To Thine Own Self Be Kind: 8 Random Acts of Self-Kindness

Valentine Day appleThe world can be a cold and cruel place, and as such, every display of warmth and goodness makes a difference. Performing random acts of kindness for those around you—such as opening doors, offering to help carry groceries, giving free hugs, or buying a cup of hot coffee for a stranger—can trigger a ripple effect, reverberating outward into the masses and spreading the good vibes like wildfire.

However, if you’re feeling lonely and unloved, showing kindness to others is often a stretch; in fact, it can be nearly impossible to do so with any amount of sincerity.

“We have all heard the adage that ‘you can’t love anyone else if you don’t love yourself first,’ and this is 100% true,” says Marla B. Cohen, PsyD. “When we are not practicing self-love, we may begin to see ourselves as unlovable and unworthy of the love and kindnesses shown by others.  This can lead to a sense of distrust with other people and a tendency to devalue others and reject some of the kindness and care coming our way.”

An important component of this practice, Cohen adds, is acknowledging that imperfections and mistakes are a part of being human. “When we are judgmental and critical of ourselves, and when we saddle ourselves with unrealistic expectations and unending obligations, we become dependent on others around us to help, heal, or save us.  As this is an impossible task, we inevitably become resentful of others, because no amount of love, concern, or assistance from another will feel adequate if we are in a constant state of self-criticism and self-imposed pressure.”

Silencing the critical voices within can be a challenge, but it’s one worth taking on—and small acts of kindness toward ourselves can be incredibly transformative. “Self-kindness helps stop the constant flow of negative self-talk, criticism, judgment, and relentless pursuit of perfection that most of us have come to see as normal.

When we treat ourselves with kindness, compassion, and understanding, we feel worthy, nurtured, and secure.  When we provide ourselves with an unconditional environment of safety and security, we free ourselves up to take more risks in service of our potential.”

Simply put, the more gentle and forgiving we are with ourselves, the more likely it is that these positive vibrations will overflow into our interactions with those around us. “When we accept our own imperfections and limitations, we are much more able to have empathy for others’ shortcomings.  This helps us be more accepting and loving in all of our relationships,” says Cohen.

So if you’re feeling the need for a little therapeutic love boost, treat yourself to one—or all—of the following random acts of self-kindness:

Young Woman Bathing at Health Spa

1. Take a hot bath.

Soaking in a hot tub, preferably with Epsom salt and aromatherapy oils, can do wonders for sore muscles and a worn-out spirit. Light a candle and turn on some relaxing music to add to the experience.




Little girl with dog walks on the road

2. Go for a walk.

Ideally, this will be in a favorite park or neighborhood. But it could be as simple as a walk around the block. Moving your legs, breathing the outside air, and taking in the sights and sounds will naturally increase blood flow and endorphins, thereby warming your body and bettering your mood.



 woman shopping in garden nursery

3. Buy a special treat.

What makes you smile? Candles, jewelry, a good book, a trinket from an antique or thrift store, a bar of chocolate, flowers, a latte from a local coffee shop—there are so many small purchases that can make a big difference in how you feel, if only for a few moments. Cohen adds that it’s a good idea to keep the purchase around $20 or less to avoid buyer’s remorse. Whatever you choose, allow yourself to savor the indulgence.



Woman Receiving a Facial Massage

4. Schedule a massage.

Touch is a powerful form of pain relief and endorphin release. Giving yourself permission to make an appointment with a massage therapist sends the message that you are worthy of tenderness, care, and relaxation. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.



man in meditation outside

5. Meditate.

Setting aside the time to simply be—for a few minutes or a few hours—tells your inner taskmaster to simmer down and be still. Using candles, soft music, dim lights, and comfy cushions during meditation will help to set the mood, and slow, rhythmic breathing will guide you into a relaxed state. You can incorporate a mantra or simply allow your mind to become empty, letting go of one nagging thought at a time until all that remains is the sound of your heart beating and breath going in and out.


young woman reading card

6. Pick a card, any card.

Have you ever had a bad day and come home to find a card from a loved one in the mail? Knowing that someone is thinking good things about you can be an uplifting and powerful heart warmer, so imagine making that gesture of kindness for yourself. “I love to encourage my clients to go to a card store and buy themselves a loving card,” says Cohen. “It’s wonderful to write a note inside, honoring and appreciating yourself, and offering yourself encouragement.”


