Most of us believe that being kind to ourselves is likely to turn us into lazy complacent blobs. We’ve been hoodwinked into thinking that success comes from constantly berating ourselves with harsh negative self-talk.

Interestingly, this approach may well help you achieve your goals, but you’re in for a miserable rough road getting there. And even if you do, your achievements are unlikely to feel fulfilling.

Why is that?

Well, when you’re driving yourself with an inner cattle-prod, you’ll often also convince yourself that when you get the next thing – the new job, the perfect partner, the mortgage paid off, etc. – then you’ll happy.

Many of us are playing the ‘when-then game’ – “I’ll be happy when…” You fill in the gap.

However, when you acknowledge your own suffering and respond with kindness to the ups and downs of your journey the research shows you’re far more likely to achieve your goals and enjoy the process along the way.

You can be happy now!

It’s Mental Health Awareness week and I want to provide a list of self-kindness practices for you to try.

Whenever you’re struggling remember, you can treat yourself with the same warmth, caring, and kindness that you’d extend to someone you care about.

Six self-kindness practices:

1. Acknowledge your pain.

Acknowledge your experience instead of trying to run from it.
Say to yourself: “This is really painful / hurts / is difficult…”

2. Defuse (unhook) from self-judgment.

Consciously acknowledging your pain is an act of self-kindness. Observe any harsh, critical self-talk and help yourself unhook by normalizing and naming it. Say to yourself: “thanks brain I know you’re trying to help me, but I’ve got this…” or “I’m noticing the old XYZ story again”, or “here’s feeling judged, guilty, ashamed, discomfort, etc.” “Here’s my mind beating me up again, and even so, I’m going to be kind to myself”.

3. Respond with kindness (self-compassion).

Practice kind self-talk (this is not the same as positive thinking!). Remind yourself that you’re human and fallible and that everyone makes mistakes. Place your hand on your heart and send yourself some warmth and kindness. Say to yourself: “May I treat myself kindly”, or say just one word, e.g., “Gentle” or “Kindness”.

4. Accept what’s happening.

You may not like it, but this is happening. Instead of fighting, running, or being controlled by your inner experience, drop the struggle. Open up and make room for your difficult thoughts and emotions; be curious and allow them to flow through you. Say to yourself: “I may not like / want / approve of what’s happening, but it is happening.”

5. Validate your pain.

Instead of telling yourself, you shouldn’t feel this way, that you’re over-reacting, and weak, should toughen up, suck it up, and stop being a cry-baby, with a caring inner voice remind yourself that pain is a normal response to any reality gap (the gap between what you want and the reality you’ve currently got). Say to yourself: “It’s normal, natural, and human to have painful thoughts and feelings when life is difficult, or when I make mistakes or get rejected.”

6. Connect with others.

Getting all caught up with what your mind is telling you and buying into it creates a sense of disconnection. You can feel cut off, like you’re suffering alone, and believe other people are dealing with life better. All people experience pain and suffering. It’s part of being human. Say to yourself: “Everybody hurts sometimes,” or “This shows I’m human and it’s hard to be human at times. Millions of people on the planet have felt this way.”

I don’t suggest you try them all at once. Just choose one that speaks to you and work on that one first.

These self-compassion practices have been adapted from the work of Russ Harris.