New Years Day. Our designated date for making resolutions and self promises. Generally, mine tend to involve some measure of self-flagellation for deeds done during the previous year. Eat fewer carbs, lose weight, drink less wine, fix errant body parts, etc.
What about resolving to be kinder to our selves in the new year? The New York Times published a story entitled, 8 Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself in 2020. I typically avoid numbered lists. They feel like a con. “Just follow these simple 5,6,7,10 steps and you are guaranteed happiness”. But it doesn’t stop me from reading them. Our bodies batteries are the focus of these forecasts. Here are their tips:
Take more time for yourself. One would think in our retirement or semi-retirement states, time would be a commodity we might have a great deal of. But somehow we are busier than ever. Choosing to spend time alone can benefit your social relationships, improve creativity and confidence, and help regulate our emotions. Periodic solitude can go a long way in re-charging our body’s battery.
Take time to do nothing at all. I posted a blog several months entitled “The Art of a Wasted Day”. Running from place to place, checking off to-do lists…that really isn’t living well. But it does make us feel important. Idleness actually can be a productivity tool. If we are burned out, we can’t be terribly productive.
Cultivate more casual, low stakes friendships. This admonition seemed counter-intuitive. I was of the opinion as we age deeper, more meaningful relationships are the goal. Sociologist, Mark Granovetter labels these relationships “weak ties”. These ties can include the barista at a local coffee shop or a spin class member and help us feel connected to a larger community. I established some weak ties with my physical therapists following knee replacement surgery. Even though I don’t socialize with Meagan of Justin, they became important people in my life during my rehab efforts.
Learn to enjoy things when they’re good. Worrying about when and if the other shoe is going to drop robs from the present joy. People misguidedly assume worry helps prevent bad things from happening. We don’t want to be ambushed by negative stuff so incessant worrying allows us to keep up our guard.
Lean into your guilty pleasures (in moderation of course). Mystery novels, Netflix binges, if we enjoy them, why feel guilty? It’s called resting our bodies and our brains. We are such productivity-a-holics and tend to believe we should be problem solving or “getting things done”. Intense focus can be tiring. Guilty pleasures offer an outlet.
Learn to accept a compliment. (Even better if it comes from you) Even small wins give your brain positive signals. Research documents meaningful praise can boost motivation and performance and improve your brains’ ability to remember and repeat new skills. This truly is the ultimate act of kindness to yourself.
Embrace the unexpected joy of repeat experiences. We are pre-disposed to believe novel experiences are more rewarding than repeat experiences. Often there are multiple layers to these experiences that we discover upon repeating them. This tip should not, however, supplant the benefits of novel experiences. I think novelty is good for the brain too.
Turn your regrets into self-improvement. There is a fine line between dwelling on regrets and ignoring them. There are physical and mental consequences to suppressing one’s misgivings. Reframing the situation can be helpful. What self-insight can be gained from that fight with your daughter? What did the failed fund-raiser teach you?
I think Baby Boomer women are notoriously negligent about self-focus. Taking time for our selves, being idle, living in the moment, even accepting compliments is more often than not a foreign concept.