Be Kind to You
'Tis the season to be kind. I have been trying to explain this to my little ones. It’s not about the presents and lights and cookies. The spirit of the season is all about being kind to one another. Our family even created a “Kindness Challenge” to up the stakes. Each of us will try to practice 100 acts of kindness before Christmas Day. We made a chart and everything. We are totally committed.
The more I pressed this message with the kids though, the more I noticed my own actions. I could be kinder...especially to myself. It seems like I am often putting the needs of others before my own, and that pesky mom guilt creeps in when I try to show myself some TLC. Sometimes I am full of self judgement and self doubt for no good reason. Sometimes I am pushing too hard...Sometimes I am just not giving myself a break literally and figuratively. Kindness starts within, right?
How can we practice loving kindness with those around us if we cannot even practice inside our own heart? So I decided to make some concrete choices to be kinder to me. And maybe that deep seeded kindness will translate into my actions and interactions with others? Maybe I can even win the Kindness Challenge!!:)
Here is what I have been working on.
Find a body balance. Sometimes our bodies are either overworked or under-worked. Exercise can almost be used as a punishment for eating too much or sitting too long. The “weekend warriors” try to compensate for lost time in the gym by pushing themselves to the extreme when they find a moment. There is also the cardio junkie who never skips a day of exercise. This kind of extreme exercise can lead to injuries and stress both physically and mentally. I have been guilty of both. On the other hand there are folks who rarely exercise even though they know it’s good for them. There are all kind of reasons why we can’t make it happen. I hear a lot of “Carving out time in my busy schedule is impossible” Or “I’m too out of shape and don’t know where to start." Low energy levels, aches and pains, and injuries can come from lack of movement. Our bodies need to move in order to stay healthy and functional.
Be kind to your body and strike a balance. Exercise does not have to be torture, and it doesn’t have to consume you. And even small, manageable doses can keep you healthy. Committing to moderate exercise 4 or 5 times per week will be doing your body a great service. You will feel better and function better. Plus your mind will feel the effects too.
Practice Right Speech.
What is going on inside your head? Is it possible to keep negative, judgemental thoughts about yourself at bay? Sometimes we are even more critical of ourselves than we are of others! The Buddhists practice “right speech” - abstaining from lying, divisive speech, abusive speech, and idle chatter. (And you don’t have to speak the words aloud to have it count as speech. Our thoughts are considered speech too.)
So anytime you feel the self doubt, criticism, or judgement sneaking in. Ask yourself three questions-- "Is what I am thinking true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" Often times those negative thoughts are not even based in reality, and certainly not necessary.
Take that a step further, and try to replace a negative thought with a positive thought. Your energy is then focused on what you DO want to be or experience. For example, a phrase many women think at one point or another is "I feel fat." Even the skinniest of women are guilty of this! Can we let go of that kind of thinking and replace the F word with something positive? "I feel ____. " Strong? Calm? Powerful? Loved? Sexy? Smart? There are a billion things you can fill into that blank that are kind. Your words matter, so choose them wisely.
Take a Break.
We run ourselves ragged, don't we? Be kind and unwind. That means REALLY taking a break. Not scrolling through your phone or staring at a TV screen or drinking away your stress with a bottle of wine. It means practicing real self care, relaxation, or meditation. Take a break once and a while. Maybe go to a yoga class, get a massage, or go for a nature walk?
Try this meditation for a short and easy pause. Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Relax your body from head to toe. Once you feel relaxed, visualize a tiny bright light right in the center of your chest. As you sit and breathe, imagine that light spreading through your body. To your arms and legs and the crown of your head. Once you can feel the warmth of that light filling your entire body, let it move beyond your skin and into the space around you. Let that light radiate out from your heart. Allow it to expand out and out and penetrate everything it touches. Sit in the warmth of your own radiant light for 5 to 10 minutes breathing deeply and fully.
Now that I am being kind to me, I find my energy shifting. I am able to pay it forward easily. My kids and husband can feel it the most. I see my actions making them happy, which makes me happy...yet another way to be kind to me.:)
Happy holidays from Mind Body Fitness!