities today. Another good one is setting little rules like 'no walking down the street looking at my phone today' or 'no falling asleep reading my phone tonight', or 'only airplane mode and music during my commute.'
4. Do something you don’t think you can do – on purpose
This can be anything from deciding to eat two Maltesers and giving away the rest of the pack, to booking one ticket to the theatre and going by yourself, to taking the stairs at the tube station or having just one glass of wine at the pub after work then going home. Start finding opportunities to purposely challenge the assumptions you have about yourself and what you’re capable of. Also, notice whether any of the assumptions have become self-fulfilling prophecies. A great example of this is when we say “I’m just the kind of person who starts things but doesn’t finish them.” The only way to stop assuming you’re ‘just that kind of person’ is to collect as many examples as possible of you finishing the things you started. Consider yourself on a constant mission to prove that you can always redefine yourself and change long-held beliefs about what you are and are not capable of.
5. Act like it’s your birthday
There’s something about birthdays that can make us feel absolutely great for a day. Maybe we spring out of bed with a bit more energy, wear something that feels a bit more ‘special’ than usual, and justify treating ourselves to something a bit more indulgent than usual for lunch. We spend the day being reminded of what is true on every other day of the year: that we are loved, cared for and worthy of celebration and joy. We’re ‘springier’ and more resilient, feeling generally a bit more buoyant. Don’t wait for your birthday to do this stuff. It's not the birthday that's making us feel that way, it's all these tiny choices we're making to tell ourselves we're worthy of really enjoying our day. Today, every time you go to make a decision, from how you respond to a difficult colleague, to how long you allow yourself to dwell on small annoyances or things you have no control over, think to yourself “how would I behave if it was my birthday today?”
In this episode of Book Break, Emma talks to Shahroo about the principles of her book and puts The Kindness Method into practice as she tries to become less reliant on her mobile phone.
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