How can we create a little kindness towards ourselves?
Ahimsa translates to 'nonviolence' or non harming and is the first principle of the 5 Yamas. From the 8 limbs of yoga, The Yamas are disciplines of restraint, these practices are likened to cleansing techniques for our minds, bodies, and souls that allow us to live more conscious, connected and free lives. In Yoga philosophy, Ahimsa can be practiced both on and off the mat, allowing kindness and freedom from harm towards ourselves.
We are often kind, supportive and understanding to our loved ones, friends and family, but are much harsher and critical towards ourselves when we are in a similar situation. We tend to go through life evaluating ourselves and others according to a scale of worth. The sense of self esteem is the amount of value that we consider we are worth - these values vary from person to person. Whilst we may rate ourselves as being of little value, others might rate us much higher. If we get into the habit of thinking negatively about ourselves, then low self esteem, or placing little value on ourselves, is the result. Low self esteem and listening to our inner critical voice can be really damaging to our emotional and physical health.
Learning to be more compassionate with ourselves can lead to a calmer mind, better relationships, less worry and anxiety and also an increased sense of self worth and liberation a lot of us are searching for.
I am sharing some of the mindfulness practices which I have learnt through my experience of living with a chronic illness, going through therapy and being a yoga teacher. Not all of the practices will be for you, however if you feel that some work, please feel free to come back to this blog to refresh your mind at any time as they can be practiced any where, any time.
Make Self Care a Priority
I have written about self care in some of my previous blogs which you can find in the self care tips section.
Self care can be anything which allows you to feel good about yourself. It's about having an honest relationship with yourself. Asking yourself what you need, meeting those needs and also constantly re-evaluating and adjusting to make sure that you are nurturing yourself everyday - both physically and mentally.
A few ways to bring self care into your life are;
Look after yourself the way you would care for someone you loved
Surround yourself with people who make you happy
Set boundaries, allow yourself to say no
Try to reduce stress (where possible) in your life
Ensure you get enough good quality sleep
Exercise regularly. This can be any kind of movement so choose something which you like doing
Plan activities you enjoy and/or find relaxing
Treat Yourself the way you treat Others We are often very compassionate with others, but are much harder and more critical of ourselves. We are much more understanding and compassionate with someone else, particularly someone we care about. It is important to talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone else in the same situation. "If my friend was feeling this way, what would I say to them?"
Slow Down and take a Breathe Allowing yourself time to listen and connect to how you're feeling can make a huge difference to your physiological and psychological state. Just take a few moments to slow down, and breathe. As you take some steady breaths, allow yourself the time to check in with how your physical body is feeling and maybe ask yourself how your mind is feeling. You can note down in a journal anything that arises.
I have previously shared a really effective breathing exercise over on the below link. Please feel free to try this exercise and let me know if it helped you;
Use the T.H.I.N.K Method
This is something which I learn whilst going through CBT and I use it whenever I feel as though I am spiralling into a place of low self esteem, where I am letting my inner critic dominate my thoughts.
The T.H.I.N.K method allows us to shift our focus to our thoughts and question them which can be really useful if we are allowing our inner critical voice consume us with negative and unhelpful thinking patterns.
THINK: Is this thought
True, Helpful, Important, Necessary, Kind?
Next time you feel as though your are allowing your inner critical voice take over with negative thoughts, try to apply this method to give yourself some clarity. Our thoughts are not actually reality and most of the time our worries never happen. Not allowing the negative, critical thoughts take over will leave more room for the positive thoughts to come through.
Nurture your own Compassionate Voice
As previously mentioned, we all have an inner critical voice and a compassionate empathetic voice. As humans we tend to listen to the negative thoughts more than the positive. Did you know that on average it takes seven positive thoughts to cancel out a negative thought.
We judge ourselves far harsher than the way we judge other people but we can practise noticing when we do this, and start to use our own compassionate voice.
I'm sharing a FREE guided meditation below with you. This is a practice which can help you to connect with and listen to your worries and thoughts. Speaking to them with your inner empathy to encourage more confidence and peace within your mind and body.
I will be sharing some positive affirmations with you to help you work through any negative feelings, discomfort and pain. This is a practice that can help to bring some clarity to your emotions and feelings, to work through them by yourself. It's also time to rest your body be present.
You can practice this meditation any time of the day, especially if you are feeling stressed, tense, painful or want to connect back to your body and breath. It's a good one for if you're struggling to sleep!
Create a Compassionate Image
Another really helpful practice which I learnt in therapy and use now alongside my compassionate voice is the use of a compassionate image. You can return to this image when you need it. Sometimes it's easier to listen to compassionate words from yourself if they are being spoken by your compassionate image.
This method allows you to create an imaginary idea of compassion that you can turn to when you need some support. It is best to use an object or idea rather than a real person that you know. Whatever image you choose, it needs to hold compassionate qualities and be: wise, understanding, kind, all-knowing, forgiving and totally accepting of you, your past, what you are going through.
You can practice this in a quiet space, either laying down or sitting. Start by finding a comfortable position, become settled and start thinking about your breathing. Slow down your breathing a little and notice the rhythm of your breathing. Notice what images come up and if you can use one of them. Build the image by thinking about the following;
What would they look like? Human, animal, light, nature?
What would they look like if they were wise, understanding, kind and accepting? What expression would they have as they looked at you with wisdom, understanding, compassion and acceptance? How would they communicate or interact with you? What voice would you give them? What would their voice sound like for them to sound wise, understanding, kind and accepting? What colour do you associate with wisdom, understanding, compassion and acceptance?How else would they communicate with you? What does your compassionate image want you to know? What words are they saying? What do you feel as you spend time with your compassionate image? What do you notice? Know that your compassionate image is yours and yours alone, is in your mind and therefore is there for you at all times.
Strengthen your 'Kind Mind' 'Kind Mind' helps us to be more mindful of our thoughts and how we talk to ourselves.
You can also use your Compassionate Image alongside this kind mind method. What would your compassionate image say to you?
A great way to nurture this sense of observation is to write down in a journal all of the things that the compassionate image would say.
Let me know what you think
I hope that you have found some of these practices helpful. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any comments, feedback or questions!
I offer 1-2-1 yoga, meditation and mindfulness sessions, if you would like to book in a session you can send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are welcome to join an online class, all levels are welcome.