Reader Favorite, Self-Improvement

Friend Yourself

When battling your own mind, it is challenging to love yourself. Yet, you must…even if you don’t feel like you can.

Celebrate yourself. Treat yourself as though you are the most beloved individual on earth. Because…you…are. Be kind to yourself.

Hiding beneath the mental anguish, the pain, and the struggles…you are extraordinary.

Those words may feel far from the truth right now, but seek it out. Don’t give up; keep hanging on.

12 Ways to Be Your Own Friend

1. Breathe, slowly and deeply.
Close your eyes and let yourself genuinely relax.
Oftentimes, we don’t allow ourselves the time actually needed for this.

In 2001, I lost my voice for a month. Turns out, it wasn’t simply laryngitis. Visiting an otolaryngologist, he scoped me. The doctor told me that there wasn’t any reason for my lack of voice, and he referred me to a speech pathologist. Yes, speech therapy. I was honestly the only adult patient in the waiting room. Turns out, I had forgotten how to breathe. Seriously? Yes. I was so tense and stressed that I was holding my breath without realizing it…even while attempting to speak. No breath was passing through my larynx to vibrate my vocal chords (how voice is made). I had only a whisper. I slowly relearned how to breathe and how to breathe while speaking. Relaxation became a much-needed goal.


2. Enjoy a sunrise or sunset.
Take a picture; preserve the beauty.

Don’t miss out on these times of day! Sunrises come not only with beauty, but with stillness and peace…before the day is filled with cacophony. As for sunsets, again beauty, but the happy sounds of neighbors winding down the day. What do your twilight hours sound like?


3. Go for a walk.
Don’t plug yourself in to your music; don’t block yourself from the world around you. Take in nature. Notice and appreciate the details.

Walking isn’t just for exercise. It’s a time to wind down. A time to process your thoughts. In addition, walking helps improve oxygen flow to the brain. When our brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, we can experience brain fog. Walking also increases blood flow to the brain. This is “linked to better cognitive function, improved memory, and overall protection against decline.”


4. Cut out the negative.

Television shows, movies, and music containing suspense, horror, or negative speak bring on high anxiety, oftentimes too much for someone already dealing with anxiety or depression. These emotions can take a toll on your mind. These days, even the nightly news leaves me feeling dread.

According to Graham Davey PhD, “[Negative] news can affect our mental health, notably in the form of increased anxiety, depression and acute stress reactions.” In addition “[given] the dramatic virtual proximity the modern viewer has to news events like a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, the suffering caused by wars, famine and pandemics, it’s not surprising that many people viewing these events will develop emotional and affective conditions as if they were physically present.” Of course, the news media are also culpable of generating doomsday scenarios.

Reduce your exposure to the negative. You need more happy in your life.


5. Make a list of what is good about you.
Add to it each day, even if it is a single item.

This is one of the most monumental challenges when you are just not in the “right” mind, when all you can sense is the gloom and doom, when all you feel is heartache. Push through. Begin with one thing you like about yourself…that you perceive as positive. Do not think what others may view your item to be. Own it for yourself. Maybe you have a nice smile, an artistic talent, a flair for organization (or even the lack of care of organization…something to not stress over?). Explore your goodness.


6. Enjoy a hobby.
Don’t have one? Take one up.

A hobby is a way to relax, meditate, and enjoy a moment. Maybe a game or puzzle. Perhaps something creative, like leather crafting or calligraphy. Or, something active, like geocaching or gardening. Many adults now enjoy advanced coloring books; perhaps it takes them back to more innocent times when life was simpler. My little family also enjoys having a game night; Monopoly and UNO are family favorites. Of course, I love to write as well.


7. Enjoy a laugh.
Watch a sitcom, a comedy film, or YouTube!

Laughing is good for the soul. Benefits include stress reduction and release of endorphins (natural pain and stress fighters). My favorite sitcom is The Big Bang Theory; no matter how many reruns, I laugh every time. After an arduous day at work, putting my feet up and laughing minimizes the daily stress.


8. Take care of what is necessary, even if you start with just one.

  • “Sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.”
  • A good shower helps reduce stress and insomnia! It can relieve muscle tension and helps calm your mind and body. I hold much tension in my jaw, neck, and shoulders; it’s painful and can cause stress headaches. A hot shower before bed alleviates much of this pain.
  • Eat clean. What you eat affects your mood, sleep, brain functioning, and more. A clean diet includes “unprocessed, whole foods …no artificial ingredients, preservatives,… sugars, saturated fat, [or] trans fat.” Incorporate this eating regimen a little at a time. You will notice a difference quite soon!
  • Most people with mental illness do need medication and therapy. It’s okay; it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. When I first began medication, I felt like a failure as a human being because I needed drugs to function properly, yet so do those with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Eventually I realized the life I had been missing! I didn’t know my normal wasn’t normal…there was something better.

9. Disconnect from technology an hour before bed.

Technology use truly affects your quality of sleep. “The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle… Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.” Technology “keep[s] your mind engaged…trick[ing] your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake.”

There are other ways to wind down and get a good night’s sleep. Use your time to read, listen to music, start a gratitude journal, meditate, enjoy a cup of tea, visit loved ones, love on your pet…


10. Speak kindly to yourself.

“Too often, the pattern of self-talk we’ve developed is negative. We remember the negative things we were told as children by our parents, siblings, or teachers. We remember the negative reactions from other children that diminished how we felt about ourselves.” It’s time to turn that around. Bring out the positive from negative situations. Overwrite those negative messages.

Exercise:
Write down some of the negative messages inside your mind…. Be specific, whenever possible, and include anyone you remember who contributed to that message. Now, take a moment to intentionally counteract those negative messages with positive truths in your life. Don’t give up if you don’t find them quickly. For every negative message there is a positive truth that will override the weight of despair. These truths always exist; keep looking until you find them.”

My example is this:
I become a doormat when someone judges me. I couldn’t seem to stick up for myself out of fear of ruining a relationship. I have lived most of my life this way; I’d rather keep my mouth shut, take it, and keep things smooth in the relationship. This adds to my depression because I’m pleasing others, yet not myself. Everyone has his/her own beliefs, and I’m no exception. It is okay for me to speak my mind. Let others love the real me. If they don’t, then what kind of relationship do we really have anyway? Although not always easy, I choose to no longer mask myself; I choose to be the real me.


11. Forgive yourself.

No one is perfect. If others seem to have it all together, they positively do not.

Perfection is non-existent.


12. Believe in yourself.

Believe you and your life will evolve into something better.

It is imperative to become your own friend before you are capable of having an honest relationship with another. Commit to loving yourself unconditionally. Do not allow your mental battles cloud the fact that you are worthwhile, that you are extraordinary. Don’t give up; keep hanging on.

“If life seems jolly rotten,

There’s something you’ve forgotten!

And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing”

~Monty Python

Copyright © 2017 Alicia Rust. All rights reserved.

1 thought on “Friend Yourself

  1. Alica, I love all the tips in this post that work so well for helping us to friend ourselves! I struggled with most of them at the peak of my experience with anxiety that began more than 2 decades ago. Later I learned and practiced my breathing and learned to accept and friend myself as I am. Something I struggled to do.

    I too experienced in the past what you describe of your voice going due to not breathing properly. It’s still so amazing to me the connection between the mind and body! Practicing these tips is sure to help anyone to learn how to friend self.

    So true also what you say here;

    “It is imperative to become your own friend before you are capable of having an honest relationship with another.”

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