When you’re taking care of everyone and everything else, it’s common to put yourself last. There’s a misconception that success requires sacrifices and self-criticism, but spending time and energy on yourself, and having more self-compassion, can make you feel more motivated and comfortable in your skin.
Self-kindness boosts happiness, optimism, courage, and overall well-being. Doctor Kristin Neff, a psychologist and researcher, found in her 2021 study that self-compassion is associated with reduced levels of depression and helps you to better deal with anxiety. “By wrapping emotional pain in the warm embrace of self-compassion, suffering is ameliorated and well-being is enhanced, allowing for healthier functioning in daily life,” the trial concluded.
Self-love doesn’t have to be hard. There are small changes in mindset and actions you can start today to begin feeling better about yourself and create a chain of positivity. These simple ways to be kinder to yourself can have transformative effects on your well-being.
20 Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself (Ideas and Examples)
There’s something really special about simply existing—you get to choose and cultivate the relationship you have with yourself. This may feel daunting and can even be a rollercoaster, but you have the power to treat yourself the way you want to be treated and learn from your mistakes.
Loving and respecting yourself will allow for a more positive, fulfilling life, and teach you to treat others kindly, too, but this doesn’t happen automatically—you need to work at it.
Here are the best steps for being kinder to yourself:
1. Acknowledge Your Negative Thoughts
Think of your negative thoughts as information about what matters to you most. There’s a reason why something is bothering you enough to cause such challenging feelings, so acknowledge tough emotions and confront them with actionable steps. How can you make it better? Why is this so important to you? Ignoring or burying negative thoughts is not the solution, so practice self-awareness instead. You can do this by journaling every day and spending intentional quiet time with yourself.
2. Practice Positive Self-Talk
Criticizing yourself can impact your self-esteem and confidence. Instead, practice positive self-talk to ease stress, promote confidence, encourage healthy habits, and reduce negativity. Research suggests that positive self-talk even improves cognitive performance and motivation. Consider a daily mantra that you repeat to yourself in moments of self-doubt, such as “I am good enough” or “I have value and purpose.”
3. Be Kind to Others
Showing kindness and lifting people up will promote your own happiness. You can be kinder to yourself by spreading kindness whenever possible. This can be by giving genuine compliments, helping people in need, supporting local businesses or charities, and treating others with respect at all times. Research shows that there’s a positive correlation between kind acts and happiness, and it reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness.
4. Practice Mindful Meditation
Mindful meditation has been studied for its stress-reducing effects, but it can also help you to deal with difficult emotions by letting you observe feelings and sensations without judgment. A major part of meditation is acceptance, which allows you to take note of negative feelings, but then let them go.
5. Forgive Yourself
We all make mistakes, it’s human nature. Be kinder to yourself by learning from your mistakes and moving forward. This can mean forgiving yourself (or even another person) for something that happened many years ago. Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson said in a lecture that many people are stuck in some kind of traumatic childhood experience. He said that forgiveness means you need to “know where you are,” thereby accepting that mistakes were made in younger, more naive, or vulnerable times of your life.
6. Get Involved
Getting involved in the community or a local program can make you feel more fulfilled and connected to the people around you. Volunteering increases self-confidence and life satisfaction. It also improves your social skills and helps you fight mental health issues like depression.
7. Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of your health and physical needs will improve the way you feel, improve your energy levels, and boost your confidence. Get enough sleep every night (aim for at least seven hours), eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, and move your body throughout the day.
8. Spend Time on Hobbies
Research suggests that people with hobbies experience improved mental health, better moods, and lower stress levels. Engaging in a hobby allows you to clear your mind, spend time with yourself, and learn new things. Additionally, having a hobby promotes passion and leadership, which is why leaders like Mark Zuckerberg recommend having hobbies outside of work.
9. Smile More Often
Did you know that smiling can actually trick your mind into happiness? Research shows that smiling stimulates the emotional center of the brain and releases chemical messengers that encourage a positive emotional state. So, if you want to be kinder to yourself, start by smiling.
10. Take Personal Time
There should be personal time carved out in your schedule every day. Even if it’s only 30 minutes of doing something that brings you peace and joy, make sure to set time aside for it. This will refuel your body and mind, and allow for a more positive perspective.
11. Celebrate Your Achievements
Don’t forget to celebrate yourself and even your smallest accomplishments like crossing every to-do off the list, cooking dinner for yourself, hitting a goal, or sticking to your nighttime routine. Make sure to celebrate the wins throughout your week.
