Thich Nhat Hanh, a famously kind, evolved thinker who has spent a lifetime meditating, has said that one’s mind as well as one’s body will be a reflection of what is put in it. Research in psychology has supported these claims demonstrating a relationship between media, behavior and thought. Of course, this leaves room to criticize the political or social landscape, but probably to little gain. What is more important is that you use this information in a way that affords you the greatest well being.
The self compassionate response to knowing that we are affected by what we take in externally can translate to how you manage predispositions, patterns or simply the day.
For predispositions, if you are predisposed to feeling angry, anxious, or depressed, find things to watch or participate in that make you feel less angry, anxious or depressed. As noted in a previous post, we do this for our own well being because we want to feel better and more capable internally not for external reward or approval. Even though this kind of kindness often frees us up to be more socially connected. Remember, in the spirit of self compassion, simply notice these predispositions, do not judge them, and then decide how you will bring kindness to this experience.
For patterns, consistent viewing of a certain kind of media or surrounding ourselves with certain peers can affect our moods or thoughts. If there is a lot of trauma on the news for weeks, it is likely that you will feel a little more defended and anxious about your safety. If you found a new show that you love, but it has a lot of drama and action in it, which in terms of your body will be activating, it is likely that if you watch it before bed that you may have a harder time falling or staying asleep.
In the end, balance rather than control is important. If you notice these patterns, simply acknowledge them and think about how you might make kind compensations for them, such as watching the news a little less frequently or watching something more relaxing around bed time. If the things you value are affecting you negatively, think about how necessary they are to your well being and what you want to put out into this world. If they are worth keeping, find a way to participate in them that brings you meaning without sacrificing your well being.
For the day, notice if the day is beginning to increase your stress level or create painful bodily sensations, and work in a little self-compassion. Perhaps taking a walk to process these feelings, and ground your experience in nature. Maybe having a small piece of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has magnesium, which is great for stress. Doing the breathing exercises or the red caboose, we discussed before. Ending the day early to spend time with loved ones, or simply taking a break to listen to some music or watch something that only brings you feelings of peace and ease. Some people find refuge in comedy.
Most importantly, our job is to first notice these things like a curious child or interested parent, simply with curiosity and kindness. Second, our job is to determine how we might bring kindness to our experience. Third, our job is to follow through with some kindness.
Be curious. Try things that might help. Keep the work going. Be consistent and imperfect. That’s what makes us good humans!
365 Days of Kindness. Self Compassion. Day 8. In the Books.