Whether it’s exams, holidays, family, travel, finances, or just the persistent passage of time (aaah!) that takes our attention, this winter season can easily turn into a whirlwind of tending deadlines and the expectations or needs of others. Of course, so much of that activity is necessary and pleasant (Completing projects! Seeing loved ones! New Year’s resolutions!), but as the leaves fall off of the trees and the nights get long and quiet, I also like to follow nature’s lead and take some time to turn inward and rest.
I’m not proud to say that most of the time I actually find it easier to be kind to others than to myself, and this can be particularly true around holiday times. When we are able to extend the same compassion to ourselves that we extend to others, though, everyone benefits.
Here are some ideas for cultivating self-compassion in this–or any–season:
1. Practice non-judgment.
Many of us are taught (explicitly and implicitly) that certain things are “good” to feel and be, while other things are “bad” to feel and be. Though we don’t need to indulge in or perpetuate harmful behaviors, judging ourselves harshly for how we feel or where we are (or aren’t) in life only digs us deeper into suffering. Mindful non-judgment can interrupt that. Practicing this can be as simple as noticing a feeling or a thought that’s happening (like “Whoa, I’m really jealous that my brother got that giant TV.”) without plastering positive or negative associations all over the thought/feeling and, consequently, yourself.
2. Re-connect with your body.
Academic rigor, screens in our faces, hectic western culture—there are many reasons a lot of us get trapped in our heads. Bringing awareness back to the physical experience of a moment can be a game changer. This might happen in the form of an activity like taking a break to go for a walk, or it might just mean objectively noticing what’s happening in your body in response to a thought or feeling (like “Hm, when I hear Aunt Pat smack her dentures, my teeth clench and my throat gets tight”).
3. Treat yourself like you would a friend.
Would you tell a friend who did poorly on a test that they are worthless and can’t do anything right? Or “Welp, another bad date, huh? You’ll probably be alone FOREVER.” I doubt it. What makes it okay for you to be a bad friend to yourself? Experiment with changing the tone of your inner conversation to something more kind.
4. Allow for pauses.
I’m giving you permission to do nothing. Try it. This might mean not going out with old friends for the 5th night in a row when you’re tired and just want to snuggle up in your new fleece footie pajamas, or it might mean closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths in silence when you realize you were about to open up your Facebook newsfeed for the 16th time today. Try it. If it feels difficult, ask yourself why.
These are just a few ideas/reminders. For more detailed tips about mindfulness and starting a meditation practice, check out this post from earlier in the year.
Also, if you have tips for self-kindness that work for you, please share in the comments!