Self-compassion involves becoming aware of the presence of suffering in our bodies, emotions, thoughts, and actions—and then taking steps to diminish the suffering. Compassion is the natural and spontaneous feeling that arises when we witness suffering, and that triggers our taking action to alleviate the suffering. While it may sound easy, practicing compassion for ourselves is the more difficult of the two. Creating a practice to integrate self-compassionate feelings into your life can heal your mind and body, and open your heart to new heights.
Benefits of Self-Compassion
Research indicates that cultivating self-compassion can contribute to beneficial physical, emotional-mental, and interpersonal changes, such as:
Modulates hormonal functioning, especially of oxytocin and cortisol
Reduces the intensity and frequency of negative and chronic stress reactions
Copes with difficult emotional experiences
Moderates depression and anxiety
Increases emotional well being
Mitigates negative thinking, including rumination
Improves interpersonal relationships
Enhances patience, generosity, gratitude, acceptance, humility, openness, and gentleness
How do you typically react to yourself?
- What types of things do you typically judge and criticize yourself for (appearance, career, relationships, parenting, etc.)?
- What type of language do you use with yourself when you notice some flaw or make a mistake (do you insult yourself, or do you take a more kind and understanding tone)?
- When you are being highly self-critical, how does this make you feel inside?
- When you notice something about yourself you don’t like, do you tend to feel cut off from others, or do you feel connected with your fellow humans who are also imperfect?
- What are the consequences of being so hard on yourself? Does it make you more motivated and happy, or discouraged and depressed?
- How do you think you would feel if you could truly love and accept yourself exactly as you are? Does this possibility scare you, give you hope, or both?
- How do you typically react to life difficulties? How do you treat yourself when you run into challenges in your life? Do you tend to ignore the fact that you’re suffering and focus exclusively on fixing the problem, or do you stop to give yourself care and comfort?
- Do you tend to get carried away by the drama of the situation, so that you make a bigger deal out of it than you need to, or do you tend to keep things in a balanced perspective?
- Do you tend to feel cut off from others when things go wrong, with the irrational feeling that everyone else is having a better time of it than you, or do you get in touch with the fact that all humans experience hardship in their lives?
If you feel that you lack sufficient self-compassion, check in with yourself – are you criticizing yourself for this too? If so, stop right there. Try to feel compassion for how difficult it is to be an imperfect human being in this extremely competitive society of ours. Most of us live in cultures that do not emphasize self-compassion, it’s time for something different. We can all benefit by learning to be more self-compassionate, and now is the perfect time to start. Attending one of our Women’s Mindfulness retreats is the perfect starting point.