Self-Compassion to Improve Emotional Health

by Gemma Charles
Freelance Writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Self-Compassion to Improve Emotional Health

Many of us are raised to analyse our flaws, to compare ourselves to others, and to constantly find ourselves lacking. We are taught that we should feel ashamed of our failings and that being as good as you can be isn’t always good enough. Unfortunately, developing this kind of self-criticism during childhood can have a dramatic impact on self-esteem in adulthood and can also have a negative impact on levels of emotional health and well-being. However, the good news is that it is possible to overcome these kinds of negative mental attitudes and to develop self-compassion: to be kinder to yourself, and stop judging yourself so negatively.

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is a relatively new concept that is often presented together with mindfulness but, in reality, it is an incredibly simple one: show the same compassion that you do to others to yourself.

Dr. Kristin Neff, the founder of selfcompassion.org, has written several books on the topic, defines self-compassion as “acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself this is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

Self-compassion is a learnable skill. If you find that you are being overly critical of yourself then you can stop and instead show yourself some kindness. Effectively, self-compassion is about cutting yourself some slack and relying on yourself for comfort when you need it.

Boost Your Levels of Self-Compassion

If you’ve experienced a setback, made a mistake, or are simply finding everyday life a challenge right now then there are plenty of ways that you can boost your levels of self-compassion to maintain your levels of emotional health. Individuals with high levels of self-compassion have been shown to have a much lower prevalence of depression and anxiety: being kind to yourself can help to protect your mental health. It is possible to make small physical changes to your daily routine that may help you to boost your levels of self-compassion: nourish your body by taking time out to make a healthy snack or meal, revitalise your body by laying down to have a rest, and physically stimulate your body by enjoying a massage. You could even massage your own hands or neck, if you don’t enjoy physical contact with others at moments of stress. All of these techniques will improve how you feel physically, which in turn can help to give your self-compassion a huge boost.

Compassion and Mindfulness

Other techniques that have been shown to boost individual levels of self-compassion include practicing mindfulness (there is a strong and proven link between compassion and mindfulness), and regularly taking time out of your day to give yourself some encouragement. We are often much kinder and more supportive of others than we are of ourselves. Think about what you would say to a good friend or family member who was having a bad day, had made a mistake, or was struggling with their self-esteem: frame that same message to yourself and give yourself a compassionate and nurturing pep talk and accept that nobody is perfect and that it is a mistake to aim for perfection or to compare yourself to others. Simply being you is enough.

The Science Behind Self-Compassion

Skeptical about how simply being kinder to yourself can improve your emotional health? Self-compassion has been proven to be beneficial to physical well-being . In fact, a study in the Psychoneuroendocrinology journal revealed that regularly demonstrating self-compassion lead to a reduction in the body’s cortisol levels: Cortisol is more commonly known as the “stress hormone.” As well as reducing your stress levels, practicing self-compassion was also shown to promote both the production and release of Oxytocin, a chemical that is widely known to increase happiness levels and decrease anxiety. Being self-compassionate doesn’t mean accepting mediocrity or not striving to be the best you can be. However, we all make mistakes and we all have failures: self-compassion encourages us to accept this and then let those failures go, so that we can move on with our life and continue to build positive mental health.

 

About Gemma Charles. Previous to starting a career as a freelance writer, Gemma worked for many years in business and finance. When she became a mother, she turned to writing to support her life, and now she pens articles on diverse topics from news and current affairs to pieces on money matters and emotional well-being. 

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Mindful Emotions

by Catherine DeAngelis

MindfulWomanHushWe see our world through our emotions. Emotions are a natural part of our being human. They are a portal to the outside world that keep us vibrant and allow us to answer to our senses like touch, sight, sound, smell and taste. Being mindful of our emotions connects us to the power to transform, renew or grow richly in our connection to live better in mind, heart and body. True awareness of our emotions in the present moment keeps us in check in how we manage or respond to our feelings, thoughts and moods.

One-hundred years ago Charles Darwin, renowned for his theory of evolution, brought us also “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.” Darwin informed us that emotions are common to all of us (no delineation formed, be it man,woman or specie). He described emotions come in basic form such as happiness, sadness, surprise or disgust.  We can argue Darwin’s descriptors are too few to define the kinds of emotion coming from what we know to be a brief, acute change in our conscious experience and physiology that occurs in response to a personally meaningful situation.

Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, spiritual teacher, author, and poet has written more than 40 books on peace and the practice of living in the present moment for a more mindful living!  He offers simple techniques from the Buddhist tradition that anyone can use to set in motion present moment awareness.

