Spring has sprung, and it’s a good time to revisit those New Year’s resolutions. If you look back on the intentions you set in January, you might be kicking yourself a little bit. Have you given in to your old habits or given up on your new ones?
You might think that beating yourself up will foster the discipline you need to get back on track. Research indicates, however, that you’re more likely to stay motivated if you swap out your inner voice’s critical tone with a tender voice of kindness.
Of course, this is easier said than done. You may be used to berating yourself for small missteps and mistakes, and it takes practice to change the tune of your inner voice. Not only should you be offering yourself kindness, but you can make simplicity and self-care a part of your self-compassion practice.
As you stride into spring, you can invite self-compassion and self-care to be your companions by using these techniques:
Through self-compassion meditations, you can train your mind to treat yourself the way you would treat your friends. Meditation cultivates mindfulness, which allows you to observe your self-critical thoughts without judgement.
Meditation can also help you practice offering yourself kindness. Not unlike basketball players who visualise making free throws, you are using your brain to practice self-compassion on the cushion so that when you’re in the game of life, you can put the practice into action.
2. Use a Visual Cue
Elisha Goldstein, PhD, founder of A Course in Mindful Living, recommends a visual cue to support your mindfulness and self-compassion practices. “We are completely interconnected with our environments, and our brains are constantly scanning our environments for input on decision-making. This is why many companies spend a large sum of money on design of their offices to influence how customers or employees feel. Visual cues can influence our brain's implicit decision-making by bringing an idea or a feeling to mind. This feeling will then create energy for action.”
What are some examples of visual cues? You can put a sticker on the back of your phone to remind you to be nice to yourself. You can also wear a bracelet to keep self-compassion front-of-mind. My nonprofit organisation Compassion It developed a self-compassion wristband that you flip from one side to the other each time you offer yourself kindness.
3. Spring Clean
Offer yourself kindness by taking the time to clean up your environments at home and work.
Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, encourages her readers to purge with grace. According to Kondo, if something does not “spark joy,” it should be tossed.
To take things a step further, Kondo adds a unique twist on this idea of decluttering. She recommends that, before you discard an item, you take a moment to thank it for the joy it provided. Even if it’s an item that you have never worn or used, you can thank it for how it made you feel when you purchased it. This helps squelch any feelings of remorse or regret for purchasing something you’re now giving away, which is one way to practice self-compassion.
4. Go Outside
Boost yourself by taking advantage of warmer weather to connect with nature. You can fuel your soul and nourish your mind by stepping away from hectic day-to-day life and immersing yourself in the outdoors. Whether hiking, practising yoga outside, or simply listening to the sounds of nature, you’ll be filling your cup as you fill your lungs with fresh air.
You can take it a step further and spend a day or weekend at a state park or national park. The National Park Service’s website makes it easy to find your closest national park and plan your trip.
5. Do Less, Better
Perhaps taking an inventory of your priorities and making cutbacks to them can help you get back on track with your 2018 intentions.
In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, author Greg McKeown shares wisdom and stories about the benefits of taking on less. By focusing energy on only a couple of projects or goals, you can gain momentum and accomplish more without feeling scattered and overwhelmed.
McKeown writes, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.”
He uses illustrations to hammer home his point. He depicts the nonessentialist as a circle with several short arrows sticking out from it. Each arrow represents a place where you spend time and energy, which could be various work projects, relationships, hobbies, exercise, and other pursuits.
The illustration of the essentialist is a circle with one long arrow sticking out. It indicates the progress one can make when you put all of the energy from your small arrows into one priority. Both diagrams show the same amount of energy expended, but one of them shows true progress.
A big piece of wisdom McKeown shares is the art of saying “no.” Even when can’t-miss opportunities arise, it might be wise to stay the course and politely pass.
By turning to one or more of these simple self-compassion techniques, you might find yourself back on track. Remember that if you do not find yourself back on track, practice self-compassion and don’t be hard on yourself!