Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to (Actually) be Nice to Yourself:


Ah depression, J.K Rowling was not kidding when she used the Dementors in her Harry Potter series as an allegory for the way this mental illness can suck out your soul, leaving you with only the worst parts of yourself for company. I've been there, you might currently be there, someone you know and love might be heading there.

Of course it doesn't have to be depression or anxiety that makes you unhappy enough to not like yourself. It could be low self-esteem, poor body image, etc. There are a multitude of possibilities, with varying reactions but it would seem there's usually one constant:

You put yourself down. Constantly.

You think you're stupid, fat, ugly, awkward, mean, invasive, whatever your poisonous thought is you drink it up and believe it. Oftentimes believing things can make us act like they're true. To read more about how to believe positive things read this post about using Mantra in everyday life.

However it doesn't have to be that way, I promise you. There are a few things you can practice each day in order to try and curb the negative thoughts that have gained more control over your daily life than you would like:

1. Be Kind to Yourself:

Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend. It might sound silly but when you think about it you spend even more time hanging out with yourself than your friends, so it might be best that you actually enjoy that alone time rather than dread it. Spend your alone time doing the things you love to do. What if you can't remember what you love to do? Here's a tip: Try doing the things you did as a kid. When I was little I loved to read, write, draw, paint and go on short expeditions through the rivers and forests around my house like a miniature Darwin. I also adored history museums and quite liked to garden. Putting aside the fact that I was a sixty year old in a child's body, your childhood activities may just be the ticket to remembering and developing the hobbies you will love as an adult.

2. Practice Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is defined as 'the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something', OR 'A mental state achieved by focusing ones awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting ones thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.' - When you are in the throes of a negative cycle realise it. Stop, breathe and let the negative thoughts dissipate. Look around the room you are in and take it in. List the activities the others in the room are doing, remember that they are caught up in their own lives, remember that you can be too - rather than a negative cycle.

3. Stop Putting Yourself down:

Easier said than done. I think the most quick and simple way to achieve this is to change every negative thought you have about yourself into something if not positive at least manageable.

An example I'll give you is a moment of panic I had when walking to class at the very beginning of last semester. I knew I was going to be late and I hate being late to class, I've always felt like it will make people assume I'm vapid - especially if I'm in heels. I don't know why this is but, well, it is. As I rushed down Swanston St I thought, 'ugh I'm going to walk into class late and everyone will stare and they'll think I'm an idiot and, and ...'  on it went, me throwing insults at myself. Then I paused and it hit me, the way to not feel nervous was to not think like this. I changed my thoughts: 'You're going to be a little bit late but that's fine. You've seen people walk into class late, what have you thought? Nothing. You've either been concentrating on your own work or assumed they had something important going on somewhere else. It's fine, you're fine. You go to Art School, people there are generally nice.'

It takes time. There's no quick fix for depression or anxiety, or low self-esteem. These things tend to stem from a lifetimes worth of ingrained reactions to certain situations. These are just a few little things you can try to concentrate on doing in order to remember how to gain a little bit more control over your life. They helped me during some really rough periods!