Many of us struggle to treat ourselves with kindness. For some reason we’re often nicer to others than we are to ourselves.

Good self-care isn’t that different from effective parenting. As parents we want to balance clear expectations for our kids with an understanding that they’re human and imperfect.

In the same way, looking out for ourselves means holding ourselves to standards that aren’t too loose or too tight. This approach allows us to experience a balance of pleasure and mastery, the two types of reward that make life feel enjoyable and worthwhile.

There are countless ways to support the well-being of the person whose body you inhabit. I’ve summarized these approaches below, including examples for how to enact them using the “Think Act Be” approach.

As I discussed in my very first blog entry, “Think Act Be” refers to the three streams of therapy that converged to form mindfulness-basedcognitive behavioral therapy:

  • Cognitive Therapy (Think) focuses on the thoughts that affect our feelings and behaviors.
  • Behavior Therapy (Act) emphasizes changes in our behavior that can improve conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Mindfulness practice (Be) trains our minds to focus on what’s in front of us and to embrace the present.

Sleep Tight

One very obvious way to be kind to ourselves is to prioritize our sleep. Virtually every area of our life benefits from good sleep: mood, energy, concentration, relationships, work performance, driving ability, and more. However, we often push through sleepiness or counteract it with stimulants like caffeine, ignoring the costs of being sleep deprived.

Or we may spend plenty of time in bed but consistently struggle with insomnia. Over time we worsen our insomnia through attempts to get more sleep, like going to bed earlier or trying really hard to fall asleep. See this post about how to break the cycle: How to Fix Broken Sleep.

  • Think: Challenge unhelpful thoughts about sleep, like “Tomorrow’s going to be a complete disaster if I don’t get to sleep soon.”
  • Act: Set an alarm for when to start your bedtime routine, and go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.
  • Be: Let go of efforts to force yourself to sleep, and accept that sleep will come when it comes.

Nourish Your Body and Brain

There is mounting evidence that our diet has a big effect on our mental and emotional well-being. While specific dietary recommendations vary, one common guideline is to eat minimally processed food, especially vegetables and fruits, nuts, fish, healthy fats like olive oil, as well as whole grains, and to limit or avoid refined sugar, fast food, and trans fats.

These recommendations are similar to the “Mediterranean-style” diet, which has been linked to improvements in anxiety and depression. For an overview of healthy eating, visit the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Lifestyle website.
  • Think: Plan your meals in advance so you’re more likely to eat healthy foods.
  • Act: Cook a new recipe that incorporates some of your favorite foods.
  • Be: Practice mindful eating to bring greater enjoyment to your food and to make it less likely you’ll overeat

– Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D.

Read more: 8 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself

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