February 17, 2019 is Random Acts of Kindness Day. While it’s great to do nice things for others, it’s important to remember to be kind to ourselves too. Chances are, you are much nicer to a stranger on the street than you are to yourself. Think about the conversations you have in your mind throughout the day. How do you talk to yourself? It might not seem like a big deal, but that narrative in your mind shapes many aspects of your life, especially when you are in recovery.
The Role of Kindness in Recovery
Most people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol began using substances to feel better. They try to suppress insecurities and negative feelings, such as anxiety, worry, fear, depression, and loneliness. What starts out as a coping mechanism to make it through the day turns into an all-consuming addiction, leaving a person with very little self-esteem.
Why does it matter if you’re kind to yourself? It matters because you need to believe your life is worth fighting for in order to be successful in recovery.
3 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself
1. Rewrite Negative Thoughts
“The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself.” – Maya Angelou
Find a mantra or affirmation that resonates with you and repeat it to yourself every day. Wear it on a bracelet, put the words on your mirror or say them in your head while you drive. It might feel silly, but even if you don’t fully believe the words you’re saying, your attitude will shift and become more positive over time. When you try to change a behavior or thought process, it feels like you’re putting on an act, but you have to go through the motions before it becomes habit. Science supports the “fake it til you make it approach!
2. Forgive Yourself
Nobody is perfect and you shouldn’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations. Stop beating yourself up for your past. Doing so actually can trigger a relapse. Instead, let go of the past, forgive yourself and focus on the present moment. That’s easier said than done, so it’s best to work with trained therapists who can help you work through feelings, accept the past for what it is and move forward.
3. Be Nice to Others
Being kind to other people is beneficial to you too. There are actually proven health benefits to being kind. According to RandomActsofKindness.org, kindness:
- Decreases pain by producing endorphins in the brain.
- Reduces stress and slows aging; “Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol.”
- Decreases anxiety levels.
- Improves depression by stimulating the production of serotonin, which acts as an antidepressant.
- Lowers blood pressure. “According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.”
- Increases energy levels.
- Increases your lifespan. “Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more.“
Are you inspired to perform a random act of kindness? Here are some ideas to get you started.