Self-Kindness: 7 Habits That Will Help You to Live a Happier Life

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Henry James

“Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
Mother Teresa

No relationship in the world is more important than the one you have with yourself.

But still, people often have a far worse and far more destructive relationship with themselves than they have with other people.

So in this article I’d like to explore 7 habits that can help you to form a better and happier relationship with yourself. And as an extension of that probably better relationships with the people around you too.

1. Talk to yourself before you drag yourself down.

We all have an inner critic. The critic can spur you on to get things done and to behave in way that gains acceptance from the people around you. But it can also drag you and your self-esteem down.

The inner critic whispers or shouts destructive thoughts in your mind. It could be thoughts like:

  • You are lazy and sloppy, now get to work.
  • You aren’t good at your job at all and someone will figure that out and throw you out.
  • You are worse or uglier than someone else.

But you don’t have to accept that. You can reduce this inner, negative self-talk and change how you see yourself. You can do that by talking back.

Simply create a stop word or stop-phrase that you say or shout in your mind whenever your critic pipes up with a distorted and self-esteem hurting thought.

Say: Stop!

Or use something else. I like these two phrases:

  • No, no, no, we are not going there!
  • No, that is just stupid.

They have worked well for me to get the inner critic to shut up. Try these ones out or create one that feels good and works for you.

Then use it to not get dragged down by your own inner critic when it may get triggered by for example criticism or a mistake in everyday life. And as you use the word or phrase and it becomes a habit and as you find healthier paths towards what you want your critic will pop up less and less.

2. Find a balance between yourself and your world.

Some people tend to focus a little too much on the outside world. They try to help the people there and be of service at the expense of their own lives and mental and physical health.

Others tend to focus too much on their own thoughts and what is happening inside of their heads. And so much overanalyzing is done and beliefs that everyone cares more than they do about what you do are formed and strengthened.

The solution here is to find a bit more balance.

If you tear yourself apart and are not very kind to yourself in order to serve others people then take a step back. Take time for yourself and say no to some commitments so that you have more time and energy for yourself.

It is not selfish to take time for yourself too, we all need balance in life and to better be able to help others you need to help yourself too. Otherwise you’ll feel worse and worse as time passes and you’ll be of less and less help to others.

If you tend to get lost in your own thoughts too much and in overanalyzing, then learn to simplify your thinking as I described in this previous post.

And remember: people do not care that much about what you do. They are busy with their own projects and challenges and with worrying about what other people may be thinking of them.

3. Cultivate a healthy motivation habit.

Why does destructive self-talk thrive and continue? Well, because it has some upsides too. For example, by calling yourself various things, by beating yourself up you can spur yourself on to get things done and to keep going towards your goals.

But this way of motivating yourself is also destructive to your self-esteem and can make the path and journey towards the goal a lot heavier, less exciting and unhappier than it needs to be. And that is big problem since we spend most of our days on that journey.

So give yourself a break. Be kinder to yourself and talk back to yourself when those destructive thoughts pop up to spur you on. And find other, more healthy ways to stay motivated. Some examples of that would be:

  • Remind yourself of the benefits. Write down the benefits you will get from following this new path or reaching a goal. Like for example getting into better shape and having more energy for your kids and the people close to you. Or making more money and through that being able to travel and experience wonderful new things. Save the list and put it somewhere where you will see it every day. This is a powerful way to reconnect with your motivation and reasons for taking action.
  • Refocus on doing what YOU really, really like to do. When you really like doing something then the motivation to do it comes automatically (most of the time). And when you really want something then it simply becomes easier to push through any inner resistance you feel. So if you lose your motivation, ask yourself: Am I doing what I really want to do? If not and if possible, refocus and start working on that very important thing instead.
  • Remember how far you have come and compare yourself with yourself. Comparing what you have and your results to what other people have and have accomplished can really kill your motivation. There are always people ahead of you. So focus on you. On your results. And how you can and have improved your results. This is important because it’s a great motivator to see how much you have improved and how far you have come.

4. Give yourself a break and think in percentages rather than always.

I sometimes hear that you should always be positive or always be winning or working towards your goal.

That may sound inspirational in theory. But reality is not ideal or perfect and neither are you and I. Life gets in the way sometimes. You may get in your own way. And sometimes you simply don’t have the energy or the courage or the time to do something.

And that is OK. Instead of trying to live up to some perfect image that other people and/or you may press upon you, choose to set human standards for yourself. Choose to give yourself a break when things don’t go as you may have wished and choose to cut yourself some slack. Instead of beating yourself up mercilessly.

