Move Over Mindfulness. Hello Self Compassion.
'When we give ourselves compassion, we open our hearts in a way that can transform our lives'
~ Kristin Neff
In recent years there's been lots of talk on 'self love' or 'self care'. It's an important practice to help restore emotional wellbeing. It's something, especially as Mothers and being busy, we easily neglect, and to be honest, something I've found difficult to grasp.
Until self compassion came along.
I recently went to a talk on self compassion. The presenter, Amy Finlay Jones, is an academic with personal insights into self compassion after suffering a chronic illness in her youth.
She shared the more self compassionate we are, the more emotionally well we are. The more self compassionate we are the better we manage stress and the more resilient we are to stress.
Managing stress (emotional and neurological wellbeing) is one of the 3 pillars in my approach to wellness. I was intrigued to learn the strong connection between high stress and low self compassion and vice versa.
Stress is a close companion of dis-ease.
It's easy to conclude the more self compassionate we are the happier and healthier we are.
Amy shared that self compassion is actually more important than a current hot topic in the wellness world... Mindfulness. Here's why;
Self compassion is defined as, 'extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering' i.e. it's like extending the same care and concern towards ourselves - that we would to a close friend. To feel compassion for another or for ourselves (rather than mere pity), means that we realise that feeling of suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience i.e. we are not alone. This in itself can give a feeling of relief and a lightening of the mental (mother)load.
This really came home to me. The way I talk to myself sometimes actually a lot of the time, is not the way I would talk to a close friend - ever! 'Can't', 'Won't', 'Lazy' 'Stupid' etc etc... Rarely a kind word. I'd never say that to a close friend, so why do I say it to myself? I'm sure you can relate. Then imagine how that makes me FEEL?
I'm reminded of Fi Redding, The Happiness Hunter who talks a lot about awareness - and for good reason.
Holiday pic, Karijini National Park. The oldest known landscape on earth and where awareness is second nature.
First, we need awareness.
With awareness we are present enough to hear what the voice in our heads is telling us i.e. what we're creating within ourselves and our lives everyday. Which is then when mindfulness, meditation, walking etc comes into play. The perfect tools to help us become aware of the conversation in our minds and to therefore consciously upgrade it.
Take a moment to check-in with how you're talking to yourself? Are you being kind or beating yourself up? If you're like me, and for most of us, I suspect it's the latter. You're not alone. Most of us verbally 'beat ourselves up' and it's actually an evolutionary survival mechanism we've developed to protect ourselves. However in our busy modern lives this mechanism no longer serves us and if we don't act on it, can actually sabotage our emotional wellbeing and our happiness.
Personally I've found it's easy to be happy when I'm kinder to me. It starts with me and - it's an inside job.
11 simple ways to cultivate awareness of thoughts and self compassion;
- Being mindful.
- Resetting expectations. If all you get to do in the day is put out a load or washing or get a meal on the table for everyone. That's fantastic. It really is. Be kind.
- Taking time to breathe. The breathe has the power to instantly connect the mind with the body, immediately bringing us into the present moment.
- Paying attention to the moment i.e. this moment right now. Amy shared this great video clip. Take a moment to watch this short video, 'moments'.
- Disconnecting to connect. Turn off screens, look up and spend time outside.
- Taking time to notice feelings, acknowledge and accept them.
- Stimulating the senses. The outdoors is a perfect antidote to our de-sensitising world. Look, listen, see, smell, hear ... I wrote about this here, 'Are we de-sensitising? What I learnt camping'.
- Hanging out with children. Absorb their innate wonder and joy in discovering the world around them.
- Art, walking, exercising etc.
Do what you know brings you back into the present moment. Whatever works - practice more of it. Notice how you FEEL in those moments? What's that little voice saying and orchestrating? And allow yourself to feel feelings (not brushing them aside and moving onto the next thing). Be kind.
What about our children?
The talk I went to was in regard to cultivating self compassion in our kids as a way to safeguard their mental / emotional health. They're less likely to relate to the first 5 ideas above, however what we can do is;
- get them enjoying the outdoors a lot more.
- coming along to the dinner table or any meal time to take a moment. Take a moment for appreciating the meal, where it came from, how it got there, chewing food and eating mindfully.
- allowing them to FEEL their feelings and
- role modelling. Another great place to start.
It's not rocket science, however it's hard and it needs practice.
We are human beings. Not human doings.
With it's similarity to kin, I wanted to know the origin of the word kind. The word “kind” is one of the oldest in the English language. It originally meant “nature.” Kindness is our nature. It is innate. It is ... natures medicine. I love that.
The psychologist Blair Justice wrote,
"Letting ourselves feel that sense of wonder that surrounds us every single minute is what elevates our hearts beyond a mechanical pump and turns them into instruments of love and kindness.