Cookies and Kindness: how to be kinder to your body and soul
By btountas on July 31, 2014
For many people, one of the biggest hurdles to better health is the refusal to engage in self kindness. How can we achieve better health when we are so unkind to ourselves?
What exactly is self-kindness? Being kind to our bodies and our souls. It begins by treating ourselves the way that we want others to treat our loved ones. Imagine that your closest friend had a terrible day. How do you want to help her? Give her a hug? Send her a gift? Offer a listening ear? Can you treat yourself the same way that you would treat your friend? To engage in self kindness, try to be as empathetic with your own issues as you would be with someone else's. From a health perspective, this can include activities like eating, lifestyle and exercise, among others.
One of my friends recently told me that she felt like she was eating too much at night. "If I want to eat 10 cookies and I allow myself to do that, am I being kind to my body?" she asked.
Of course, giving in to your desires may be considered a type of kindness. Food is wonderful way to celebrate. But it also is a way to fuel your body properly, and there needs to be some kind of balance between these two opposing desires. Do I believe that eating 10 cookies at night is a way to be kind to your body? Probably not, but truthfully, it depends on the person and circumstance.
When it comes to food, I believe that kindness exists in respecting your body's limits. Pay attention to how your body reacts to food. Do carbs make you feel great and energized? Then eat them. Which foods don't sit well with you? I try to avoid red meat and dairy because they make me feel sick. This is how I find self-kindness in food: eating what makes me feel my best.
This also applies with respect to how food makes you feel emotionally. Are you eating in secret and feeling shameful? Do you berate yourself when you make poor food choices? What emotions does eating bring up? If you constantly feel guilty about your food choices, consider switching your habits to include foods that make you feel good about yourself. After all, you are an amazing person. What makes you feel strong and beautiful in your body? Eat more of that.
Self kindness is just as important when considering lifestyle. Many people have long work hours and insane schedules. How can we be kinder to ourselves in a busy world? Take a break! If we are always "on" and moving forward, our bodies never have a chance to catch up.
I remember in the early weeks after my daughter's birth, I was exhausted. There is nothing that can prepare a new mom for the shock of sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn. The house was a wreck, with piles of laundry and unopened gifts filling the front room. Everyone told me to sleep when the baby slept, but how could I when my life was in such disarray? The kindest thing I could have done during that time was leave the piles of laundry and presents, and just sleep. Now, on the rare occasion that I need an afternoon nap, I take it, with full knowledge that my very long "to do" list will be waiting for me as soon as I wake up. I remind myself that it's ok to take a 20 minutes catnap. I feel that this is one way that I can be kind to my body.
Finding the path of self kindness is an individual journey. If you aren't sure where to start, I suggest paying attention to how you feel. Are you exhausted? You may need more sleep. Are you constantly sore from working out? Perhaps you need to include some lower impact exercise or allow for a rest day. Do you find yourself eating 10 cookies at night? Ask yourself how that makes you feel afterwards.
I can't really offer any specific guidance as to how to be kind to yourself, other than this: listen to your body, listen to your heart and respect both. Ask, what do I need right now to be my BEST self? How can I take care of my own body and soul in this moment? For some people, self kindness involves yoga and green juice. For others, it involves a long run and pasta. It depends on what you need.
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