One approach that works for me is to think more in percentages than absolutes and to set the bar for yourself a little higher than it is now. For example, aim at being optimistic roughly 75% of the time if you are optimistic 50% of the time now. Aim at taking action on your thoughts 60% of the time. Then raise the bar slowly over time – but not all the way to 100% – to both be able to improve and to be able to be kind to yourself.

And accept that you will make mistakes or have temporary failures a certain percentage of the time. Such is life. But of course learn from those things and avoid making the same mistakes over and over.

5. Change your input to things that are kind and constructive.

Destructive messages from the people around you or from people further away such as media, advertising and society in general does not help you to be kind to yourself.

So, bit by bit, replace them with other daily and weekly input.

It could be the encouragement of friends and family and the help from someone close who has been in a situation that you are in now.

It could be practical personal development books and blogs that helps you out with real solutions to the challenges you face and the goals you want to achieve.

It could be spending more time in nature and in silence to relax and recharge yourself.

Make more conscious choices about what you want flowing into your mind instead of just going along with same old habits.

6. Find what works for you.

We are not all the same and we have different needs. It is important to find what works for you to be able to be kinder to yourself.

This blog or I do not have all the answers. Obviously. So explore other books and blogs too to find the solutions you really need. Explore various options and try different strategies to find something that really fits you.

Also, look for a solution that seems appropriate for the level your challenge or problem is on. There is a difference between getting a bit nervous before a meeting at work or a date and having a big panic attack and feeling like you can’t breathe or are about to faint.

If you have a serious problem, then please seek professional help. The advice on this blog, for example, is for small or medium sized problems (at least as I experience it). If you have a really bad problem then the advice here or on other blogs or in books may still help you a bit.

But I still believe that best option in such situations is to seek professional help. Perhaps one on one counseling with someone with vast experience, someone that comes highly recommended.

7. Know why it is the smart choice to be kind to yourself and remind yourself of that regularly.

By knowing the reasons why it is smart to be kinder to yourself it, in my experience, becomes easier to be kind to yourself. It becomes easier to stop attacks from your inner critic by telling it that what it says is not a good way to motivate oneself. And it becomes easier to simply dismiss what the critic is saying.

By reminding yourself of the reasons such as better real-life results, more perseverance, higher self-esteem, more inner happiness and stillness, more positive relationships with yourself and other people it becomes easier to stay kind to yourself through life’s natural ups and downs.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thank you for the post. Its a very sensible article. loved it :)

  • Bob

    But Henrik,
    How do you get rid of the self-destructive criticizer in our head without losing the voice that tells us what could be right and wrong, what could is great and what can be done better?

    • Hi!

      Well, that kind of voice hasn’t disappeared for me.

      But instead of being critical, very persistent and negative as a way to help me to do things well the voice now asks kinder and more gentle questions based on human standards rather than perfectionism. Questions like: Could this perhaps be done even better? Have I done the best work I can with this task at this time?

      I have found that the voice that tells me what is right or wrong is still there too.

      • Bob

        I see. I understand it now. I’ve had this voice that always lashes out at me for any small thing I’ve done even though others think I’ve done nothing wrong.

        It’s been causing me much misery and low self-confidence in what I could do has caused me to paralyze in situations I want to jump in. But I was always scared that if I lose this voice I might not know what is right or wrong.

        You helped me understand that I can still have a voice of right or wrong and that is still humane. The voice in my head is an extreme. I should find the voice that talks to me like a human, not a slave.

        Thank you for putting the rationality back in what can be taken to the extreme. Thank you

  • What a thoroughly useful article! We can oftentimes be our own worst enemy. It is imperative we strive to break the action – reaction chain that governs most of our actions, which I’ve written about over at my blog.
    Thanks for sharing,

  • First, I would like the say great Article. I can tell you i will be coming back to read more Articles to be inspired.
    In all of our lives we can use these 7 steps to encourage ourselves that we can be a better person inside and out. I for one have been very critical of myself when I’m faced with failures or situations out of my control. I’ve had many fears of succeeding and moving to the next level in my life. Putting myself down, telling myself i can’t do it, telling myself I’m not smart enough, your not educated enough like the others. Some of you can relate to what I’m talking about. Then i started working on my spiritual life and things changed. I had to change the way i think of myself and take back my life in a positive manner. I’m no longer critical of myself anymore. When I start to think of negative thoughts, I started changing that negative thought into thinking positive. I Stop telling myself i can’t and replacing it with I can. Then I started to reward myself for the achievement that I’ve accomplished, It’s making a huge difference in my life. I had a lot of trial and error along the way but I’m on my way. I wish I would have found this Article years ago. I changed my Thinking, changed my Attitude about myself ; Then changed my Life and the World around me.
    Thanks again for inspiring me and others.
    Patrick/ M.S.S.