Posted in CBT, compassion, lifestyle, mental health, Mindfulness

Monday Matters: The beginner’s guide to self-compassion

Photo credit: kaboompics.com for Unsplash

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post which explored different ways to practise self love and gave some ideas for bullet journal spreads you might like to try. Today’s writing is an extension of this them and focuses on self-compassion. I hope you find it both interesting and useful.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is all about showing yourself warmth, love, kindness and understanding, especially during difficult times. It’s about accepting ourselves as we are, learning to be less self-critical and avoiding judgement. It’s about being mindful of our different emotional states and the situations we find ourselves, recognising that we all make mistakes, that no-one is perfect and that we all struggle at times so we’re not alone in our suffering.

Why should I practice self-compassion?

There has been a lot of recent research into the benefits of being self-compassionate and how it can work wonders on our wellbeing. Individuals who practise self-compassion have been shown to be much happier, more optimistic, grateful for what they have, and enjoy better relationships with their loved ones. They’ve also been shown to have lower stress levels as they avoid being judgemental towards themselves, others and situations, recognise and accept that we all find things hard at times and, through mindfulness, become more in tune with their thoughts and emotions. Self-compassionate people are also likely to have a higher level of resilience as they are easily able to bounce back from difficulties and can accept and learn from their mistakes.

Self-compassion is also a great antidote for perfectionist tendencies, which I, for one, have always struggled with, right from childhood and I’m sure many of my readers will have too.

How can I bring self-compassion to my life?

Today, I’m going to share with you some simple ways to bring self-compassion into your life so that you can start being easier on yourself and show yourself the love and kindness you would demonstrate to someone else you care about.

Notice and reframe your critical self-talk

I’ve spoken before about the negative ways in which we tend to talk to ourselves before in my blog post about self love. We can be so good at saying unkind and unhelpful things such as “I’m such an idiot”, “Other people are so much better than me”, “No-one likes me” and “I’m just no good at…” etc. And, as you can imagine, this critical inner voice can destroy our self confidence and lead to feelings of worthlessness and depression.

So how can we put the lid on this damaging talk? The very first step is to start noticing when you are being self-critical. Take the time to examine the situations in which you use negative self talk, the exact words you use and the tone of voice that you adopt. You could even try keeping a little notebook of examples to reflect on. Now consider how you could reframe things in a more positive way. Focus on being self-compassionate, non-judgemental, supportive and mindful of the situation. If you find this difficult, think about what a really compassionate friend would say to you. Changing how we talk to ourselves might be hard at first but it will get easier with time and practise so keep working on your skills and congratulate yourself on your efforts.

Write yourself a letter

This is a great exercise to do if you are going through a difficult time or are struggling to accept something which has caused you mental pain. Start your letter by outlining the situation that you find yourself in and how it has or is affecting you. Next, go on to identify your thoughts and feelings and what you were hoping for or needing to make things easier. Now offer a message of common humanity which will remind you that you are not alone and encourage you to feel connected to others e.g. ‘we all make mistakes’ or ‘everyone has times when they feel…’ etc. Finally, offer yourself some guidance and positive encouragement like you would to a friend who needs your support. Sign your letter with a loving message and add some stickers, washi tapes or little drawings of something nice if you would like to. When you have finished your letter, you can either read it out loud to yourself straight away or put it away somewhere special for when you need to show yourself some compassion.

Start a self-compassion journal

Keeping a journal is a great way to reflect on how you are feeling and what is happening for you right now. I like to spend about ten minutes each evening writing down my thoughts. What I chose to write about differs each day but might include:

  • what I have achieved today
  • what I learnt today
  • ways in which I am proud of myself
  • things I’m grateful for
  • anything I found challenging today and why
  • what I’m looking forward to tomorrow
  • anything I’m feeling apprehensive about

You can finish your writing by adding some kind, understanding and sympathetic words to yourself. For example, ‘most people would get annoyed in that situation and it’s okay that you lost your temper’ or ‘things were difficult today, but hopefully you’ll have a better day tomorrow’ etc.

