Tips on being kind to yourself and others

Where does the axis of wellbeing lie? Well, the intersection between action, thoughts and presence is a pretty good place to start. If we treat others kindly - and, almost more importantly - treat ourselves the same as we do our friends, then we begin to gain an enormous sense of balance in our lives, and this can affect every single area, from work to relationships, to our physical health.

For some reason, being kind to ourselves can seem like the hardest task. We are used to being our own worst critics, examining our flaws, replaying our embarrassing moments and allocating ourselves a disproportionate amount of the blame. 

Although it's definitely a good thing to have standards for ourselves and our behaviour, equally we shouldn't be afraid to relax them every once in a while. Knowing where to get started can be the hardest part - so here are some simple steps to help you be kinder to others, and yourself. 

Make Sleep A Priority

Great sleep hygiene is what's sometimes referred to as a keystone habit - a practice which acts as the foundation for lots of other things in our lives. Don't get enough good quality sleep, and you'll suffer a range of issues, from poor concentration at work and general low mood to decreased impulse and appetite control - meaning you're more likely to buy and eat the wrong things. It can affect our work, our relationships and most definitely our physical health. So one of the greatest self-kindnesses is to never settle for second rate sleep. Pay attention to the details of your sleeping environment. Make sure you have options to control the light, such as shutters, lined curtains or blackout blinds. Check the temperature - the optimum is slightly cool. Take the step of banning electronic devices like televisions, phones, laptops and tablets, with their melatonin-disrupting blue light. Invest some money in a great quality mattress and some high thread count sheets - when you consider the range of benefits deep and refreshing sleep brings, it's definitely a worthwhile investment. If you have already looked at all these factors, and you find yourself still struggling to drop off, you could try an electronic aromatherapy device or perhaps listening to a mindfulness podcast if you are finding it hard to locate the off switch on your brain. 

Find Some Volunteering Work

Volunteering work can enrich your life and that of others at the same time. Image via Pexels

Nobody said that being kind to others and being kind to yourself were mutually exclusive. In fact, there is a whole host of research to indicate that those who find local volunteering work tend to report being happier than those who don't use any of their time in altruistic activities. Not only does giving our time and help increase our self-esteem, it also gives us valuable perspective on any problems or setbacks in our own lives. From visiting an elderly neighbour and seeing to their shopping to collecting donations for a homeless shelter or even travelling abroad to help on building projects, there are so many opportunities to make a small difference to someone else's life - and transform your own in the process. 

Treat Yourself Like A Friend

Sometimes, if we have caring responsibilities to young children or elderly relatives, we put ourselves at the very bottom of a very long to-do list. Or equally, for those that live alone, it can be quite easy to stop making as much of an effort - abandoning cooking nice meals because it's ‘only’ you, or letting your standards slip a bit around the house. It makes such a difference to your quality of life if you can learn to treat yourself as you would a close friend. Don't wait for someone else to treat you. Buy yourself that bunch of flowers to brighten up your space, even if no one else sees them - you can get a same day flower delivery and be surrounded by beautiful blooms in time for lunch. Cook a thoughtful meal and lay the table properly. Take care of yourself, and you have the mental and physical capacity to get on with taking care of others. 

Make Real World Connections

The social media revolution over the past couple of decades has triggered another phenomena - an epidemic of loneliness. We all have hundreds of followers and yet few face-to-face friends. Studies have linked heavy use of Facebook to a decrease in happiness, while several former top figures in the world of social networks have banned their own children from using their highly addictive creations. It's very important for you to get out and about, making real world connections and spending time face to face with others, rather than living life through a screen. And it's also a good idea to have some regular screen free time. Perhaps you can have a rule of banishing your phone to a drawer for one day of the weekend or even just a couple of hours while you eat dinner and prep for the day ahead. Start small and built it up - you'll be surprised how easy and happy it can make you feel being disconnected for a bit. When you are with friends and family, focus on really being present and giving your full attention to the conversations and experiences you're having together. 

Give A Genuine Compliment

Spreading happiness can be such a simple affair, but like ripples in a pond, one small action can have larger and far reaching consequences that we may not even be able to see from where we're standing. Paying someone a genuine compliment couldn't be easier, but it will give their day a little pick-me-up and if they're going through an especially hard time, it can really mean the world to someone. Other times, just listening is enough - really listening. Buying someone a coffee, calling someone up when you know they are struggling to offer your support, expressing gratitude or even just smiling more often are hugely important ways to get started. Give it a try and who knows where it may lead?