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Kindness to yourself – the greatest gift

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Can you think of a bigger compliment that describing someone as kind? This was one of the opening sentences from Claire Thurstans’ Saturday reflection, ‘kindness is the best thing of all.’ As she says, ‘being kind is all the good things – it’s selflessness, beauty of heart, reaching out, compassion….kindness given to or received from strangers is a beautiful thing. I believe it change lives. It certainly has changed mine.’

Later that same day I read another article where a woman described her husband’s kindness as being the thing that attracted her to him in the first place.

Just the other day my partner Simon and I discussed the value of kindness in a world where there is no shortage of obnoxious and narcissistic personalities.

It’s clear that being kind to others can change lives, but what about being kind to yourself?

One of my favourite quotes speaks to this. Bob Sharples says:

Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.

There is a growing body of research that speaks to the power of self-kindness / self-compassion – that is, treating ourselves the way we would a good friend – to improve our mental health. In a study undertaken by Dr Kristen Neff, those who experienced an increase in self-compassion over a one-month interval also saw an increase in their psychological wellbeing and decrease in self-criticism, depression, rumination, thought suppression, and anxiety.

Since learning about the effects of self-compassion on mental health, meditation has become a tool that reminds me: ‘I’m important in my life, I’m worthy of self-respect and attention.’ As someone who tends to push myself hard in many aspects of my life, this is has become an essential practice to ensure I do not burn out, or become anxious or depressed.

I learnt these ‘tools’ through the mindfulness based stress reduction course. While the course doesn’t focus on self-compassion per se, the very act of meditating is a signal of love to yourself – and that has been the most important gift I have ever given myself.

The next Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course commences in early May. Learn more and register here.

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