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Showing kindness to ourselves may be the healthiest goal of all

POSTED: January 4, 2017 5:42 a.m.
Kim Cowart/

Showing kindness to ourselves may be the healthiest goal, and the most difficult to keep, of 2017.

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Goodbye and good riddance 2016. I doubt I was the only one doing a jig of joy when the ball dropped and ushered in a new year. While this past year hasn’t been all bad, there were definitely more downs than ups. My inner Princess Leia is still mourning. Rather than focusing on how to make 2017 great, though, I’m trying to figure out how to find joy throughout the year despite the pitfalls that are sure to come.

I’m not being pessimistic. I’m being honest. Life isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be. It’s the detours and the mountains we conquer that make the journey more interesting, and in the process make us more interesting.

Each year, in lieu of resolutions, I choose a short motto or single word that helps guide my decisions. One year it was “Fearless.” That was the year I started teaching fitness classes despite my shy nature. Another year it was “Try.” I got a lot of push-back from others about that one, but if we don’t try, how will we ever know what we can do? “Try” is not a four-letter word. That year I won the Utah Grand Slam series because I dared to try.

This year’s motto was harder to come by. “Positivity” seemed too Pollyanna. “Balance” is just never going to happen. There’s always some part of my life that’s going to demand more attention than others, so why fight it? “Perspective” is something I think I have a handle on, so not much promise of growth.

I finally settled on “Kindness.” It’s simple and timely. Maybe it’s the political climate or world events that have caught my attention, but I’ve noticed so much unkindness. I can’t do anything specific about terrorism or put our politicians in timeout and take away their allowance, but I can show more kindness in my small sphere of influence.

First, I will show kindness by not rushing to judgment. A few weeks ago when I returned to the gym after having a hysterectomy, I did the only cardio I could — the elliptical. I was slow and careful, but thrilled at that one trickle of sweat that ran down my back. Oh, how I missed that sweat! I wasn’t doing a hard-core boot camp workout. I might even have looked lazy to some, but it was all I could do. It was a good reminder not to judge others’ efforts by our own personal measuring sticks. Sometimes just showing up to the gym is a victory in itself. Be kind to others. Recognize we don't know individual circumstances and reserve judgment.

Second, I will show kindness by seeing the good. It’s easy to be critical of ourselves and others. Looking for the positive is difficult at first, but once we notice it, it’s everywhere. If someone tells you to be on the lookout for red Hondas, suddenly that’s all you see. Start small. Recognize someone’s incredibly good form when performing deadlifts. Notice how much more energy you’re feeling now that you’re back to lifting weights. There are a million red Hondas to notice each day. Start with finding just one.

Third, I will show kindness by complimenting someone when I notice the good. It’s one thing to admire someone’s good form, but when you tell someone you admire their deadlifts, watch their face light up and notice how it also lifts your spirits. Everyone gets all the good feels. The challenge for me comes when I compliment myself. I can’t just wish to be happy with myself. I have to find ways to make it happen. For the last few days, every time I criticize one aspect of my appearance or personality, I make myself find something I love. It’s starting to work. I really like my legs. I’m a good fitness instructor. My body has recovered faster from surgery than anyone, doctors included, expected. I’m liking myself more each day.

Fourth, I will show kindness by letting go. I will let go of grudges. I will let go of expectations. That baggage is heavy, and I’m tired. Most of the time when someone hurts us, it’s unintentional. Let it go. And it if was intentional, I will remember who I am and let it go. I will not expect perfection from myself or others. I will not just accept who I am, but embrace it and enjoy it while continuing to grow and improve. I’m a 41-year-old woman with two daughters, a husband, a job, and the busy life that comes with it. I’m the best I can be right now. No disappointments. I’m letting it go.

Finally, I will show kindness by smiling more. Smiling makes those around you feel better, and makes you feel better. It’s a win win! Look at Buddy the Elf. Nothing gets to him, and smiling’s his favorite. This year I’m going to make it mine, too.

2016 may have been a year to forget, but the best part about a new year is a new start. I’m ready for a do-over. May the force be with 2017.
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