Self-compassion, or how kind we are to ourselves, is a really important skill to develop in order to cope well with the challenges we face. If you missed part 1, please have a quick read to get an idea of what self-compassion is and why it is so important. You may also like to complete the self-compassion questionnaire to see how you’re going now, and then you could re-take the same test after a few weeks of implementing some of these techniques, and see if it picks up any change. Today’s message is all about what practical steps we can take to become more self-compassionate.
- Mindfulness practice.
This basically means being aware of the present moment, as opposed to being caught up with thinking about the past or future. The more ‘present’ you are, the more you will be aware of your experiences and notice when self-compassion is required. Regular mindfulness exercises will strengthen these pathways in your brain, so that it comes more naturally each day. This is a lengthy process, and no-one is ever fully ‘present’ at all times, so don’t be discouraged if progress feels slow at first.
Mindfulness exercises can be as simple as closing your eyes and noticing your breathing for a couple of minutes, allowing thoughts to pass as they arise without judgement, but each time refocusing on your breath.
- Treat yourself how you would treat a friend.
Sometimes, being kind to ourselves is such a foreign concept that we don’t even know where to start. Imagine it is your good friend in your situation, and you are comforting them. Think about the words you would use, things you would do, and what you would expect of them. Often it’s quite different from how we treat ourselves!
Remember that kindness is an active step to take, not merely the passive thoughts you have. You need to think about the actions you will take to be compassionate towards yourself in that moment.
- Give yourself permission to enjoy life.
These days people often feel the constant need to be productive. We are so busy, and much of our day is planned and scheduled. Our decisions are driven by deadlines, commitments, self-growth, budget, or giving to others. Sometimes, we need to give ourselves permission to do something that is just for fun, or a little extravagant – buy the nicer shoes, spend a few hours having coffee with a book in a café, or buy the expensive ingredients for a gourmet meal. Taking these moments allows us to pause and enjoy life, rather than rushing through it.
- Memorise a helpful phrase
You may find it helpful to have a phrase you can repeat to yourself when challenges arise, or when you notice negative self-talk. The phrase can be whatever feels right to you, but should include the three aspects of self-compassion we discussed in part 1 of this topic:
– Mindfulness and awareness of your current suffering.
– Acknowledging that suffering is a normal part of life and part of common humanity.
– Kindness towards yourself.
An example might be:
“This is really difficult and painful. Everyone feels this way sometimes. I need to be kind to myself right now”.
If you repeat this phrase frequently, it will come to you automatically when needed.
- Keep a self-compassion journal.
Writing about our thoughts and experiences can be a useful way to process our emotions and learn from them. Use the same three components of self-compassion discussed in point 4, and write about the event, how it relates to common humanity, and how you might practice self-kindness.
- Loving kindness meditation
This specific type of meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others. You can find an example here.
When changing any part of our thought process, persistence is the key. Pick one or two things from the list above to try first, then slowly make your way through the rest. If you find a couple of these exercises suit you better, or are easier to fit into your busy life, then stick with those. You will see greater results by persisting with one or two practices, rather than trying them all for a few days or weeks and then finding it’s all too hard.
If you would like to learn about more simple exercises that will help you reduce stress and boost resilience, consider signing up for my free 10 day email course!