Use affirmations

Another great way of showing yourself loving kindness it to write your own personal affirmations and practise saying them to yourself each day. I like to create a decorative spread of them in my bullet journal every few months – it is a great way of practising my brush lettering too. Here are some examples:

  • I am enough
  • I talk to myself with love and kindness
  • I’m proud of myself and my achievements
  • I accept my flaws because no one is perfect
  • I’m doing my best and that is enough

Engage in self-soothing activities

If you know you’ve had a difficult day, your week isn’t going quite as planned or you’re finding yourself in a negative mood, you can help to make yourself feel much better by engaging in some self soothing activities.

Here’s some examples of things I like to do:

  • take a walk in nature and use my senses to explore the immediate environment
  • get under the duvet and read a good book
  • do some drawing or colouring in
  • listen to a guided meditation
  • make a collage in my bullet journal of things I love
  • do some watercolour painting
  • mindfully eat a bar of my favourite chocolate
  • watch a funny film
  • paint my nails

If you would like to read more about using self soothing for emotional regulation, you can check out this blog post I wrote last year.

I hope today’s blog post has helped to develop your understanding of self-compassion and how important it is. Let me know which of the activities I suggested appeal to you the most and if you try some of them, be sure to share how you got on.

Posted in Bullet journaling, compassion, mental health, Planning and journaling, wellbeing

Monday Matters: 8 wonderful ways to practise self love and some supportive BuJo spreads for you to create

There are lots of articles around at the moment about reaching out and being kind and supportive towards other people but it also really important to be good to yourself too. Self love is essential to our mental health and wellbeing and it should also be made a priority if we want to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Today’s Monday Matters post features a collection of eight ways in which you can practise self love and includes some ideas for bullet journal spreads with this focus in mind.

Start and end the day in the right way

No matter how busy you are, try to find the time to check in with yourself first thing in the morning and last thing before you wind down for bed. Tell yourself something positive before you start your day. Look in the mirror, and say something encouraging, for example, “you are awesome and don’t you forget it!”, “let’s do this!”, “today is going to be a great day” – I guarantee it will make you smile. In the evening, when reflecting on your day, think of something you did well that makes you proud – better still write it down in your bullet journal so you can look back at it some other time. Celebrate your wins whether big or small.

Stop comparing yourself to others

You are completely unique. There’s no one on earth that is quite like you, so stop comparing yourself with other people and appreciate how special you are and be grateful for everything you have. Take time to think about all of your qualities and if you find yourself struggling and in need of some help, ask your friends and love ones to tell you what they like about you. And remember, what you see on social media, is just the best snippets of someone’s life, an edited version that doesn’t show their bad hair days, the massive mistakes they made in their bullet journal before they developed their IG worthy spread, the times when they could barely drag themselves out of bed and the days when everything went wrong and they could have cried and probably did.

Practise self care

In my Wellness Recovery Action Plan series, I talked about making a long list of all of the things that you can do that you enjoy and that make you feel good. I came up with a list of over 100 activities including painting my nails, going out for dinner, looking at photos from happy times, flying a kite and going for a walk along the beach. Some of the ideas take minutes, whilst others are great for an hour or an afternoon of ‘me time’. I try to make sure I do at least 1 thing of my list each day and often do several. It’s not self indulgent, it’s just one of the ways I look after myself and keep myself mentally well.

Forgive yourself

Things can and will go wrong for you at times and you will make mistakes. You might do something that makes you feel really embarrassed or you might say something unkind to a friend or loved one in the heat of the moment. Accept that you are only human and that no-one is perfect, including you. Show the same kind of compassion to yourself as you would to someone else who got something wrong or is ashamed of their behaviour. The best thing to do is forgive yourself and then reflect on and learn from your mistakes in a kind way that enables you to use them to help you grow as a person.

