Alison Mattu, School Counsellor (Midlothian), reflects on practising kindness – to yourself, as well as to others.
You may have heard people talking about the importance of being kind. Now, more than ever is a great time to be kind. And not only to others, but also to ourselves. Self-compassion is strongly related to positive mental health, life satisfaction, happiness and better relationships. It creates stability and a sense of self-worth.
Being kind is not a sign of weakness; it allows us to build up trust and to understand our wants, needs, hopes and dreams. It’s easy to get caught up by fears and worries about what’s happening around us in the world. Sometimes that can make us withdraw inside ourselves. We might have problems falling asleep or eating, or have no energy to talk to anyone. We might think that our worries are not worth bothering about. Being kind by showing ourselves compassion means treating ourselves with respect and care.
You might wonder how to start being kinder. You can start by noticing how you feel inside – angry, happy, sad or anxious. Writing down how we feel helps capture and release difficult emotions. It takes practice getting to know that feeling and how it affects us. We can boost a low mood by thinking about three things we feel grateful for. These might be simple things like our favourite food, a pet or getting a good mark on a test we worried about.
If our friend felt sad or upset, what might we say to make them feel better? We might just sit beside them and let them know we are there. Our worry might feel like an impossible disaster but what might it feel like next week, or next year? Will it matter so much?
We can treat ourselves with respect and dignity instead of thinking we are a bad person who deserves bad things to happen. When we go easier on ourselves, as we would with a friend, it makes us feel less afraid of the thing we worried over, and more able to face it. What we need to help us cope better becomes clearer.
When we are kind to ourselves, we learn a new way of listening to what those needs might be:
- That might mean asking for help or support from a trusted person when we feel upset
- Learning to speak to ourselves like a friend and not in a nasty way
- Not being so hard on ourselves when things go wrong
- Choosing NOT to compare ourselves to others – body image, grades, wealth or popularity
- Saying no when we feel pressured to do something
- Respecting our right to have our thoughts and feelings heard
If kindness were a superpower, we would act differently by looking up from our phones to connect with the world around us. We might smile more, pay out compliments, say no and not feel bad or worry about it. We might help out with jobs around the house and not say mean things. We could think about what other people might be struggling with in life. Being kind means we believe in our right to feel good about ourselves no matter our age, capability, background, skin colour, gender, body size or religion.
And perhaps in the stressful world we find ourselves in, by taking the time to practice kindness to ourselves and others, we can learn to cope better during these tough times.
Alison Mattu, School Counsellor (Midlothian)