Friday, July 10, 2015

How to be Kind and Gentle (To Yourself)

I recently found myself giving a Pep Talk to someone I love, and I was telling her that she needs to be kind and gentle to herself, and to treat herself to little treats.

"I don't even know what that means," she exclaimed.

Here are a few suggestions to anyone who likes the *idea* but isn't sure how to implement it:

*Make your bed each morning.  The simplest act, an act of self-care. If you are too busy to make your bed, I suggest taking the two minutes it will take and just do it each morning.  You will feel better!  A neat bed makes the world a better place to be.  This sounds trite but it's a deep spiritual issue.  Get up in the morning and do something nice; the you who crawls into a neat bed at night will thank the morning you.  Plus, every time you walk into your bedroom you will see a neat bed, instead of a tangle of sheets.  The power of making your bed cannot be overstated.  Just try it!

*Take a bath. For a cheap and healthy soak, get Epsom salts at the grocery store for just a couple of dollars. You can add a drop or two of essential oils to them to have a fragrant bath, or leave them plain.  Or you can go fancy (I love this bubble bath).  Or you can use an ounce or so of olive oil (really!) which is probably in your kitchen already.  Or you can just have a plain bath.  Take books, or a candle, or a magazine--something relaxing.  Don't read the newspaper!

*Bring the outside in--buy fresh flowers at the grocery store (alstromeria are routinely about $3-4 for a dozen and they last a long time!), pick a yard bouquet, or just get leaves, acorns, rocks and arrange them on a platter. Anything will work!  Just something pretty for a table, a little reminder that nature exists and is a pleasure to behold.

*Make a list of the exercises that don't feel like exercise and then do a few times a week.  For me this list looks like swimming, yoga, walking or hiking, and the elliptical trainer (if I can read or watch something good while I'm on it!).  I don't like aerobics, sprinting, or anything that requires coordination.  This morning I swam laps under a blue sky and when I did the backstroke I could see the beautiful moon looking down at me.  This is good.

*Sleep.  Go to bed an hour or two earlier, or take a nap.  Sleep always feels like pampering to me. And it's free!

*Rest. Rest is underrated in our culture.  There is value in sitting down and spending ten minutes (or more) with a a cup of tea, a book, some prayers, some deep breathing, some stretching, drawing.  Do something that will give energy for later but is not so distracting that you get lost in it (TV, Internet). You're looking for soul restoration here!

*Read something that will inspire you but not tell you how to be better at anything. I like poetry for this, particularly Mary Oliver's poetry.  She is good for my spirit.

*Write.  Write  a letter to yourself, or write in your journal, or just write a few pages of freewriting about anything or nothing.  Writing is my favorite way to get to the bottom of the issues that ail me and to find my way out the other side; I find it cathartic and healing.  It is good self-care to self-reflect.

I tend to think that if we practice kindness and gentleness to ourselves we will be more likely to be kind and gentle to the big bad world.  And this world needs kind and gentle people!


  1. Just discovered your blog, at a link from "Homeliving Helper." Wise, lovely counsel you offer here. Gentleness is the Spirit fruit I am currently studying, and your writing here nurtures that. I needed this today, feeling almost ill in the Southwest desert heat, with "to-do" thoughts that could tend to make a mind feel "scattered." Resting is needful, as are quiet reads that don't insist you "be better at anything." Mary Oliver's poems are among my favorites, also. Thank you for your encouragement in this post.

    1. Your advice here is much appreciated. I beat myself up out of habit, for not being as enterprising, as productive, as social, (etc., etc.) as I "should" be-comparing myself to others. It's important to remember the value of rest, especially as a balm for the restless, self-deprecating mind. The dignity of simple self-care is easily overlooked in today's world. Thank you.

    2. Anonymous and Teresa V, I am glad you found some usefulness in this! I write these as much for myself as for others--I always need the reminder to be kind. :)