The internal voice is a powerful one. Its narration alone has the ability to either make or break a person’s day. It can be calming or critical, soothing or cynical. This internal voice contains the beliefs a person accepts to be true in his or her own reality, and that, in turn, can shape their life.
Most people—whether they know it or not—don’t have an internal voice with the kindness and gentleness of Morgan Freeman in a nature documentary. Instead, an angry soccer mom shouts daily orders as if she was yelling at the coach for her child’s lack of playing time. You look ugly today, she spits out as you look in the mirror one morning. This one small, seemingly insignificant thought has the power to root an insecurity that can be quite unsettling.
We’ve come up with six steps to achieve a level of self-compassion that will promote positivity and acceptance. Although all six will have the greatest effect, working just one of the following steps into the daily routine can be beneficial.
1. The mind in the morning
Though it’s cliché, it’s definitely possible to wake up on the wrong side of the bed—at least figuratively. Reaching for your phone and checking emails might not be the best option for a smooth transition from sleep. Instead, opt for a morning with a focus on positivity. A download of an iPhone app like “Quote of the Day” is a simple, free way to do this. Each day, the app will remind you to check the daily quote, and you have the option of favoriting certain quotes that resonate with you. Try to look at this app first, and spend at least 10 minutes awake before checking emails.
2. Get moving
Exercise can have a strong impact on self-esteem. It’s more about how you feel after you exercise than how you look. Whether it’s a high-intensity workout or a 30-minute walk, getting active boosts energy and lowers stress. You’ll appreciate yourself more because you’re making healthy choices to better your health. This is a natural way to stimulate self-compassion.
Make a list of three to five aspects of life you’d like to excel in the most. Keep it short and simple. Think about things you feel you’ve been neglecting or things you wish you’d have more time for. For example, maybe you want to get fit. Make one of your bullet points “health.” Under it, write a short description of how you expect to fulfill that goal. Maybe you’ll work out three times per week or you’ll only eat out on the weekends. Focus your mind on the items of that list, and you will most likely see results, which will in turn boost your happiness and self-image.
4. Embrace solitude
Most days tend to be spent surrounded by people, whether it be family or coworkers. With all of that interaction and business, it can be easy to overlook the clues that indicate how you’re feeling. Take a moment each day to separate yourself from the pack and sit without distractions. Nature works best for this, but any atmosphere—as long as it’s quiet—will do. Just listen to your mind and your body. How are you feeling about the day? Is there anything you can do to feel better? By taking this time to stop and think, you’re prioritizing your well-being in this chaotic world.
This one goes hand-in-hand with embracing solitude. The difference is that with meditation, you’re making a conscious effort to reach an unconscious state of serenity that can be hard to achieve. Meditating has numerous health benefits, including reduced anxiety and increased positivity. For beginners, guided meditations are key. The University of California-Los Angeles has great exercises for this, and one even focuses on self-compassion: “The Loving Kindness Meditation.” It’s only nine minutes, and its emphasis is taking the love you feel for those you’re close to and directing it to yourself.
6. Free write
Once a day or once a week, de-clutter your mind with free writing. Put your pen to paper and just see what happens for five to ten minutes. You might write about something random or serious; it doesn’t matter as long as you’re getting your thoughts down. Once the timer is finished, you can read over what you wrote, but you don’t have to. The main purpose is to take time to clear your mind.