In Order to Improve Your Life, Learn to be Kind to Yourself First.

Honestly, this is something that I struggle with daily, which seems sort of ridiculous. Of course we should all be kind to ourselves! The problem is that most of the time we treat ourselves like shit and then we treat others like shit because that is all we are conditioned to do.

Often this takes the form of simple neglect.

Step One in self kindness. Recognize why you are not being kind.

Anxiety is the physical manifestation of worry and, worry is the collaboration between your conscious mind and your ego. These two work together like the writers and cast of SNL.

I’m not talking about your personality ego but rather the one that drives that part of you. This deeper part of the brain doesn’t discern between the encroachment of a new clan who might steal your food and sack your small cluster of Yurts that your clan staked out by a lush river bank and your new boss. The ego is blind to that difference. The nuances of the world 10,000 years ago and now are lost on it. It doesn’t care. New is uncomfortable. New can be dangerous and its job is to keep you alive. End of story.

So, it just pulls the danger lever whenever it senses something it doesn’t recognize and that generates a feeling of un-comfort which starts the chemical factory up. The conscious brain takes this cue to create worry and then it starts painting pictures around a worry storyline which it understands. The interesting thing is your brain only knows how to create stories in the future.

In other words, they are not happening to you. You as your conscious self get tricked into thinking these future skits are in fact a reality coming towards you like a freight train.

Cue the anxiety.

Our conscious mind is self aware and wants at all costs to avoid danger, calamity, maladies and above all, pain.

We as humans are set up for pattern recognition and we like familiar patterns, no matter how uncomfortable they might be. So your repetitive behavior of creating dire future circumstances and the manufacture of sustained levels of adrenaline and cortisol are not healthy but they are familiar.

As worry becomes anxiety, it dumps cortisol into the body. Chronic anxiety creates a dependance on cortisol. When that level is only enough to stave off the with drawl effects, the body doesn’t get its fix, so ups the ante and dials up the level of anxiety. The brain goes into overdrive painting new pictures and fabricating new stories of dire events to keep the flow going. Boom. More cortisol.

And so goes a chronic, un-virtuous cycle that generates all sorts of collateral damage. You give up working out, you drink more, you retreat into mindless tv binge watching in order to escape. Your physical health deterioration starts to catch up with your mental health deterioration.

Or, perhaps you go the other way. You dive into training, you sign up for races, you obsess about performance metrics and the like. You become an obsessed fanatic about running or CrossFit or whatever.

Either way, when you look into the mirror, what you see isn’t reality. It is a fictitious image of yourself that is the byproduct of all the negative collateral damage you do to yourself because whatever you do isn’t good enough. Because it doesn’t fix the feeling. That’s the insidious link between the chemical and the mental.

I don’t want to trivialize or suggest that there is a simple fix to some of these issues for many or it is universally as simple as this. For some it is surely not. For many of us, it is.

Rather than espouse where the dividing line is, I will leave that up to you. I simply want to share my personal approach in the hopes it helps just one person break the cycle.

Step Two of being kind to yourself. Know you have the power of choice.

Know that you have a choice. Therein lies the power. You can choose to be kind to yourself. You want to raise your energetic frequency. There are a couple of very good books on this topic. The Science of Can and Can’t by Chiara Marletto, Feeling Good by Dr. David D. Burns and Power versus Force by Dr. David R. Hawkins are go-to reads on Audible. Also good are:

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Creation Frequency by Mike Murphy

Letting Go by Dr. David D. Burns

Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza

The common theme amongst these tomes and many others is that everything is energy and energetic frequencies seek out and align with energetic frequencies that are in harmony and that more often than not, we down-regulate our energetic frequencies without even being aware it is occurring.

Quite literally, you attract what you are signaling. You attract it externally but also internally. Negative thoughts and emotions amplify and seek to crowd higher energy thoughts and emotions out.

“Today is going to suck.”

Which leads to…

“What do you have to be happy about?”

Which leads to…

“I will never be as good as I once was.”

Which leads to…

“My life is a wreck. I have never made the money I want to make. I’ve fallen short in every aspect of who I am. How am I going to pay a vacation when I can’t even afford to give my family the comforts they deserve. I have to get away. I am miserable. I want a good vacation but will never be able to have it.”

