How to Boost Your Self Compassion

Be kind to yourself: Role of self-compassion in mental health

When tough times knock on your door, bring in self-compassion to allay any fears or doubts. Stay resilient and shower yourself with the love you need to keep going.

I still remember the day I was in labor. Laden with anxious thoughts about how and when the baby will be safely delivered, my emotions were pretty much evident as well as reflected on the face of my husband and my near and dear ones as they took me inside the labor room. I was nervous, filled with strange fears about my health and safety. Sensing my suffering and silent pain, the nurse standing next to me just said, “Do not worry, your doctor and I have both given birth to beautiful and healthy kids, apart from helping many more first-time mothers like you to deliver these tiny bundles of sheer joy in this world.” Her words brought instant relief.

I was not the first woman to go through this hardship. My mother, along with thousands of others, must have experienced the same when I came into being. These thoughts had a magical effect on my desire to stay resilient to deliver my baby. All my anxieties and worries vanished quickly with the emergence of this feeling of self-compassion. This allowed me to nurture all my courage and mental strength towards delivering my little baby.

So here are some valuable lessons I learned about the role of self-compassion in one’s resilience and mental health.

Brings sense of control

The power of self-compassion is unique in the sense that the mere awareness of the presence of one’s own suffering can generate an emotional resonance with that suffering. It can then induce a desire or action to relieve that suffering. Mathematically speaking, Self-Compassion = Self-Awareness + Empathy for Self + Action by Self.

This equation can have a major impact on our life, by enhancing our resilience many fold and improving our mental health. The best part about self-compassion is that all three parameters are well within the control of the self and not dependent on any other external factor or situation. Self-compassion at its core, has a very simple message for humanity to follow – we need to be well to serve others well. A pioneer in the study of self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff of University of Texas sums its importance nicely, “Self-compassion is a sense of unconditional self-worth.”

Ushers love and kindness

Self-compassion is not about becoming indulgent about the self but being tender to our internal emotions, physical limitations and mental sufferings. If not addressed adequately, these very things can play havoc with the external factors and create chaos – bouts of anger, frustration and rage are some of the ways we tend to react when that happens.

By learning to be kind to ourselves, we are better prepared for the challenges that life throws at us to test our mettle. The power of self-compassion enables us to recognize and accept the difficult emotions or mistakes of our life. Self-compassion is all about giving love to ourself so that we stay resilient and traverse the tough parts of our life better.

Tweaks internal response system

It is a universal fact that we tend to resort to fight-flight-or-freeze response whenever confronted with a direct threat or any stressful situation. More often than not, we resort to the fight response to figure out a way to insulate ourselves from stressful consequences. However, our response is quite different when our loved ones or close friends are confronted with a similar threat or stress. We tend to initiate a tend-and-befriend response by acknowledging their suffering, comforting them and making a genuine effort to help them find a solution.

To realize the power of self-compassion and be resilient in our response to external provocations, we must shift our internal response system from fight-flight-or-freeze to tend-and-befriend. It is important to note that being kind to ourself is not a sign of weakness as traditionally believed. It helps bring about a strong response from within that is solution oriented and not fixated on the issue. “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others,” states clinical psychologist Christopher Germer who leads mindfulness and compassion-based psychotherapy in Massachusetts and is a part-time lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has even written a book ‘The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion’, suggesting ways to bring self-compassion into one’s life.

Key to mental health

The most significant aspect of self-compassion is to be aware of one’s own emotional state and feelings when in pain or suffering. This is difficult but possible to achieve by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches us to stay focussed on the present and acknowledge our thoughts and feelings without any judgemental bias. Instead of avoiding or overlooking difficult conditions and thoughts, mindfulness enables us to acknowledge the hardships of our life. This acknowledgement has the potential to reduce our anxieties and worries. Thus, mindfulness helps people cope with pain, lower blood pressure and improve sleep.

A calmer mind and better physical fitness improves our social response system, leading to a state of wellbeing and sound mental health. This positive self-image in turn helps us to be kinder to ourselves and develops greater confidence to handle any stressful situation better. Self-compassion enhances the benefits of mindfulness with warmth and care, offering us sympathy, kindness and a stabler mind.




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