It’s all the rage nowadays; self care, self love and at the heart of it all – self compassion. Considering what we have all been through the last year with the pandemic, our life style changes and living in the unknown, a little bit of self love and compassion is needed.
But what does self compassion really mean and how do we go about practicing it? Even more importantly, how can self compassion help us to help others? Pull up a meditation cushion and let’s find out.
Do you ever find yourself thinking unkind thoughts to yourself? Give yourself a hard time for the most minor of mistakes? Stub your toe and call yourself an idiot? You’re not alone! It turns out we are really good at thinking negatively about ourselves (and others).
Self compassion is a method of having awareness of these unhelpful thinking patterns and working to alter them over time. Once you take control of your self-talk, you can have more control over how you feel and react to things that are outside of your control. And that’s just about everything else! Researchers have also found a release of oxytocin occurs when we practice loving kindness and this has beneficial cardiovascular effects. Talk about a body bonus!
A good starting point is to try treating yourself as you treat your best friend, or most beloved family member. When our loved ones are struggling with a problem what do we do? Give them lots of support, encouragement and remind them of why we love them. We can do this for ourselves too. Here are some key areas for treating yourself with kindness:
Everyone makes mistakes and no-one should be judged solely for their missteps. You’re only human, the same as everyone else and that’s okay. No superheroes need to read this blog…
You may have certain thoughts or feelings on certain days, but they are not factual and often not meaningful. Thoughts come and go at random, and you don’t have to listen to them. In fact, choosing not to listen can be the most empowering tool at your disposal.
Try this the next time you notice a negative thought arise. Instead of “I’m such a fool for letting that person hurt me again”, remind yourself “It’s okay that I feel upset and I know this feeling won’t last forever.”
A good way of getting great at noticing your thoughts, is by practicing mindfulness. There are so many resources for you to give this a try, from (free app) Insight Timer for your phone, to endless books, blogs and YouTube videos with helpful tips on how to become more mindful. Meditation can be a part of it, but if that’s not ‘your bag’, you can still come into awareness at any time or place in the day. Simply pause, take some deep breaths, notice what you can see, hear, smell, feel the air on your skin, feel your feet on the ground. Just this technique will tune you in to a deeper self awareness, making it easier to notice unwelcome thoughts.
Practicing gratitude is a good way of finding perspective. When we appreciate what we have, we learn to value the positive things in our lives. We can see more clearly what is important in life and it feels easier to let go of the minor incidents that once felt so significant. Exhale, let it go, feel the release.
So now you’re thinking ‘this may be all well and good for me, but how is it helping to change the world through giving?!’ Well, when you make self compassion a part of your life, it becomes second nature. You’ll find you treat others with more patience, kindness and love. Someone cutting you off in traffic will no longer fuel an angry rant from you, you may find you can take it in your stride and wish them well. And that feels better for everyone.
For more posts like this one, go to 365give and find new ways of caring for yourself and others.