I have recently finished reading The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi – a self-help book dedicated to sustaining habit change. I never had time for self-help books, which could be due to both my stubbornness to change, and my belief that they are a load of bullsh*t. However, after a rewarding yet gruelling summer ‘holiday’ of working way too much and not looking after myself, my mum (of course, mother knows best), urged me to give the psychobabble another shot.
So, as recommended by Shahroo, I went out and bought a new swanky notebook to write down all my life thoughts. And here it began.
The book (or bible of positivity as I am now calling it) consists of a number of exercises, questions for thought, and mind maps to aid self-induced change. It urges a continuous process, which really is what change is, to build confidence (something that I have a severe lack of) in both myself and the prospect of sustained change. I felt like I was my own councillor – and I loved it!
After a week of reading and completing all the exercises, this is what I realised:
I need to treat myself how I treat others
From primary school, the rule “treat others how you would like to be treated” always stuck with me. It made sense; I wouldn’t like it if someone said horrible things to me, so why should I say it to them. However, I also lack the ability to be assertive and say no; I blame this rule. Shahroo has made me realise that now I should live by another rule, “treat yourself how you treat others”, and this was achieved by a very simple but effective exercise – a comparison between the thoughts that I say to myself in my head when I am upset, and the phrases I may say to a loved one if they were upset. For example, I would never say to someone “You know what, you are fat and ugly and you will never lose as much weight as you want”, “Yes I completely agree, you are lazy and useless and will never get that promotion”. No, I would say. “You can do this, you are beautiful and can work through this rough patch”, “You will succeed, you deserve this”. So here inviting this question – why am I saying all these negative phrases to myself when I would never dream of saying them to a loved one?
My unwanted habits are completely understandable
Following from this – negative phrases are often caused by unwanted habits. I am hard on myself because I am stuck in a pattern of unwanted behaviours that I cannot seem to break. This is where another comparison comes in – writing both the harmful impact of the habit, and why I haven’t changed it yet – essentially, the pros and cons of the behaviour. This here is where I find the motivation to change the behaviour, and some potential barriers – cleverly disguised amongst two relatively easy-to-answer questions. It also made me understand why the unwanted habit has dug its claws in and stuck; there are an unusual number of positives to it, despite them being unhealthy. For only a day, the negative thoughts surrounding the keeping of this habit disappeared. When these thoughts reappear, all I have to do is look back at my ‘why haven’t I changed already map’, and it stops me from being so hard on myself.
I need to look back in order to go forwards
Reflection – a skill that has been fully emphasised in the duration of my first year at university and will continue to be for the rest of my working life. And rightly so. Understanding who, what, where, why, and how my previous habit changes have and haven’t worked will help me in making my revised plan for change. Again, Shahroo does this by asking questions to make us think – a skill that I would like to refine as a future dietitian. What hasn’t worked? When are you ‘in the zone’? What are your excuses when avoiding change?
The Kindness Method puts the focus on what may have gone wrong in the past, learning from the experiences, and concentrating on positive attributes to maintain habits, as well as setting realistic goals.
I have only explained a few exercises included in the book; this is not to say that the others were not as, if not more, rewarding. It is also a process that can be maintained for however long necessary, with plans being made and reviewed every 3 weeks.
I would highly recommend.