How to practise self-compassion
Self-compassion is not self-pity. It is about showing yourself kindness, support and understanding when you are suffering. Practising self-compassion during difficult situations or when things go wrong calms down the stress responses taking place in your brain and body. This helps you deal with things more effectively.
We often beat ourselves up when we make mistakes or don’t deal with things well. Kicking yourself while you are down only makes a bad situation worse. At its most basic level, you can practise self-compassion by treating yourself in the same way as you would treat someone you care about. Practising self-compassion creates a more positive mood and lower levels of anxiety. This is a lot more useful than the rubbish feeling we are left with when we beat ourselves up. It allows us to come to a place of acceptance about things and events.
Strategies for becoming more self-compassionate
1. Notice how you are with yourself
- Are you self-critical a lot of the time?
- Do you often have a go at yourself, especially when things go wrong?
2. Ask yourself
- Is it fair to be that hard on yourself?
- Would you talk to others in the same way the way you sometimes talk to yourself? How do you think they would feel?
- Is it harder to be good to yourself than to other people?
3. Change the way you treat yourself
- Change the critical and negative language you use when talking to yourself into something gentler and more accepting.
- Speak to, encourage and comfort yourself the way you would someone you care about. Give yourself lots of caring and reassuring messages.
- Acknowledge this may be a time of suffering but suffering is part of life and will pass and get better. Self-compassion is not about pretending everything is OK. It’s about giving yourself the help, support and encouragement you need to get through.
4. Touch is important
- For most people, gentle touch from another person helps calm your stress response down.
- When you actively practise self-compassion, try putting your hand or your heart, arm or hand. Feeling the comforting warmth of your touch will send soothing messages to your brain which help calm you down.
5. Commit to being more self-compassionate
- Start making some basic changes which will mean you are being kinder and more compassionate with yourself.
- Notice when you are giving yourself punitive and critical messages. Change them to something supportive.
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