Lesson 7 from the Darkness: Despair doesn’t serve you. Treat yourself with compassion. Be kind to yourself.
Be Kind to Yourself
In Lessons from the Darkness, I have pleaded for you to not give up hope, to be mindful of your body and environment, and to seek out non-judgmental support. This may be the hardest request yet. Please treat yourself gently: be kind to yourself.
Chronic illness feeds on despair and anger. When we’re sick, our internal dialogue can become wholly negative. How you talk to yourself shapes your sense of reality and self-esteem. To break the cycle, you will need to treat yourself with compassion and forgiveness. And love.
Lesson Seven from the Darkness – Be Kind to Yourself
Become Aware of How You Talk to Yourself
Start with your internal dialogue. Your internal dialogue is the voice you use to frame and interpret reality. It’s the way you apply your logic, reasoning, and beliefs to situations, people, and events. It serves as a filter for your experiences and colors the way you see the world. When your internal dialogue is dark and dismal, you’ll see a dark dismal world.
Most of the time we’re only barely aware of the tenor of our thoughts. Try this exercise: for 48 hours write down every thought you have about yourself or your situation. Pay attention to the things you say habitually. These thoughts can be about body image, self-worth, decision-making abilities, or the particular circumstances you’re in.
By paying attention to your thoughts, you bring them into conscious awareness. Only by being conscious of them can you change them.
Take These 5 Steps to Cultivate a Healthier Inner Voice
Going from a unhealthy internal dialogue to a healthy one will take a bit of effort. Here are five steps that you can follow to cultivate a healthy inner voice and be kind to yourself:
- Use positive affirmations. Consciously make positive self-talk statements about your intentions and aspirations. This is a critical step to re-programming your subconscious negative views.
- Cultivate gratitude. Gratitude is a reverence for things received. Interpreted broadly, you can even be grateful for a cool breeze on a hot day. A gratitude mindset leads to lower levels of envy, anxiety, and depression, as well as increased optimism and well-being. Gratitude is stronger when it’s shared, so post your thankfulness on social media.
- Avoid negativity. Your brain has a negativity bias—an actual tendency to notice negative situations and events more easily than positive ones. To counter this tendency, consciously refocus your attention away from the bad and toward the good. Reframe – practice describing situations, events, and people in the post positive terms you can.
- Practice positive speech. Your speech habits can affect your internal dialogue. Practice kind speaking and speaking with precision. Be aware of the impact your words can have on others. Avoid sweeping generalizations that extend a negative local event to a broader world. Just because you misplaced your keys today doesn’t mean that you lose everything all the time.
- Spend time in silence. Quiet your turbulent mental environment. Create the blank canvas that will permit positive internal conversation. Start a habit of spending 5 to 30 minutes in quiet meditation each day.
Be Kind to Yourself by Remembering Your True Nature
It’s easy to become heavy with the weight of competitive comparisons in a world of roles and titles, positions and possessions. Your illness may make you feel you’re limited, unable to keep up, forgotten, or left behind.
Find the compassion within. Show that compassion to others. And always, always show that compassion to yourself.