Through the many challenges in today's world, we must find ways to support ourselves, so that in turn, we can support our communities. One important way in which we can support ourselves is by exercising self-compassion, a key component of well-being. What is self-compassion? Most experts view self-compassion as consisting of three key elements: 1) Treating yourself with kindness, 2) recognizing our shared humanity and 3) being mindful when considering negative aspects of yourself. Let's look at each of these three elements.
No. 1: Treat yourself with kindness.
Have you seen signs or bumper stickers that say, "Be kind"? If so, does your mind immediately drift toward kindness to others? When we think of being kind, we often think outside the self. While extending kindness to others is important, extending kindness (and friendliness) to ourselves is also key and will support our well-being.
Too often, we treat ourselves with harsh criticism or judgment. I certainly do. I want to offer my best self to my family, friends and clients, but I fall short at times. I often judge my shortcomings rather than accepting them. Sharon Salzberg, a New York Times bestselling author and expert meditation teacher, says: "You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your kindness and affection."
Showing self-kindness means recognizing and embracing your worth as unconditional, even when you fall short of your own expectations.
No. 2: Recognize our shared humanity.
The field of positive psychology teaches us that we have a common humanity, a shared human experience. All people fail and make mistakes. We lead imperfect lives. Once we accept these facts, we can develop a broader and more connected perspective regarding individual shortcomings and difficulties — our own and those of others.
The need for connection is part of human nature. Feeling understood and united through human connection can be one of the most rewarding elements in life. Human connections have the power to build bonds between people, inspire change and build trust. Positive human connections can also lower our risk for anxiety and depression and help us to better regulate our emotions.
No. 3: Be mindful when considering negative aspects of yourself.
We all have negative storylines such as "I'm no good" or "I won't succeed." It's important to gain freedom from these habitual negative responses. One way to do this is to learn to step back and recognize that the negative things that we tell ourselves are not facts; they are just thoughts.
Mindfulness involves developing focus and an awareness of our experience in the present moment. When we take mindful moments throughout each day, we can create space between ourselves and our reactions and gain freedom from things that trigger us. Taking mindful moments helps us to tune in to how a thought or action makes us feel.
Try this for two minutes, and repeat several times each day:
First, recognize a negative thought. If your negative thought is, "Things will never work out for me," take a moment to recognize and acknowledge this thought without judgment.
Then, begin deep breathing and continue for 60-90 seconds. Deep breathing will help you release not only tension in your body but also negative thoughts. Inhale deeply for a count of three, hold the breath for a count of three and then exhale slowly for a count of three. During your practice, imagine negative thoughts leaving your body with each exhale.
Finally, name a positive. Your breathing practice will help you to relax. In your relaxed state, ask yourself: "What's good in my life right now?" Whatever your answer might be, acknowledge it and let it linger. Repeat this exercise two to three times each session.
These mindful moments will ultimately become a habit and support more positive thinking. Individuals who practice self-compassion typically display higher levels of optimism, gratitude and positive affect than those who lack self-compassion.
To find out more about Julie Rosenberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: reneebigelow at Pixabay