creative joy, single heart, 2012

I used to spend many minutes criticizing my body — specifically bashing my belly and my hips — and other traits like my indecisiveness and incessant worrying.

In fact, I’m sure that over the years, it adds up to hundreds of hours spent hurling insults at myself.

Many of us do this. We think we’re too big or too small, our skin is too dimpled or too pale. We dislike certain personality traits or amplify our supposed flaws, thinking they’re permanent, unshakable.

It’s easy to do. Over time this bashing becomes a habit. It becomes a cycle we fall into. One mean thought leads to another, which leads to another.

But it’s a habit we can change. We can change this habit by replacing it with other habits and activities.

Here are 20 ideas:

  1. Be grateful you’re still here — softer body, sagging skin and all. Write down three things that you’re grateful you still get to experience.
  2. Listen to these words of self-compassion. And re-read these words.
  3. March that negative energy right out with walking meditation, which you can practice indoors or out.
  4. Practice a guided body scan. If you’re pressed for time, try this 10-minute scan.
  5. Move your body to boost your mood and quiet the negative thoughts. Here’s a list of activities to try if you’re stuck inside, thanks to the chilly, snowy weather.
  6. Read a few thoughtful tweets and quotes on self-love for an instant dose of inspiration. Here’s a favorite tweet from Jennifer Louden: “Self-nurturing is far more than pampering, it is about returning home to your heart.”
  7. Do something that always brings you joy. Do it with someone you love.
  8. Pen a thank-you note to a close friend. Mail it that day.
  9. Watch an episode or two of your favorite sitcom. (My fave is “The Big Bang Theory.”)
  10. Give yourself a compliment. Every day. Just one piece of praise. Write one down right now.
  11. Focus your energy on compiling a body image kit.
  12. Think about the dreams you’d like to cultivate this year. This week.
  13. Tune into your environment. What are you seeing, smelling, hearing and touching?
  14. Remind yourself that your body is not the problem.
  15. Try these soothing stretches.
  16. Try this 5-minute yoga practice, which includes a chair. Or try this pose or this one.
  17. Play. Engage in an activity that feels fun and light, and, well, playful.
  18. Do something incredibly kind for yourself. Something you’d do for your child, your parent, a best friend, your partner, an acquaintance who’s having a hard time. Or something you’d suggest they do. It’s OK if it feels strange or uncomfortable, even itchy. Just try it. This could be anything from writing a heartfelt message to giving yourself a hug to savoring a hot bowl of soup to getting some fresh air to curling up under the covers.
  19. Try this self-portraiture exercise, which Vivienne shared in this interview: “Take a photograph of one part of [yourself] with gratitude and tell a story of something that feels like a part of [your] story. These hands have held….These feet have taken me…These eyes have seen…This body knows…”
  20. Repeat these words. (They come from Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion).

This is a moment of suffering.

Suffering is part of life.

May I be kind to myself in this moment.

May I give myself the compassion I need.

What helps you when negative thoughts keep coming?