Life is full of ups and downs and often, they're out of our control. While we can't stop things from happening to us, what we can regulate is how we react and treat ourselves in the aftermath. It's often said that we need to love and care for ourselves, yet many of us overlook that in favour of beating ourselves up.
'On a daily basis, whether young or old, people are engaged in self-talk. Our thoughts have implications that affect our emotions, motivation and potential accomplishments. Research has shown that the majority of our self-talk is negative, therefore, is working against us rather than for us.
These negative thoughts create feelings of anger, irritation, frustration, hopelessness and disappointment,' explains one study into the impact of self-talk. For one person, negative self-talk could be fixating on every tiny mistake they made during a work presentation earlier that day while they lay in bed, however for someone else it might be telling themselves they're stupid for putting their foot in it during a chat with a friend, even though that person probably forgot about it straight away.
Someone who wants to help us change our self-talk from negative to positive is Shahroo Izadi, a behavioural change specialist and author of The Kidness Method: Changing Habits For Good. The next time you notice the voice in your head being negative about something you've done, think about Shahroo's seven top tips for being kinder to yourself...
1. Imagine you're your best friend
'The next time you do something you're not happy with, like you lock your keys in the car or say something you didn't mean to say, listen to how you speak to yourself about it,' Shahroo says. 'How quickly do you think you deserve to be forgiven? Compare that with what you would tell a friend in terms of how quickly they deserve to be forgiven.' If there's a difference, you might want to think about speaking to yourself in a kinder and more reasonable way.
2. Do the paperclip challenge
'Start the day with a bunch of paperclips in your pocket and every time you notice that you've been cruel to yourself, move one paperclip into the other pocket. At the end of the day, look at how many paperclips you've ended up moving and think about how futile that has been,' Shahroo advises.
3. Remember that being kinder to yourself will make you more productive
'When it comes to changing habits, remember that being nice to yourself is good for your wellbeing but it also gets you where you want to be a lot quicker,' Shahroo says. 'If you're kind to yourself, you forgive yourself for even the smallest of deviations from a plan or the smallest of slips and you get back on track really quickly. A lot of people think it's very airy-fairy psychology stuff but it's actually a really efficient way or getting stuff done.'
4. Think about where negativity is coming from
'When you do start hearing your inner voice being cruel, ask yourself, "Who told me that?" 'When we're young, we're looking outwards to the world and listening out a lot more than we do when we're older. A lot of these negative assumptions about ourselves are going to be picked up from childhood, meaning they're outdated, unfair, incorrect and coming from people whose voices and opinions don't matter anymore. Maybe they never did matter,' Shahroo says.
5. Do things purely for the joy of it
'Make plans with yourself to do things that bring you joy, with no other reason needed. It doesn't have to be "I booked a yoga class", it could be "I lit a scented candle - I'm not waiting for a special occasion, I'm a special occasion",' Shahroo says.
These kinds of things don't just make your day nicer, you're giving yourself the message 'I'm important, I'm worth investing time in, I'm worth making an effort for' and knock-on effects will happen. 'You might find the next time you walk into a shop, you pick up an apple instead of a chocolate bar because this narrative is happening where you tell yourself you're important and worth looking after,' she adds.
6. Acknowledge your successes
'Make sure that you punctuate your successes with acknowledgements - whatever that means for you,' Shahroo advises. 'Really often we don't take time to be kind and acknowledge our achievements, we just move on to the next thing. 'Ask yourself, "If I told myself ten or 15 years ago that I would be where I am now, having achieved everything I have done, would I stand taller and be kinder to myself?" The answer is probably yes. Take time to reflect and celebrate yourself.'
7. Change your idea of what being kind means
'Change your definition of kindness from immediate relief and distraction and letting yourself off the hook to doing things you'll be happy you did tomorrow,' Shahroo says. 'Tell yourself, "Today I'm going to make decisions for my mind and body that I'll be glad I made tomorrow". 'This actually requires a lot of impulse control but the end result is being resilient and strong and feeling like the decisions you're making are for future you, not just today you,' she adds.
The writer is a freelancer
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