By Natasha Devon MBE
I think most people would agree on the importance of being kind to others. We’ve all seen small acts of generosity and thoughtfulness which have huge impacts on their recipients. Plus, studies show when we do good deeds it doesn’t just benefit the person for whom the deed is done – the deed doer also receives a dose of feel-good endorphins, which help restore brain chemistry and induce a so-called ‘helper’s high’.
But what about the kindness we show towards ourselves? In 2018 I read a book which changed my perspective on many things. The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi argues that if we want to examine our lives and change our habits, the first step is to do so with the same compassion and patience we would if we were helping our best friend.
When we tune into our inner voice, it’s surprising how often we’re telling ourselves, in a whole host of different ways and situations, that we are lazy, incapable or stupid. These thoughts are often the result of residual beliefs which emerged during childhood experiences – a family friend who used to say we needed to lose weight, an incident when a parent lost their temper and said something cruel they didn’t mean, or a teacher who would tell us we weren’t any good at a particular subject. The chances are, if we could track those people down and ask them, they wouldn’t even remember making the comment. They were probably having a bad day, or projecting their own issues. Their assessments certainly have no bearing on the person we have become today.
Furthermore, we know that for the vast majority of people being highly critical doesn’t work as a motivator. If we were trying to encourage a friend to achieve a goal, we wouldn’t scream at them that they should never have let themselves get this way in the first place, or that they’ve destined to fail because they’re so useless. So why do we do this to ourselves?
Shahroo, who has a background working in addiction, also talks about how so many of us put our lives on hold until we have reached the (often arbitrary) targets we have set ourselves. Until we have lost that weight, or got that promotion, we don’t think we are worthy of showing ourselves kindness. So we say no to social occasions, or deny ourselves a holiday, believing the experience will only be fun and rewarding if we can do it as our ‘best selves’.
Yet as the COVID19 crisis has taught us, life is often unpredictable and fate tends not to care about our plans. Lockdown actually represents a really good time to assess how well our lifestyle and habits are serving our wellbeing and happiness. For most of us, we have spent some time off the ‘treadmill’, not being carried along unawares by the momentum of the things we usually do every day. Spending more time at home with our families, or conversely not being able to see them, has made lots of us realise how precious time is and reassess our priorities.
If you have the energy, now is therefore an excellent time for a life audit. But, if you take up this challenge, make sure you treat yourself with the same kindness you would show someone you love.
You can buy The Kindness Method here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindness-Method-Changing-Habits-Good/dp/1509881824/
As well as being one of No Panic’s valued patrons, Natasha Devon MBE is a writer and campaigner. She travels schools and colleges throughout the UK and the world delivering classes and conducting research with teenagers, teachers and parents on mental health, body image and social equality. Her latest book ‘Yes You Can: Ace Your Exams Without Losing Your Mind’ can be bought here You can also listen to her brand new podcast ‘Staying Sane in Quarantine’ here And the fabulous ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental, an A-Z’ can be bought here.
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