With the shift of seasons, welcome self-compassion into your life.
The transition from winter to spring is often met with a bombardment of information and instructions on how to get fit, exercise more, eat healthily, and transform your life, all in preparation for summer. After cooler months with wind, rain and overcast skies, the last thing you want is to embark on an exhausting exercise regime or strict diet. You haven’t the energy for reinventing yourself and anyway, who says you have to, just because it’s the turn of the season?
Instead of setting impossible expectations, depriving yourself of comforts and beating yourself up, try exercising self-compassion. Taking care of yourself, nourishing yourself with love, kindness, and patience will mean you start spring feeling good.
Here’s how you can shake off any winter chills and create a warm glow within yourself…
Be a little kinder to yourself
You can begin by being as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend or family member. When you’re worn out or feeling stressed, a gentle, caring soul who empathises with your struggle can often make you feel better. So make a conscious decision to be your own best friend. When things have gone wrong at work, your child has had a tantrum, or you were splashed by a car walking home, treat yourself as you would a friend.
Put into words what’s making you feel fed up, overwhelmed or demotivated and then tell yourself all these feelings are valid. Offer yourself support. Say it silently in your head, or out loud. It can be powerful to stop and admit that life is difficult and to acknowledge how you feel.
Be mindful of the language you use in your inner monologue. Calling yourself names, berating yourself and giving your inner critic free reign chips away at self-confidence. You might think a verbal kick is what you need to get going (and sometimes it might be), but a cheerleader’s voice in your head is likely to be more motivating.
No one is perfect. Denying or pushing away negative feelings doesn’t make them better. Acknowledging how you feel, being self-compassionate and then celebrating people and places for whom you feel grateful will help you to manage any difficulties more effectively.
Nourish your mind, body and soul
It’s important to eat nutritious, balanced meals and move your body to keep it supple and strong. But don’t take the joy out of mealtimes with a harsh diet, or exhaust yourself with a punishing exercise regime just because it’s almost ‘beach season’.
Applying mindfulness to how you feel, coupled with what would be nourishing helps encourage positive choices. Try planning the week’s menu in advance, for instance, so meals work with your schedule and don’t end up being last-minute decisions dictated by a growling stomach.
Pay attention to how your body feels and consider what action you could take to ease any aches or stiffness. Think about what kind of movement you enjoy, whether that be walking, swimming, a team sport, cycling or yoga, and try to fit it into your schedule. If time is tight, be inventive with how you can incorporate more movement into your daily life – getting off the bus a stop early or taking the stairs instead of the lift are not new ideas but that doesn’t make them any less effective.
Nourish your soul by making time for what you enjoy, too, be it reading thrillers, listening to music or painting with watercolours. It’s important for wellbeing and happiness and you should try to set aside time for it in your calendar.
When the weather outside isn’t very inviting, it can be tempting to hibernate at home. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do, but there are occasions when you might benefit from time spent with family and friends. This doesn’t mean you dutifully have to accept every invitation, but pay close attention to your feelings and consider if an evening’s dinner with a friend could be what you need to boost your spirits.
Small moments of connection can happen anywhere and boost your happiness. Chatting with a fellow shopper or cashier while you’re at the supermarket, saying hi to a neighbour or holding the door open for a colleague can make a difference to both your mood and theirs.
Perhaps this spring your gardening goal should be to plant the seeds of self-kindness, to help you become more compassionate and aware of how you feel and what you need. It’s likely to be more sustainable than strict diets and punishing workouts, and will enable both you and those you care about to bloom and flourish.
Words: Gabrielle Treanor
This article was originally published in Breathe Magazine Issue 10 – Nurture new growth