As this fills your mental room, it sucks all the oxygen out for higher thoughts and emotions. In this skit, you are the victim. You are oppressed. You are cheated. You wallow in the delicious self pity. That is your cycle and that is the pattern your body and brain feel safe it.

Step Three of being kind to yourself. Recognize what you are telling yourself is utter and complete bullshit.

Change the paradigm. Give yourself a little kindness. Then a little more. Mel Robbins talks about giving yourself a high five. Is this stupid? Is it anymore stupid than giving yourself some slack and a little kindness? Here is how to start the reversal of fortunes.

Step Four of being kind to yourself. Change the pattern.

To do this, you have to start by telling yourself it is ok to feel anxious or upset. This is the first step in giving yourself some kindness and a very important one.

Acknowledge your own personal reality. “I recognize that I feel out of sorts, let down, scared and frustrated right now.”

Then tell yourself that you control the “why”. This is the ‘why you feel this way‘. Take away its power. Tell yourself that you choose to let go of the negativity and literally visualize either it passing you by or you walking away from it. I touched on doing this in the first Field Guide Blog here. Use whatever works for you. Mine is visualization.

Start your reversal of fortune

Replace the empty spot inside you, where ever you feel it…your chest, stomach, or head. (Note where this is…Likely it corresponds with one of your Chakras which are located along the energy pathways in your body and where you feel it is where it gets stored and builds up, so know this and work to purge it using this same technique over time).

Keep in mind this empty spot where the negativity recently vacated will not remain empty long. Nature abhors a vacuum. It is like a hole in wet sand on the beach, so fill it quickly with simple gratitude. Find something to be grateful for in your life. Maybe be grateful to have fresh air to breathe of food in your refrigerator. Maybe be grateful for the cup of coffee or tea you have or the fact the sun is shining…or be appreciative of hearing a simple bird chirp.

Then be present in that gratitude. Visualize it. Immerse yourself in it right now for as long as you need until you feel stillness and your mind quiets. Give it a chance to set roots.

Build on this

Once this is done, choose your intention for the rest of the day. Surround gratitude more gratitude. Start with the mundane and small and build on it. Visualize your energetic frequency raising in amplitude. Then take a few deep breaths and smile to yourself. You’ve now begun the process of breaking the un-virtuous cycle of negativity. But like muscle memory, you have to repeat it in order to set a new habit. If you don’t, you will revert. Then rinse and repeat tomorrow. If you fall down, get back up and start over. It’s ok.

The Fourth Step in Self Kindness

Give it away. Find a way to be kind to someone. Do it and don’t expect anything in return. The ironic thing is what you get in return will be well beyond what you expect. The first thing is greater self peace and clarity of the true reality, not the one you have manufactured in your head. The second thing you will get is a change in circumstance. You won’t win the lottery most likely but you will begin to change the trajectory of your reality by thinking different and then feeling different.

You Can Choose to Do Whatever You Want

You have the ability to choose, which means you hold the power.

Viktor E. Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning summed it up well. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Change your trajectory, your reality and your path by simply giving yourself a little kindness today. As Chris Tanner said in Episode 3 of the TCP podcast, “it isn’t really that hard. You just have to have the courage and the belief that you can in fact choose.

1 critical thing to know about improving your life. Now.

Meditate to re-enforce better habits

What is the difference between making intentional choices and automatic choices?  A lot.  On the surface, how you go about choosing between two things can often look identical.  You make a choice. Whether you think about it for a day, an hour or a nano-second, it is still a choice. Black or white. One or the other. Right?

No. Choices are instead a stream of interconnected events.

A handful of BBQ chips over an apple.  But why did you choose the chips? 

BBQ chips
Bad habits compound over time to become bad patterns that can easily trap

I don’t know, I wanted some BBQ chips. I popped a handful in my mouth and ate them.  It’s over.  Why are we talking about this?

Because, ultimately if you want to improve your life, this seemingly trivial choice is important well beyond BBQ chips, which are horribly bad for you by the way.  In life, is how you choose important to what comes next?

Yes. Very much so.

What exactly is an intentional choice?

Good question. Think of it simply. What does this choice lead to? Or instead, what ‘bucket’ does this action or choice go into? If you imagine having a number of ‘buckets’ in your life that behaviors and activities can fit into this will help. 

Here are some simple examples. Use this as a template. Spend 30 minutes thinking about this and list some buckets that are important to you. Go back and revisit these later. Feel free to modify them and keep it simple.

