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Peace On Earth, Good Will To Me…And You

By Meg Selig
 

Does it sound selfish to say, “Good will to me?”

It probably does, but maybe you and I need a little good will toward ourselves during the fun but frantic holiday season. In fact, for your New Year’s resolution this year, consider a self-kindness goal. Think of it as your holiday present with a tag that reads: “Good will to me…from me.”

Maybe you could use a self-kindness goal if you:
•Are quick to criticize yourself.
•Don’t take care of your body because “other things are more important.”
•Place other people’s needs above your own so often that you are worn to a frazzle.
• Spend sleepless nights replaying dramas that you wish you’d handled differently and inwardly berating yourself for being so “stupid” and “thoughtless.”
•Tend to make your emotional pain worse by turning to false friends such as alcohol or drugs to medicate it.
•Are overwhelmed with crises in your life.

By Meg Selig
Created Dec 10 2010 – 9:12am

Does it sound selfish to say, “Good will to me?”

It probably does, but maybe you and I need a little good will toward ourselves during the fun but frantic holiday season. In fact, for your New Year’s resolution this year, consider a self-kindness goal. Think of it as your holiday present with a tag that reads: “Good will to me…from me.”

Maybe you could use a self-kindness goal if you:
• Are quick to criticize yourself.
• Don’t take care of your body because “other things are more important.”
• Place other people’s needs above your own so often that you are worn to a frazzle.
• Spend sleepless nights replaying dramas that you wish you’d handled differently and inwardly berating yourself for being so “stupid” and “thoughtless.”
• Tend to make your emotional pain worse by turning to false friends such as alcohol or drugs to medicate it.
• Are overwhelmed with crises in your life.

Self-kindness is part of self-compassion–the ability to respond with kindness and understanding to your own pain, according to Christopher Germer, the author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. “Good will” is also a part of self-compassion. It simply means “having kind wishes toward yourself or another.” Good will, self-kindness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion are all kissing cousins, you might say.

Many experts believe that learning to be kind to yourself is the foundation of kindness to others. This is reassuring to remember if you worry that self-kindness could make you less sensitive to others’ needs. You might also worry that self-kindness could lead you to be too tolerant of bad habits that hurt you or other people. In this case, remind yourself that self-kindness is not an excuse either for indulging in a harmful habit or for a “pity party” but rather a way to understand and acknowledge your current coping patterns and to find a better way.

If you wanted to treat yourself more kindly, here are some specific things you could do:

Smile gently at yourself throughout the day. Do this right now–just a small smile. Do you feel your face relaxing? Your mind and body will follow.
Label what you are feeling–“scared,” “sad,” “furious,” “confused.” It may seem odd, but research indicates that the very act of naming your emotions can take the sting out of them and put you back in control. I experienced this in a dramatic way when I finally acknowledged to myself that a certain person intimidated me. Just using the word “intimidated” helped me relax–and be less intimidated. (Why? See “Sources” below.)
Talk kindly to yourself. You could do it like this: First, notice any messages coming from your critical inner voice. Label them: “Oh, I’m criticizing myself again.” Then soften that voice with kindly self-talk. For example, “What an idiot I was to forget a gift for her!” can become “I have good intentions. If I want, I could just send a late gift or give the gift of a phone call.”
Care for your body. When you find yourself mercilessly disparaging your looks (This means you! and me!), send some unconditional love toward yourself. Exercise. Eat right. Get enough sleep.
Take caring actions. Once you become mindful of emotional pain, take appropriate action–reassure yourself, talk to a friend, take a break, or ask for help.
Slow down. Breathe.
Care for your mind. Exercise, meditate or pray, or do yoga. These activities tend to calm the mind.
Imagine giving yourself a hug of good will when difficult feelings threaten to overcome you.
Savor the present moment.
See a counselor or therapist if need be.

Paradoxically, self-kindness and self-acceptance can give you the courage to change. Self-acceptance can help you acknowledge a problem rather than deny it. Self-kindness can help end the vicious cycle of stressful self-criticism that can make you resort to a harmful habit. Self-kindness can help you rebound from setbacks instead of giving up. Self-kindness may even help you see the larger social problems that pushed you towards a bad habit.

So, for this season and in the New Year, good will to you from you! Go out there and practice some random acts of kindness–on yourself! Happy holidays!

Sources:

Germer, C. K. (2009), The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, NY: The Guilford Press. p. 71: “Brain research has revealed that finding words for feelings deactivates the part of the brain that initiates a stress response.”

See also “View Your Habit with a Compassionate Eye,” p. 43 ff, in my book, Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success.

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