Imagine having a best friend with you round the clock, helping you accept the present moment—no matter what it holds—with grace, building you up with kind words and reminding you that you’re not alone. This is essentially what self-compassion (SC) is and what it can do for you. But with SC, you are your own best friend.
Even though the idea of SC sounds great, many people are resistant to accessing/practicing it. The top reason is fear that SC will somehow make them lazy, unmotivated or complacent. However, research shows the opposite...that SC can actually enhance motivation.
A pioneer in the study of SC, Kristen Neff, PhD, has conducted research that suggests SC
- can be a “powerful trigger for the release of oxytocin”—a chemical in our bodies that increases feelings of trust, calm, safety and connectedness (think “warm and fuzzy” feeling).
- is not the same as self-esteem; self-esteem is an ego-based construct that is tied to outcomes (finances, physical appearance, etc.), which means it is constantly in flux.
- can significantly decrease body dissatisfaction.
- can improve personal happiness and increase interpersonal wellbeing.
Dr. Neff describes SC as having three key components:
- Mindfulness: Nonjudgmental awareness of how you’re feeling in the present moment. “I’m feeling sad because…”
- Shared Humanity: Recognizing that you are not alone in your suffering. “We all struggle at times.”
- Kindness: Expressing warmth and understanding. “I’m allowed to be imperfect. I also acknowledge that I’ve really gotten better at…”
Now, try putting it all together in a SC statement: “I’m feeling sad because I miss my friend who moved away. Feeling sad is part of life that everyone experiences. May I patient and loving with myself as I experience these tough feelings.”
You can tap into your SC any time of day or night—even (and especially)—if you’re struggling. Choose some activities that you can practice consistently to make SC a habit. Dr. Neff provides several free SC exercises on her website. Here are a few of our favorites:
It takes practice to override deeply ingrainedself-criticism with SC, but it’s so worth the effort!
If you’re in need of support in accessing and practicing self-compassion, the clinicians at Travco Behavioral Health can help. Contact us today!