When creating buckets try to include buckets for work, play, physical health, mental health, emotional health, inter-personal relationships and self-improvement.

  1. Is this good nutrition or calories versus bad nutrition or calories?
  2. Does this activity or choice add to my well-being, reduce anxiety or drama versus takes away from my well being, increase anxiety or fuel possible drama?
  3. Does this activity or choice improve my self value or self worth versus takes away from my self-value or self-worth (this may include how others view you)?

Matter to who?  Matter how?

Let’s explore the chips.  It’s a snack.  Is it instead a choice that re-enforces an existing pattern of behavior? Or instead, is it a choice that helps to establish a new pattern?

What the hell are you talking about?

In life, all we really have in life are choices.  Think about it.  We choose to respond to something and then we choose what to do next.  That’s really it. 

Our life is made up of patterns our brains has logged into its operating system and those patterns run. We respond to them by choosing what’s familiar.   Those familiar choices feel safe and re-enforce the existing pattern.  That safe feeling releases dopamine in the brain, which further re-enforces the existing pattern, whether it is a healthy one or not.

That is why most people live yesterday again today and so on.  They don’t choose to evolve and grow. The engrained patterns keep us going round and round rather than someplace new.

What does this have to do with BBQ chips?

Everything.  You chose the chips and re-enforced a couple of patterns.  One.  Mid-day snacking.  Two.  Unhealthy nutrition. There are probably more, but let’s keep it simple.

Dude.  It’s just a few BBQ chips.

True, but who ate the last bag of them?

Stop it.

Each of those chips was a choice.  When the bag was empty, you chose to add a new bag to the grocery list.  You chose to open that new bag and eat the first one.  It’s now three quarters empty and when it is, what are you going to choose?  Buy another bag. 

So it’s about more than the BBQ.  It’s really about the choice you are making regarding nutrition and beyond that, the choice you are making about wellness and healthy living.  It’s not a priority.  You have intentionally chosen to not prioritize health and wellness by choosing that handful of greasy crap.

You know you are talking to yourself, right?

Right now, yes but hopefully others will read this transcript and it will cause them to think. Make different choices.

The chips were an automatic choice that was part of the larger an intentional choice you made in the past. You made the choice that because you were 30 pounds overweight, getting fit was going to be impossible.

So you chose to give up instead. Cue the BBQ chips.

These patterns are running every day you don’t even recognize it is occurring.

My point is that with your intentional choice of not prioritizing your health, you now run all these patterns that re-enforce not prioritizing your health and until you choose differently you won’t run new patterns. 

Let’s rewind and see how this might play out differently.

Ok, fine but I don’t see how this will change anything though.  Like I said, it was just some chips dude.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Let’s unpack this.  You are in the pantry and there is the bag of Lays.  You ask yourself, “If I eat the rest of this bag, is it a healthy choice? After all, it’s almost gone. I can’t throw a bag away that isn’t empty? Right?

No.  If I grab an apple instead is that a healthy choice?

But what if I don’t want an entire Apple?  I can have just crumbs in the bottom the the bag.  Boom.  Gone in 1 second.  An apple will take like, what?  Five minutes to eat!

You are rationalizing your existing pattern that is linked to poor health choices and keeps you in a un-virtuous cycle. 

So, cut the apple into slices.  Eat as many or as few as you want.  Put the rest in a baggie and save them for later.  A healthy shack. 

By the way, what are you thinking?

I am wondering how I missed this before.

Things often hide in plain sight. 

You are now overwriting the old pattern with a new one.  Extend it to nutrition and sleep next.  Then move on to your content choices.  Social media too.  Ditch that.  Then check off improving physical fitness.  One step at a time.  Pretty soon, you will have upgraded your brain with a new software program that you will begin to explore further.

The key here is to remember that every choice you make may not be an intentional choice, but every choice is linked to an intentional choice.   Everything is linked together to either re-enforce an existing pattern of thought or behavior to overwrite one.

The chips are just a simple, easy to understand illustration provided in order to understand how what can seem like a trivial snacking behavior is linked to other much bigger behaviors in life.

If you pay attention to the little things and actively choose what is best for you, with a little bit of time, magically your mindset will shift because your patterns shifted.

Life will not just seem different, it will be different.