By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
In the springtime especially, it is normal to want to make big changes in your life, and also with your health. I’ve written this article, because I often see so much frustration with breaking old habits, and conflict between actions and intentions. You may have noticed this quote which I love on my website, and it absolutely guides my work and perspective. Read it slowly and see what you feel:
and I said to my body. softly.
‘i want to be your friend.’
it took a long breath. and replied.
‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.’
— nayyirah waheed
I believe that if we change our perspective and treat ourselves as someone we care for, self-care practices then become quite simple. For example eating nutritious meals, moving your body regularly, taking breaks, and getting enough rest come quite naturally from a place of self-love.
Right now drop all ideas that eating well and exercising has to be a struggle. That a healthy diet feels like punishment, giving up foods that you crave, and restriction, and that workouts are torture. It’s no wonder we have so much resistance to change with these ideas so strongly planted in our upbringings.
Why is this so pervasive?
Many of have created beliefs that we’re unlovable, unworthy, or only deserve love if we live up to an impossible standard. These beliefs usually come from events in childhood either with family members, school or various traumas, or our interpretations of these events.
From here we continue to make decisions from this wounded place. Maybe we self-medicate with foods: overeating foods that manage our moods and neurotransmitters or calm us down; exercising excessively and competitively to be the best; or sneaking in pleasure late at night with too many TV shows because our minds so desperately need a break.
How to change this perspective
One of my favourite ways to shift this perspective is to imagine yourself from the outside as if you’re speaking to or advising a friend. Or alternately, you can build self-compassion by imagining caring for a younger version of yourself.
- If this was someone I loved, how would I feed her?
- When would I put her to sleep at night?
- What type of movement or exercise really lights her up?
- Would she be allowed to rest when she’s tired?
- Would I expect a friend to work as hard as I do without a break?
You can see that there is a softness here and a kindness that will actually encourage you to make choices and decisions from a good place.
Are you being too hard on yourself?
When you look from this angle, are there areas you are punishing yourself? Is the voice in your head full of judgement? Are you waiting for something to be perfect before you really live? Are you waiting to be the right weight before you’re allowed to be happy? Are you pushing your body too hard without a rest? Do you beat yourself up over choices you make?
Even as you examine your thoughts, again take a position of kindness as if you’re speaking to someone you care about. Gently reframe.
These are very hard habits to break, but I know that kindness and self-compassion is the way through.
A practice for this week
My challenge to you is to set three loving intentions for your self-care this week. How can you care for your body with kindness rather than judgement – drop the list of ‘should’s’ and set some intentions. Also, watch your language here – how would you speak to a friend in a nurturing way?
Here are a few examples of kind, health-promoting intentions:
- Getting into bed with a great book by 10pm to ensure at least 7 hours of sleep
- Listening to your heart and trying a form of movement or exercise that lights you up – a sport you loved as a kid, a dance class, an outdoor hike,…
- Packing nourishing lunches for the work-week, and tuning into what makes you feel best through the day. For example, do you feel more nourished with a warm lunch? Do you need to remember snacks to keep your energy up?
- Putting the laptop away by 7pm to ensure some quality time for you in the evening.
- Taking a look at your busy week and carving out some deliberate time just for you.
Health-promoting habits are so much easier to create from a place of kindness.
I would love to hear from you.
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