Last week I shared about the importance of sleep in overall health and wellness. Another often neglected foundation to building overall well-being is self-compassion. Self-compassion has been shown to improve physical health, lower anxiety and depression, boost energy and positive mood, and enhance our relationships with others.
Self-compassion is a feeling of warmth, caring, and interest, that may be most recognizable when thinking of others. Think about how you’ve felt when you’ve cared for a pet that is shivering, or picked up a baby that is whimpering, or comforted an old friend when they’re feeling down. Those feelings let us know that healing hormones and helpful neurotransmitters are active in our body. Encouraging those feelings is a practical way to build inner strength and happiness. Applying those feelings to ourselves can reduce the self-blaming critical thoughts which hinder more effective ways of thinking and problem solving.
In our demanding world, self-compassion can be mis-characterized as coddling or indulgent. It is not. Instead it is an effective skill for building positive emotions and resilience. Like physical activity and social connections, nurturing self-compassion is a skill for better living. And like other skills for healthy living, it is a skill that can be practiced and strengthened.
There are many ways to practice self-compassion throughout the day. Take a moment to notice tensions that may be in your body. Relax those tense muscles with care. Notice when you have thoughts that are overly self-critical and remind yourself that you are better off not saying anything to yourself that you would not say to a good friend. Take some time each day to breath and recall feelings of compassion for another. Apply those feelings to yourself. It’s more than okay to kindle self-compassion – it is good for you to be good to you!