While you're giving thanks this month, it’s important to remember to express gratitude to yourself, too. After all, how well you love yourself sets the tone for how well you're able to love others.
With that in mind, TODAY reached out to a handful of experts who shared these 11 simple ways we can all be kind to ourselves. From savoring smells to self-compassion breaks, see how many you can do in a day!
1. Enjoy beautiful smells.
It doesn’t cost any money, time, effort, or calories to enjoy a lovely scent, says Rubin. Pick up a grapefruit, bury your head in a freshly laundered pile of towels, or smell a bottle of vanilla.
2. Try fur therapy.
“If you have a dog or cat, pull your pet into your lap for some quiet attention. You’ll both enjoy it,” says Rubin.
3. Give up on moderation.
If you’re bothered by a strong temptation —like gingerbread cookies or french fries — try giving it up altogether. This doesn’t work for everyone, and it doesn’t sound like a way to be kinder to yourself, but for some people it’s much easier to have none than to have some, says Rubin.
“No more noise! No more debate! If moderation doesn’t work for you, experiment with abstaining.”
4. Set a bedtime alarm.
If you have trouble turning out the light at night, and then drag the next morning, try setting a bedtime alarm. “That cue will help get you moving toward bed,” she says. In fact, you might want to set a true “snooze” alarm — a fifteen minute warning that your bedtime is approaching. A good night’s sleep makes everything easier and more fun the next day.
Paula Davis-Laack, author and founder of the Davis-Laack Stress & Resilience Institute:
5. Start a portfolio of good stuff.
Positive emotions do more than just help you feel good —they increase your creativity, make you more social, build your resilience, and reduce the negative physiological impact of negative emotions, says Davis-Laack. She collects thank you notes, testimonials for her business, and other positive notes and keeps them in her office.
6. Change your passwords.
This technique is a form of priming — creating cues in your environment to prompt you to act in a certain way, says Davis-Laack. If you want to build more gratitude into your day, make your password something that evokes that emotion.
Trying to reach a specific goal? Change your password to reflect that.
If your password is numeric, use a numeric date that makes you happy. “Think about how many times you enter a password during your day. Make that password something that is going to help you create the environment you want,” she says.
7. Do a brain spill.
Do you tend to stress over all of the unfinished tasks you didn't complete each day? You're not alone.
Try keeping a pad of paper next to your bed and to jot down a “brain spill,” says Davis-Laack. “Whatever you’re stewing about, put it on paper. This simple strategy relaxes your brain so it can focus on other tasks.”
Kristin Neff, author of “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself”:
8. Treat yourself as well as you treat your BFF.
For many of us, our compassionate side is well-built muscle with other people, but not so much with ourselves, says Neff. The next time you’re hurt or angry, ask yourself, “What if I had a good friend who was going through what I’m going through?” How would you would treat that friend? What emotional tone would you use with that person? Aim to be as soft and gentle and caring with yourself as you would be with your friend, says Neff.
9. Write a sweet letter to yourself.
“Research shows if you write a self-compassionate letter to yourself for seven days in a row you reduce your depression for three months and increase happiness for six months,” says Neff. Writing in a kinder voice to ourselves is a powerful way to change our habitual ways of treating ourselves.
10. Caress yourself in a soothing way.
Often we are so self-critical, it’s hard for us to think kind thoughts about ourselves, especially when we need them most. One trick to bypass self-criticism and negative thoughts is to caress ourselves.
“If you go straight to your body with a warm, gentle caring touch, your sympathetic nervous system starts to calm down and your body starts to feel safe just as if you were a young baby cuddled up to mommy,” Neff says. “It sounds touchy-feely, and it is touchy-feely, but it makes scientific sense. We are bodies.”
11. Try a self-compassion break.
Feeling bent out of shape? Try touching your body in a comforting way while saying these three phrases to yourself: (1) This is a moment of suffering. (2) Suffering is a part of life and (3) May I be kind to myself. Gentle, non-judgmental acknowledgement of our own pain has a calming effect.