The way we think and feel about ourselves significantly affects our wellbeing. We can be harsh and critical or kind and compassionate towards ourselves. For a lot of people, self-criticism is the default setting. This makes life harder and less pleasurable. Research has shown that if we are kind and compassionate to ourselves, even when things are going wrong, we are more likely to cope with life’s difficulties and be happier. Below are some ideas which you can implement to start being kinder to yourself and developing your self-compassion:
- When something goes wrong, forgive yourself. Move away from self-blame. Everyone makes mistakes. Accept these as ways to make progress.
- Notice what you are feeling without judging yourself. Everyone has difficult times in their lives. Our emotions are the result of a complex mixture of factors which are not our fault and over which we may have little control.
- Gradually train yourself to become more aware of your thoughts, especially those that are negative and self-critical. Mindfulness meditation practices can really help with this such as those on the Headspace app which offers a 10 day free trial or the guided audios on mindfulnessforstudents.co.uk.
- When you notice negative and self-critical thoughts, pause for a moment and then imagine that it is a friend of yours in your situation as you speak to yourself in your mind. We are often much harsher in the way we speak to ourselves than we would ever be with other people!
- Try to refrain from saying “I should”, “I must” or “I ought to” statements to yourself.
- Try not to compare yourself with others. Comparing how you feel internally with how others seem externally is likely to make you feel worse about yourself. Often people will hide their struggles so we can’t really know what’s going on for them.
- Let go of the expectations of others and of excessively high expectations you have of yourself. It’s good to aim to do well but putting too much pressure on yourself will have the opposite effect, causing anxiety and often lowering performance.
- Spend 5 minutes in the evening remembering kindnesses which occurred in the day.
- Focus on the progress you have made each day and appreciate even small achievements, rather than fixating on the tasks that are still on your “to do” list.
- Spend time with people who are supportive of you and help you to feel good about yourself.
- Plan at least one enjoyable activity for each day, even if it’s just something small like phoning a good friend for a quick chat or having a relaxing bath. Taking regular breaks from work will help improve your wellbeing as well as making you more effective when you are studying – it’s a win-win!
- Each day aim to do one thing, however small, to help you reach a long term goal.
If you would like to learn more about how to be kinder and more compassionate towards yourself, then you can book onto the one-off workshop “Being kinder to yourself” offered at the Reed Mews Wellbeing Centre by visiting the Wellbeing workshop page on the website. The Wellbeing Centre also provides a six week Compassion Focused Course for those who feel they would benefit from exploring this area in more depth. This can be accessed by booking a Telephone Referral Appointment (TRA) with the Wellbeing Centre.
Written By: Sarah Lane, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner