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The importance of self-compassion in our daily lives

Buddhism defines compassion as “a non-judgemental open heartiness to the suffering of self and others with a strong desire to alleviate suffering in all living things”. (Dalai Lama, 1995, 2001)


Research has well documented that a lack of ability to feel compassion for the self, blame oneself and self-criticize underpins much of human suffering, misery and psychopathy (Gilbert 2009).


When people feel depressed, anxious and dejected they feel others do not care for them and are likely to feel criticized, abandoned and rejected. Subsequently they may not value or care for themselves either. This results in both their outer and inner worlds appearing cold and hostile.


Therefore compassion should be viewed as a key component in our mind that we can learn to develop, nurture, and facilitate. This can help us become more attuned in our relationship to the environment, our social relationships and our sense of ourselves. Compassion can develop with mindful practice (a change in awareness of the nature of mind) and by combining mindfulness with various mediations and actions (Leighton 2003). Therefore the core of compassion is that our minds seek to create care focused interactions. Our ability to be compassionate also means that we need to be familiar with our own minds and have self-compassion.


Often we can struggle to demonstrate compassion for ourselves, we can strive for impossible goals, place enormous demands on ourselves, avoid pain full feelings and not allow pleasant feelings to be felt. There is much research completed on self-compassion by The Compassionate Mind Foundation (http://www.compassionatemind.co.uk/) and prof. Paul Gilbert. They suggest creating a compassionate image as the first step for those who struggle with self-compassion.


Building a Compassionate Image

This exercise has been found to help those who struggle with accessing compassion within themselves. It has been found that creating a compassionate image helps install the value of compassion within yourself. Find a quiet place and just experience your thoughts and images as they come to mind – they are your creation and your own personal design. Once you have located an image you can give this image certain qualities - wisdom, kindness, strength, a non - judgmental outlook.


Questions to ask yourself when creating a compassionate image:

  • Is it a person whom I attribute compassion to; examples used are Mother Therese, Nelson Mandela, a friend, a kind helper on the street, a character from TV / Film / books.

  • How would you like your compassionate image to sound? For example, in a loud, soft voice, various different accents, a voice from a favourite TV / film, a calming person from your childhood.

  • How would you like your compassionate image to relate to you?

  • How would you like to relate to your compassionate image?

It has been found helpful in times of distress and emotional challenges to call upon this compassionate image and to gain reassurance from the knowledge that the qualities created can be utilized in your mind. For example when engaging in self-criticism with regards not completing a task 110 percent it can be helpful to image the compassionate image and to reflect upon a compassionate response to the demands you may place upon yourself.


Self-Compassion in Daily Life To be mindful and self-compassionate in daily life means to know when you are under stress or suffering (mindfulness) and to respond with care and kindness (self-compassion). The simplest approach is to discover how you already care for yourself and then remind yourself to do these things when your life becomes difficult.


Physically

How do you care for yourself physically (e.g. exercise, massage, warm bath, cup of tea)?Can you think of new ways to release the tension and stress that builds up in your body?

Mentally

How do you care for your mind, especially when your under stress (e.g. meditation, watch a funny movie, read an inspiring book)?Is there a new strategy you’d like to try to let your thoughts come and go easily.


Emotionally

How do you care for yourself emotionally (spend time with your pets, write a journal, cook nice foods)?Is there something new you’d like to try?


Relationally

How or when do you relate to others that brings genuine happiness (e.g. meet new friends, send a birthday card, play a game?).Is there any way that you’d like to enrich these connections?

Spiritually

What do you do to care for yourself spiritually (walk in the woods, help others, pray, meditate)?If you’ve been neglecting your spiritual side, is there anything you’d like to remember go do?

Recommended Reading:

  • The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert, Compassionate Mind Foundation

  • The Compassionate Mind Approach to Building Self Confidence by Mary Welford

  • The Compassionate Mind Approach to Overcoming Anxiety by Dennis Tirch

  • The Compassionate Mind Approach to Recovery from Trauma by Deborah Lee

  • Improving Self Confidence & Reducing Shyness Using Compassion Focused Therapy by Lynne Henderson

  • The Compassionate Mind Approach to Managing Your Anger by Russell Kolts

Source: our Partner Wrkit.

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