Watch how you talk to yourself either out loud or in your head

On the subject of being kind and considerate towards yourself, be mindful of your inner critic. We can say some pretty awful things to ourselves at times, for example, I often find things slipping from my mouth such as ‘you idiot’, ‘I don’t believe you’ve just done that!’, well that was a stupid thing to do wasn’t it’ – and I bet I’m not alone? If you find yourself being downright horrible to yourself at times, think about how you could be more supportive and encouraging or what you would say to a friend or loved one in the same situation. A key technique used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT for short) is to spend time focusing on (and writing down) your critical thoughts, reframing them or analysing how much you really believe them. If you find yourself being really unkind and negative towards yourself this will most certainly have a negative impact on your self esteem and self worth. It may even be helpful in the future to think about finding a professional who can work with you to develop strategies that you can employ for making changes.

Look after your body

Pay special attention to what you need and treat your body in the way it deserves. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day and eat food that makes you feel good such as plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Create a good skincare routine for your face and body and have a make up free day at least once of twice a week to keep your skin looking young and healthy. And if your body is craving rest or a change of scene, listen to it and give it what it needs. Encourage yourself to have a lie in, enjoy an afternoon nap, go for a nature walk, have a relaxing bath or simply go and sit outside in the sunshine and do absolutely nothing.

Explore your creative side

Spending some time being creative is a wonderful way to express yourself. There are so many different ways to do this such as drawing, painting, journalling, poetry or even some interior decoration (when was the last time you treated yourself to some new cushions or a few pretty ornaments to display on a shelf?). There’s no right or wrong way to be creative so leave your inner critic behind, immerse yourself in whatever it is you’ve chosen to do and really enjoy the process. You might surprise yourself with the results too!

Examine your relationships

We all deserve to be surrounded by people who love and care for us so think about the quality of each of your loving relationships and friendships. Does the person accept you for who you are? Are they they for you in good times and bad? When you see or speak to them, do they make you feel happy and alive or completely drained and stressed out? Do they meet you half way or are you always the one that reaches out to them? Are they happy for you when you meet a goal or achieve something new? Do they really listen when you have something to say or do they turn the conversation back to themselves?

Recognise those people who you feel don’t have your best interests at heart or make you feel less than great when you see or speak to them. You might not be able to remove some of them from your life completely (especially if they’re a family member or a work colleague) but you can try to limit the time you spend with them or work on changing your approach to dealing with them, e.g. setting firmer boundaries and learning to say no.

Bullet Journal Self Love Spread ideas

  1. Things I love about myself

Spend some quiet time sitting and thinking about what makes you special and what your best qualities are. Try to come up with things related to your appearance, your relationships with others, your work ethic and your skills.

I really enjoyed creating this spread and it made me see that there are so many things that I love about myself. And of course, friends and family are likely to love these things about you too.

A simple spread using Tombow dual brush pens and a 0.3 pigment liner

2. Self love motivational messages

For this spread, I took to Google and typed in phrases such as ‘self love’, ‘self kindness’ and ‘self care’. I then clicked on images and selected a range that were visually appealing to resize and paste into an MS Word document. To make it easier to build my spread, I printed the pages on A4 sticker paper ready to cut out and stick in. I also tried to have a basic colour scheme of purples, pinks and greens to create a cohesive look. I found so many wonderful short texts and images that I was able to do two double page spreads which are so beautiful to look at. I added a few stickers and a little bit of washi to the blank spaces to complete the look. I’m so pleased with how they turned out and I’m sure I will find myself visiting the pages regularly.

Self care ideas

This is the kind of list I’ve created before as part of my Wellness Recovery Action Plan but I thought I’d do a similar one in my bullet journal with slightly less ideas so that it would all fit on a single page. Most of the ideas are completely free or cost very little (except maybe the retail therapy if I see lots of nice things!).

An amazing resource for self love encouragement

If you loved the ‘self-love hedgehog’ in my bullet journal spread, you absolutely need to check out the amazing website https://chibird.com/ where you can find many more self love, mental health and wellness related graphics. The website owner Jacqueline Chen’s art work in so wonderful and just looking through the resources can be part of your self love practice. She’s even produced a book which you can pick up on Amazon.

Final thoughts

Well done for taking the time to read this blog post as it shows you think self love is important! I hope it’s given you some fresh new ideas on how to be compassionate towards yourself in ways that you would be to others that you love. Let me know in the comments what the first thing is that you’re going to do this month to be all kinds of lovely to yourself.