10 Ways to Be Nicer to Yourself (You Deserve It)
Become your own best friend for true health and happiness.
Quiet your inner critic
We all have one—the voice that says you failed, you made a mistake, you can’t do challenging things so don’t even try. Treating yourself with compassion means telling that voice to knock it off. “The harshness we have for ourselves, we all have in common,” says Nataly Kogan, the CEO and founder of Happier. “Start by learning to hear that voice in your head, how you talk to yourself. Then pause and reframe as if you were talking to a friend,” says Kogan, who created an online course to teach self-compassion. (Read 10 more ways to silence that negative voice in your head.)
Be your own advocate
Turn that critic into a motivator. Think about how you’d encourage a friend or loved one who needed some support or cheerleading. Now offer that kindness to yourself. Kristin Neff, PhD, is a psychologist who authored a book on self-compassion. She points out that when you’re nicer to yourself, you can see mistakes as learning opportunities. That gives you the strength and confidence to try new things (and try them again when you need to). Also try these tips to boost your self-confidence.
Keep a journal
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Journaling improves your mental and even physical well-being, according to Dr. Neff. She recommends using a journal to process upsetting events and express your feelings. Describe any situations that made you feel bad or judge yourself for your behavior. Maybe you snapped at your child for making a mess, or forgot a good friend’s birthday. Then look at each one through three filters. First, mindfulness: This is about being aware of how you felt—without judgment; just the facts, ma’am. “I got annoyed when I had to clean up Sam’s spill. I was anxious about being late for school.” Next, common humanity: Realize that you share your experience with others. “Everyone gets frustrated with their kids sometimes.” And finally, self-kindness: Comfort yourself with some loving words. “You lost your temper, but that’s understandable. You are a good person.”
Sitting quietly and reflecting on your own, repeating a mantra, or listening to a guided meditation—all of these help calm your thoughts and feelings. Regular meditation teaches your brain to be more compassionate and soothing throughout the day, even at times when you’re not actively meditating. Kogan’s self-compassion course includes guided meditations that help you cultivate loving and kind feelings toward yourself and others.
Take care of yourself
Think of what you would do for a friend who’s having a tough time, says Kogan. You might bring her snacks, take her to get a massage, suggest she get more sleep, or offer her some perspective and words of encouragement to break a negative cycle. You can do all of these things for yourself, too. However, self-care isn’t the same thing as self-indulgence. Buying yourself a treat because you had a bad day is a short-term fix for a longer-term problem. Care is getting what your body and brain need (like enough sleep, water, and healthy food). Indulgence covers up issues, but only temporarily. It scratches the surface instead of going deep.
Grant yourself time
“Research shows that regular constructive rest—not sitting in front of the TV, but doing something that truly fuels you, like gardening, painting, or exercise,” helps you be more productive and more creative, says Kogan. Finding a hobby or activity you enjoy and spending time on it is a way to offer yourself kindness (not to mention relieve stress and feel fulfilled).
Yep, you probably messed something up today. And yesterday. And the day before that. But so did everyone else you know—even the ones who seem to be perfectly on top of everything. Instead of just putting those missteps out of your mind, though, you need to actually absolve yourself of them. Forgiving is much more meaningful, and mindful, than forgetting. (And be prepared: Here’s the best way to deal with an embarrassing moment.)
Recognize your strengths
“We all carry around this deeply rooted sense that we are not good enough,” says Kogan. “Where does that come from? Do you more often think about your flaws and mistakes and things you haven’t done, or about what you really like about yourself? Most of us take good things for granted, and focus on mistakes and flaws instead.” To fight this tendency, write down what you appreciate about yourself. Include qualities and traits as well as achievements. Keep adding to your list! Try reading these powerful quotes about kindness to remind yourself to treat yourself as gently as you would others.
Give yourself a squeeze
If your brain is going a mile a minute, Dr. Neff recommends a simple physical gesture. Place your hand on your heart, gently clasp your hands, or pat your knees or biceps with your palms. It’s a way to show your body kindness, and it activates the part of your nervous system that soothes you in times of stress. You can also add a compassionate phrase, such as “May I be kind to myself in this moment?” or “May I live with ease.”
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Holding yourself to an impossibly high standard is counterproductive: You’ll never achieve it, so it can only make you feel bad about yourself. That’s not motivating! When, instead, you set goals that are challenging, but still doable, you are charting a course for success. When you plan for, and accomplish, smaller improvements, you are living in a more mindful and kind way. Ready to start spreading goodwill? Find out ideas for random acts of kindness that can change someone’s life today.