October 24, 2022
3 Easy ways to weave self-compassion into your everyday life
My go-to tool in my mental health toolbox is self-compassion. This wasn’t always the case. I was pretty harsh on myself when I received a low score on a self-compassion test I took a few months back. I learned that I’m much better at showing compassion to others than directing that same kindness towards myself.
According to self-compassion pioneer, Dr. Kristin Neff, this is common—about 75% of people who find it easy to be compassionate towards others score very low on self-compassion tests and are not very nice to themselves. Somehow it’s tough not to criticize ourselves when we’ve made a mistake, or judge ourselves for perceived failures, yet much easier to hold others with gentleness and kind attention. Thankfully, self-compassion is a skill that we can learn and build upon, even if it feels awkward at first.
So, what exactly is self-compassion? And why is cultivating self-compassion important? Dr. Neff defines it nicely: “Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” When we experience setbacks in our lives, or simply feel low, self-compassion provides an invaluable way to nurture ourselves so we can move forward with greater ease. Studies show that practicing self-compassion helps reduce anxiety and depression, increase happiness, enhance performance, and even positively impacts immune system function.
Here are three easy ways that you can call on self-compassion in your everyday life to comfort yourself in times of challenge and remedy your mood.
Talk to yourself like a loved one
“Pull it together!” “That was stupid.” “I can’t believe you did that.” You would probably avoid saying such things to a friend or family member if they were struggling. These statements are equally unhelpful when directed towards ourselves. Call to mind what you would say to someone close to you in distress. Something like, “You did the best you could,” or, “We all make mistakes.” Try directing these phrases towards yourself next time you’re in a negative self-talk spiral. If positive self-talk doesn’t come naturally to you, you may find it easier to explore in writing. You can try journaling about an experience with a non-judgemental tone, or writing a supportive letter to yourself in third person.
Comfort yourself with supportive touch
A simple way to soothe yourself is through supportive touch. Supportive touch activates the parasympathetic nervous system, signaling that we are safe and helping us invite a sense of calm when faced with heightened emotions. See how it feels to put your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your heart. Allow yourself to be still for a few moments. Breathe deeply. Observe the natural rise and fall of your belly and chest beneath your hands as you breathe. Going further, you can try giving yourself a hug. You may also find that gently rocking yourself feels soothing.
Make a habit of checking in with yourself
Practice taking a moment to yourself for a mindful check-in. Ask yourself, “What is it I need right now?” This is a powerful mindful awareness tactic that can help you identify a kind course of action in moments that you need it the most. Nourishing yourself with a healthy meal, giving yourself permission to lie down and rest your body, or taking a mindful walk in solitude are just a few examples of acts of kindness you can extend towards yourself.
Practicing self-compassion is proven to increase our overall well-being. The more we practice, the bigger the impact on our health and happiness. As said by clinical psychologist and mindful self-compassion expert, Dr. Christopher Germer, “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
Written by Annie Slaby