In a productivity-minded society, it can feel impossible to slow down to take care of yourself. After all, who has the time?
And in some cases, you may spend a lot of time, money, and energy focused on what you can do for self-care. Self-care is an excellent practice for supporting your wellness, but have you heard of self-compassion?
Self-compassion is the practice of being kind to yourself, understanding that people share a common humanity with many common challenges, and the use of mindfulness to stay present and observe life as it comes. Research supports the idea that practicing self-compassion increases an individual’s overall feelings of wellness.
The Three Facets of Self-Compassion
According to research from psychologist Dr. Kirsten Neff, self-compassion can be broken down into three primary categories. These categories are based on how you may feel compassion toward others to provide a framework for self-compassion.
You’ve likely heard the golden rule--treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s much easier to offer this type of kind, gentle compassion to someone else. You likely don’t expect the people around you to be perfect and can see the need to provide compassionate support even when they’ve made a mistake. Why are you any different?
Could you imagine a world in which you could offer yourself this same grace? What if you could make mistakes, mess up, say the wrong thing, or fail and still provide yourself kindness? Self-compassionate people can offer themselves this kindness by understanding that they are not meant to be perfect, and they deserve kindness anyway.
When challenging experiences come up, it can often feel isolating. It may feel like you are the only person in the world who has ever had this particular experience or frustration. Isolation can feel like no one can understand you or that no one is failing the way that you are.
Common humanity is the idea that all human beings struggle and fail sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes, fails at something, or does things they regret. Recognizing that you are not alone in your challenging experiences is a way to practice self-compassion. You are not alone; struggle is part of being a human. You deserve compassion anyway.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing yourself back to the present moment--it can look like meditation, yoga, mindful walks, deep breathing, or simply observing the world around you without judgment.
In terms of self-compassion, mindfulness allows you to observe the challenges you are facing. It helps create a state of present observation where you are not attached to your thoughts or feelings. Mindfulness promotes self-compassion by allowing you to observe what is happening without reacting and creating space to make a self-compassionate choice in how you respond.
Why Self-Compassion Matters
Self-compassion is directly tied to your feelings of well-being and can support your mental and emotional health. Practicing kindness, mindfulness, and engaging with community all support well-being individually. When used together can improve feelings of wellness even more.
Additionally, practicing self-compassion supports resilience and flexibility when you feel ashamed. It can also support you when life gets challenging.
The more you can practice self-compassion, the more you reinforce the pathways that will help you to face future difficulties. Life gets hard at times, and self-compassion will help you face those hard moments.
How To Practice Self-Compassion
You know that self-compassion is important, so how do you actually practice it?
Practice self-kindness by treating yourself with gentleness. Engage in self-care activities that support self-soothing. For example, you may enjoy gentle movement or stretching, drinking a hot cup of tea, or spending time by yourself in nature. It may also look like saying no or setting a boundary. Self-kindness will look different for everyone--check in with yourself to see what feels kind to you.
Practicing feeling connected to common humanity can be tricky. It may look like using an affirmation to remind yourself, “I am not alone in how I feel” or “no one is perfect.” It may also look like reflective journaling about experiences you know you have shared with other people. Find ways to regularly ground yourself and remember that you are not alone.
Like everything else, mindfulness practice looks different for everyone. You may want to practice self-compassion mindfulness through meditation or reflective journaling. You might use a body scan exercise to start or end your day. It can also be helpful to speak what you are noticing out loud to bring yourself back to the moment--this may look like saying “I am stressed” or “I feel the tension in my neck right now.”
Self-compassion can support your overall well-being and help you increase your resilience for future challenges. Self-compassion consists of self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity. Practicing self-compassion will look different for everyone, so it is important to check in with yourself to see what resonates for you.
At The Mental Health House, we are passionate about practicing self-compassion. Connect with us today to learn more!