12. Practice Gratitude
Give thanks for the things that make you smile, bring you comfort, and make you feel joyful. This could be an internal moment of gratitude or expressing thankfulness to someone in your life. Decades of research have shown that communicating and receiving gratitude promotes happiness and positive emotions while reducing the risk of depression.
13. Spend Your Time With Positive People
Being around uplifting, positive people who make you feel comfortable and respected will boost your sense of worth and happiness. To be kind to yourself, surround yourself with people who show you and others kindness.
14. Get Outdoors
Spending time outdoors can help you feel better about yourself, boost your mood, and alleviate feelings of stress or anxiety. Taking a walk outside or sitting in a green area is a great way to ground yourself and clear your mind. Any type of connection with nature will leave you feeling more positive and at peace.
15. Remember That You’re Always Learning
You can be your own worst critic, but remember that you’re always learning and growing. Winston Churchill once said, “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” Life lessons can be difficult, but approaching them with an open, positive mind is of great benefit.
16. Focus on Your Relationships
Healthy relationships are a cornerstone of happiness and well-being. They promote healthier behaviors, give us a sense of connection and purpose, and provide comfort. You can be kinder to yourself by focusing on your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.
17. Don’t Get Stuck in the Negative
Social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood said in a Ted Talk that our minds get stuck in the negative, focusing more on failures than successes. Ledgerwood found in her research that “once we think about something as a loss, that way of thinking tends to stick in our heads and resist our attempts to change it.” Although we have to work harder to see the upside of things, it has a drastic effect on our perception of ourselves and the world.
18. Get Creative
Creative expression has the power to improve your mood, self-esteem, and brain function. Creativity also allows you to express yourself, which could help to confront difficult emotions and gain a sense of purpose. Even if you don’t enjoy creating, listening to music, dancing, and reading will be impactful, too.
19. Limit Social Media
While social media has its benefits, it can eat up your time and impact your sense of self, so limit time on these platforms and do something more meaningful and productive instead. Perhaps that’s reading an inspirational book, taking a walk outdoors, or volunteering in your community.
20. Make the Most of Every Day
Hit a goal every day, even if it’s a small one. At the end of the day, you should feel like you’ve accomplished something, and that can mean you took some personal time, made a deeper connection with a friend, cleared your inbox, or exercised. Living out purposeful, impactful days is one of the best ways to show kindness to yourself.
You Can’t Care for Others if You Don’t Care for Yourself
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”Jack Kornfield
Humans are naturally inclined to care for others, but often don’t think about self-care as a necessity. The truth is that to truly love others, we have to love ourselves first. This may feel like quite a feat, especially if you’re having trouble with stress, anxiety, or past trauma.
Focus on taking small steps toward self-love with these helpful tips:
- Block out at least 30 minutes a day for personal time.
- Establish a healthy morning and evening routine (and stick to it for a full month).
- Write down your weekly goals and celebrate each time you accomplish them.
- Connect with a loved one every week (virtually or in person).
- End your day with gratitude, for yourself and the things around you.
Read this article to learn more ways to clear your mind and find peace.
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- Neff, K., & Germer, C. (2012). A Pilot Study and Randomized Controlled Trial of the Mindful Self-Compassion Program. Self-Compassion. https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Neff-Germer-MSC-RCT-2012.pdf
- Kim, J. (2021, July 21). The effects of positive or negative self-talk on the alteration of brain functional connectivity by performing cognitive tasks. Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-94328-9?error=cookies_not_supported&code=b82af175-98eb-46cb-98d5-7aabf81fc6c7
- Rowland, L., & Curry, O. S. (2019). A range of kindness activities boost happiness. The Journal of social psychology, 159(3), 340–343. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461
- Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress. (2019, October). American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation
- PhilosophyInsights. (2020, December 19). Jordan Peterson: What to Do If You are Stuck in the Past? YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK79c2PqUWs
- Benefits of Community Service – Community Engagement. (n.d.). https://www.wcsu.edu/community-engagement/benefits-of-volunteering/
- CNBC Make It. (2017, March 30). Mark Zuckerberg: Having A Hobby Can Make You Better At Your Job | CNBC Make It. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8UekQDYhJ4
- When you’re smiling, the whole world really does smile with you. (n.d.). Home. https://www.unisa.edu.au/Media-Centre/Releases/2020/when-youre-smiling-the-whole-world-really-does-smile-with-you/
- How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. (n.d.). Greater Good. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain
- TEDx Talks. (2013, June 22). Getting stuck in the negatives (and how to get unstuck) | Alison Ledgerwood | TEDxUCDavis. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XFLTDQ4JMk