By Pam Dewey • mental health, mental health care, self-care, compassion, kindness, self compassion • May 20, 2021
We all have good days and bad days. But when you have a bad day, do you spiral into feelings of worthlessness? Do you worry you’re a failure and fear that you’ve ruined your life? Many of us are very hard on ourselves and engage in extremely harmful, negative self-talk.
But what about instead of calling yourself a failure, you acknowledge you failed and then practice self-compassion? Or maybe when you’re feeling down, do something nice for yourself instead of wallowing? Here are six ways you can boost your mental health and be kinder to yourself.
Consider what you need
When you’re having a difficult time, stop and ask yourself, “What do I need?” It can be hard to identify what will make you feel better in the moment. Psychology Today suggests that it’s helpful to look at things you do to care for yourself when things are going well. Maybe you feel happiest when you listen to music, see your friends, spend time in the garden or go for a bike ride. If you’re feeling depressed or stressed, try doing the activities that bring you joy. Your body/mind is signaling that it needs a change, so listen and make that change.
Give yourself time to recharge
Many of us get sucked into the idea that we should always be productive. But the truth is many of us already take on too much. Lifehack.org states, “We don’t always need to work, move, create, and do.” You deserve time to rest and recharge, and you don’t need to feel guilty about that. Take a day off! Sleep late! Read a good book and ignore the laundry! Allowing your body to rest is good for your physical and mental health.
Treat yourself like you would a friend
We are often really hard on ourselves. But you deserve kindness and compassion, even when you mess up. If you’re engaging in negative self-talk, think about what you would say to your friend in the same situation. Maybe you said the wrong thing, but instead of berating yourself, pretend your best friend did the same thing. What would you tell them? You might suggest apologizing and then letting it go. The other person has likely already forgotten it and moved on, and you/they should too.
Showing self-compassion shouldn’t be just a strategy to feel better
You show compassion to your friends and family, and you deserve the same treatment. But you shouldn’t just show yourself compassion to feel better or get rid of your pain. Practice kindness toward yourself at all times. Clinical psychologist Chris Gemsen states, “Since compassion is omnidirectional, we are just adding ourselves — just a little person in the corner of the picture, me too. And it’s life-changing.” Loving yourself is important and can truly change how you move through the world.
You don’t have to do everything that is expected of you. You can set boundaries with your family, friends and significant other. Perhaps your sister invites you on a family vacation every year, but you’re only able to take time off once a year. While you may enjoy taking trips with your sister, you also might want to take a solo adventure or a vacation with your significant other. Trying to please everyone all the time is impossible, and it’s also going to leave you feeling unhappy. It’s okay to say no sometimes, and set up some boundaries to do what is best for you.
Recognize your humanity
We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human. According to TED.com, “If you beat yourself up whenever you fail or fall short, this naturally inhibits you from trying new things and taking chances. But when you’re self-compassionate, you know that even if you fail, you’ll still like yourself.” Being kind to yourself means recognizing you will make mistakes and forgiving yourself when you do. Failing is how you learn, so give yourself grace as you try new things. Loving yourself shouldn’t be contingent on your success. Also, recognize that trying new things is brave, so you should give yourself credit for that too.
When you make a mistake, fail, try to please everyone or feel like you have to be doing something all the time, it’s easy to be hard on yourself. Recognize that you’re human. Be as kind to yourself as you would a friend, acknowledge that you deserve rest, set boundaries, think about your needs and recognize that loving yourself is important.