In his book, The Sun My Heart, he states “peace can exist only in the present moment. It is ridiculous to say “Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.” What is “this”? A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come.  There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. If you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only “the hope of peace some day.”

Highly respected Western theories have evolved and mindful living has become a dynamic approach specifically used to heal emotional to physical pain.  Individuals can learn to pay attention intentionally to what is occurring in immediate experience in a non-judgmental, caring and discerning way.

Mindfulness based-stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are techniques developed to bring emotions into awareness and to be better able to manage and control them.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher who brought the concept of mindfulness to the mainstream of medicine and societies. He believes Buddhist meditative practices, can liberate you, to a very large extent, from the experience of pain. Whether or not you can reduce the level of sensory pain, the affective and cognitive contributions to the pain— which make it much worse—usually can be lessened. And then, very often, the sensory component of the pain changes as well.

Standing side-by-side with Kabat-Zinn’s techniques are other distinguished doctors from Tara Brach, John D. Teesdale to Zindel Segal and many  more. The goal is to help change our relationship to pain and open ourselves up to it by paying attention to it. Mindfulness brings those who struggle with depression and difficult emotions a chance to reach for more happiness.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy practice helps thousands manage depression, stress, anger and addictions to chronic illnesses, including:

  • to become familiar with the workings of your mind
  • to explore ways of releasing yourself from those old habits and, if you choose, enter a different way of being
  • to put you in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world
  • to notice small beauties and pleasures in the world around you instead of living in your head
  • to be kind to yourself instead of wishing things were different all the time, or driving yourself to meet impossible goals
  • to find a way so you don’t have to battle with yourself all the time
  • to accept yourself as you are, rather than judging yourself

There are a variety of theories that offer how best to manage and respond to emotions. We’ve come so far as including emotions in the twelve-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Emotions Anonymous is composed of people who come together in weekly meetings for the purpose of working toward recovery from emotional difficulties. The only requirement for membership is a desire to become emotionally healthy.

As we continue with more research around mind, body, emotional health, we are learning more about the connection between good mental health and good physical health. Psychological studies show that your mind and your body are strongly linked. As your mental health declines, your physical health can wear down, and if your physical health declines, it can make you feel mentally “down.” Having a positive outlook can help keep you healthy, but having the right tools at hand can greatly increase our chances for a richer emotional life.

Being mindful of emotions and letting go of emotional pain is less easy on some than others in our workplace, family and societal cultures. We are desperately seeking to bridge the gap and create more possibilities for optimum emotional and mental well-being that go beyond living hopefully and living consistently with more happiness rather than none.

An insightful opening line comes from the prose poem “The Desiderata,” written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann: Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence… 

“HUMAN”
Sung by Christina Perri


Lyrics by Johnson, Martin / Perri, Christina
Published by: Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

I can hold my breath
I can bite my tongue
I can stay awake for days
If that’s what you want
Be your number one
I can fake a smile
I can force a laugh
I can dance and play the part
If that’s what you ask
Give you all I am

I can do it
I can do it
I can do it

But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human, yeah

I can turn it on
Be a good machine
I can hold the weight of worlds
If that’s what you need
Be your everything

I can do it
I can do it
I’ll get through it

But I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human, yeah

I’m only human
I’m only human
Just a little human

I can take so much
Until I’ve had enough

‘Cause I’m only human
And I bleed when I fall down
I’m only human
And I crash and I break down
Your words in my head, knives in my heart
You build me up and then I fall apart
‘Cause I’m only human, yeah

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416 246-0025
 

A Free Coach’s E-Guide on Emotionality

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What is Emotionality?

Emotional expression is the ultimate form of communication. If we suppress or deny emotions we are removing the tools that others need to understand, get to know, and like us. It denies us the chance to make our true self known…

Need to Know

  • The more we UNDERSTAND our own emotions, the easier we will find it to deal with them when they arise.
  • Take time to EVALUATE emotional health.
  • Pay ATTENTION to thought streams or patterns in behaviors, especially negative ones – usually there is a story to be told.
  • Be ready to explore and RELEASE the emotions attached when they stand in the way of life goals.

Catherine DeAngelis at WorkCatherine DeAngelis, founder of Out of Pocket Emotions, is a life coach who shows you how it is always the RIGHT TIME to learn the BENEFITS to understanding emotionality. You can  enrich your life – not only with yourself, but with others too.


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Copyright © 2013 publication written by
Catherine DeAngelis. Published and distributed
by Catangelis Communications for
outofpocketemotions.com