Self-compassion or simply being kind to yourself, is always available to you as emotional first-aid, and it has enormous health benefits.
Over many years, researchers such as Dr Kristin Neff of the University of California Berkley, have found that kindness to yourself opens the door to recovery from illnesses as serious as depression and anxiety, as well as from feeling temporarily down about life circumstances, the past, or aspects of yourself.
So how do you access greater self-compassion?
Let’s get practical.
Self-compassion is strengthened through extending mindful attention to our inner world rather than taking it for granted. By noticing what’s happening inside us in the moment, we can observe that some thoughts support us and some hurt us. We care for ourselves deeply by making choices about the thoughts and feelings we want to buy into. We build resilience by learning to expand around thoughts and feelings and calmly exist with them rather than avoiding them or fusing with them.
We can embody self-love and compassion through giving ourselves permission to discover and follow our passions and find our way into the state that psychologist Abraham Maslow called ‘peak experience’. A peak experience is just like the flow state or our ‘zone of genius’ as it involves utter absorption. Time melts away and there is nothing but being in the experience of each moment as it comes and goes. In flow or a peak experience, we are in communion with our passion – we are in a space of being love. When we experience ourselves in this kind of love, we know ourselves better, we like ourselves better.
Forgiveness is a vital part of kindness to ourselves and others. We’ve all made mistakes and there is no point in running from them if they want your attention. We can take notice of how we feel and take responsibility for our emotional responses rather than reacting or blaming others for our feelings and our struggles. Emotional responsibility means not lashing out in rage or frustration at others. It means cultivating the patience to reflect on inner assumptions and become aware of prejudices rather than automatically letting our animal-brain rule our behaviour and our words. Emotional responsibility responds mindfully rather than reacts thoughtlessly. Responding mindfully means not getting caught up in a spiral of reactivity and subsequent guilt and regrets.
By taking time to be – in meditation, in contemplation – we can give ourselves ‘the time of day’, give ourselves the loving presence that is our gift to give by listening to our thoughts and sorting the helpful from the unhelpful, supporting ourselves at that deepest level through awareness. ‘Being’ time can evolve into a pervasive mindfulness in daily life.
Balance reflection with action. Keep finding ways to light yourself up every day so that you’re in the flow of your essence – which is love – because love is the driving force of life and the glue that makes the connections between everything living. Actively give it, breathe it out, and let the return flow look after itself.
To read more on creating greater happiness and freeing yourself from unhelpful patterns of the past, checkout Lovelands by Dr Debra Campbell on Amazon.
Psychologist and author Dr Debra Campbell has worked in private practice, consulting on everything from panic to depression and parenting problems. For several years, she was also a couple therapist. Prior to psychology Debra was the director of Hobsons Bay Yoga and Natural Health and Newport Yoga Centre. Her psychological research has been published in psychological journals in Australia and the USA. Find Debra, her blog and podcasts over at www.drdebracampbell.com
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