Wall covered in colourful post-it notes.

7. Decorate your personal space with positive messages and mantras.

Cohen encourages her clients to surround themselves with physical reminders of positive, encouraging messages. “In my office, I have painted rocks and notecards bearing messages such as ‘I matter,’ ‘I am worthy,’ ‘I will take time for me,’ and ‘I am enough,’” she says. “Keeping these kinds of messages around where you can see them regularly can really help the practice of self-care and kindness.”



Man Watching Movie in Empty Theater

8. Take yourself on a date.

The idea of going to a restaurant or a movie sans friends or a romantic partner may seem a bit daunting. But all it takes is one time to realize that the experience can actually be quite enjoyable. What restaurant do you typically only go to for special occasions? What type of food do you love to eat but never feel like making at home—or don’t know how? Is there a movie or a live show you’ve been wanting to see? Make a reservation, buy the tickets, and go solo. Bring a book to read if you can’t handle the thought of eating alone and without conversation. Your self will be immensely grateful for the gesture.


As a final thought, Cohen says, “I encourage people to consider all of the ways they show love and kindness to others, and then urge them to treat themselves with the same attention, consideration, nurturance, forgiveness, and respect.”

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  • Leave a Comment
  • angelina

    March 15th, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Aww these are sweet. I can’t be the only person who has a hard time with this can I? I suppose that what they say is true, that we are owur own harshest critic, and I find that to ve tru more and more opften. I realize that we are supposed to be kind ot ourselves because quite frankly there are very few others who will be, but you start listening to not only the voices in your head but the other voices all around us and it all becomes so critical somehow. I think that the idea of just letting it all go and taking yourself out to do something nice that you enjoy would be a nice change of pace for any of us. Who cares if the movie ends up being dumb or the food ends up being bad? You chose it, you did it, and it wa stime that you got to spend doing something that you wanted to do, without having to listen to anything negative from anyone else.

  • Shaw

    March 17th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    Any of these would be outstanding, at any point in time, but on a regular basis, just be true and kind ot yourself!

  • diane e

    March 18th, 2014 at 3:58 AM

    agree with shaw-
    there are already enough naysayers out there to bring you down
    you have to resolve to work against that and do only the best for yourself

  • Cheri

    March 20th, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    You know what would be even greater than just doing one of these things? If you could find a way to work at least three or four of them into one day! Now that would indeed be a treat! I know you think, oh wow, who has time for that. But think about this, we make time for all this other stuff in our lives, so can’t we take one day and leave it just for a little self care? I am the world’s worst about ignoring myself too so I know it can be hard to carve out that time but then I think about how good it makes me feel when I do and I wonder why I don’t take the time to do it more often.

  • jt

    March 22nd, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    do you think that my coworkers would kill me if they came into work on Monday and my entire office space was filled with sticky notes of positive affirmations?

  • Depressed Dancer

    August 3rd, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    I try to build random acts of self kindness into my day – a cup of tea and a few minutes sit down, playing a favourite game on my phone.

    It’s not always easy for me to feel self worth, but I hope that if I treat myself well and surround myself with people who do the same then the rest will follow.

  • Clara

    August 8th, 2014 at 1:41 AM

    I love your concept of random acts of self-kindness. We so often think about being kind to ourselves in such big terms that it is easy to find the obstactles straight away, yet there are so many small ways in which we can act kindly towards ourselves which are achievable no matter how busy we are or how much money we have.

  • Theresa

    July 25th, 2015 at 10:34 AM

    These are good, but I often fInd the self-care type tips tend to be geared toward introverted people. These things help me when I feel extreme stress and pressure, but for the most part, getting out and spending time with friends and laughing makes me feel better about anything. The only thing I have to be careful about is scheduling too much time with others because I wind up rushing around to do everything and nit getting enough family time. There has to be balance m!

  • Stepfanie

    November 8th, 2016 at 7:24 AM

    This is great because it help me with my homework

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