How do you typically react to difficulties in life—work stress, feeling rejected, physical problems, or financial hardship? As human beings, most of us instinctively fight negative experiences and find fault in ourselves when things go wrong: “This shouldn’t be happening!” “What’s the matter with me!?” Unfortunately, this tendency just adds stress to our lives and the critical self-talk defeats us before we know what’s happening. For example, the more we struggle to fall asleep, the harder it is to sleep; fighting with anxiety makes us feel worried all the time; and blaming ourselves for feeling bad just makes us depressed. But what would happen if, instead, you took a moment to calm and comfort yourself when you felt bad, just because you felt bad—much like you’d do for others? In other words, what if you learned the art of mindful self-compassion?
Self-compassion is a skill that can be learned by anyone, even those who didn’t receive enough affection in childhood or who find it embarrassing to be kind to themselves. Self-compassion is actually a courageous mental attitude that stands up to harm—the harm that we inflict on ourselves every day by overworking, overeating, overanalyzing, and overreacting. With mindful self-compassion, we’re better able to recognize when we’re under stress and face what’s happening in our lives (mindfulness) and to take a kinder and more sustainable approach to life’s challenges. Self-compassion gives emotional strength and resilience, allowing us to recover more quickly from bruised egos to admit our shortcomings, forgive ourselves, and respond to ourselves and others with care and respect. After all, making mistakes is part of being human. Self-compassion also provides the support and inspiration required to make necessary changes in our lives and reach our full potential.
Research has shown that self-compassion greatly enhances emotional well-being. It boosts happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, and can even help you stick to your diet and exercise routine. And it’s easier than you think. Most of us feel compassion when a close friend is struggling. What would it be like to receive the same caring attention whenever you needed it most? All that’s required is shift in the direction of our attention—recognizing that as a human being, you, too, are a worthy recipient of compassion.
At the completion of this activity, participants should be able to:
- describe the theory and research supporting mindful self-compassion
- motivate themselves with encouragement rather than self-criticism
- relate to difficult emotions with greater moment-to-moment acceptance
- respond to feelings of failure or inadequacy with self-kindness
- begin to transform difficult relationships, old and new, through self-validation
- practice the art of savoring and self-appreciation
- integrate core mindfulness and self-compassion exercises into daily life
- teach simple self-compassion practices to patients, students, or clients