Be kind to yourself and the rest will follow
Updated: Oct 8
By Indira Das-Gupta
Why is it that we find it easy to be kind to the people we love but most of us really struggle with being kind to ourselves? Could it possibly be that we simply don't love ourselves? In fact, the reality is that many people don't even seem to like themselves.
How else to explain the annual ritual every January of setting hopelessly unrealistic goals which are often a thinly veiled attempt to punish ourselves for enjoying Christmas too much?
"Oh my god I really overdid it with the cheese/wine/Quality Street (delete as appropriate). So now I need to get on my Yoga mat/the treadmill and sweat it all out again."
So then you book yourself in to the hardest classes at your studio or gym and force yourself to go at least 5 times in the first week back at work. No wonder by the second week you are already knackered and just want to collapse on the sofa again. So then what follows is a metaphorical bout of self flagellation where you berate yourself for not sticking to your goals.
Sounds familiar? Let's be honest pretty much everyone overdoes it a bit at Christmas, OK so maybe some overdo it a lot. Leaving aside the reasons why you might be compelled to over indulge to such a degree for a moment, isn't life to be enjoyed? Food and, yes even wine, are just one of life's many pleasures, so why would you deprive yourself of them? If you really did go a bit bonkers with the Brie, don't beat yourself up about it. Exercise should be enjoyable, not just something to endure so that we can justify eating or drinking to excess.
Find a form of exercise that you actually like, maybe it's not Yoga, maybe it's walking or swimming or just dancing around your kitchen with your favourite tunes blaring out. If you find pleasure in it then you are way more likely to stick to it. If you haven't done any exercise for a while then yes the first few classes/walks might be tough, but if you persevere it will get easier and you will start to notice the benefits like not getting out of breath when you take the stairs. Little and often is always going to yield better results than bursts of frenetic activity followed by a month of exhaustion where you don't do anything. Let's be honest here, most of us lead busy lives and are juggling a lot of balls so doing two hours of exercise every day just isn't even possible.
If Yoga is your cup of tea then mix it up: you don't have to always do the really "hard" classes in fact you will feel better if you also do more relaxation based classes such as Yin. It's not just about how you look but how you feel on the inside. Here's a newsflash, self care and relaxation are not an indulgence but a necessity. Keep pushing yourself day after day and you'll eventually burn yourself out.
So back to the reasons why we might overdo it in the first place: we tend to "reward" ourselves with things that ultimately don't make us feel very good. It's kind of a warped logic when you think about it. You might give your child a biscuit if they eat their broccoli but you sure as hell wouldn't encourage them to eat the whole packet until they felt sick and full of self disgust.
Maybe we need to shift our mindset and stop viewing eating and drinking too much as a reward for having been "good" ie doing a tough Yoga class. Why not "reward" yourself with a bath or your favourite book instead?
Before you engage in any self destructive behaviour ask yourself: if your husband/son/best friend was about to do this what would your advice be? Wouldn't you want the person you care so much about to feel their best and enjoy good health? Then why not start showing yourself a bit more love and kindness. So you ate too much cake and didn't make it to Yoga today? Never mind, tomorrow is another day, make the most of it so you can start to feel like the best version of yourself - you deserve it.
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