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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Mindful and Meditative Prayer

by Catherine DeAngelis

“The best prayer is to rest in the goodness of God, knowing that goodness can reach right down to our lowest depths of need.”

-Julian of Norwich, 14th-century mystic

IMG514

Throughout time people around the world have turned to silence and meditative prayer for peace. It is natural during periods  of unrest to pray or meditate to find strength and courage to get away from the upheaval – a pause from the thinking about  it too much.

Emotional pain is gripping. Especially if a loved  one succumbs to fatal effects caused by cancer, AIDS,  and any kind of trauma, mental illness,  grief and loss or financial crisis.

A  Time article by Leon Jaroff, Investigating the Power of Prayer explains how an American doctor, Elizabeth Targ, was awarded substantial grants of $611,516 for one study, $823,346 for another to look at the therapeutic effects of prayer on AIDS and cancer patients.

Jaroff reports that Targ took to examining  “distance healing.” This is where someone offers  prayer, but is not present and it is recited for the patient from afar.  Targ identified  “the prayed-for patients had fewer and less severe new illnesses, fewer doctor visits, fewer hospitalizations and were generally in better moods than those in the control group. The technique, she believes, can even work on nonhuman species.”

Prayer can be a set of affirmations that guide one’s thinking to a positive place.   It can be walking  across a bridge imagining the space beneath it which meets the river  below flowing with the rapids as nature inspiring hope and renewal.

IMG207Many people from diverse ethnic or religious backgrounds, whether e.g. Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Indian shamans  take time to practice quiet prayer or meditation, more commonly the practice of mindfulness is becoming more and more part of the 21st century among western cultures.

Something as simple as Mindfulness Keeps You Emotionally Fit

Psychology today, as well as ancient Hindu and Buddhist doctrines contend that, rather than mastering our emotions, could we learn to live in equilibrium with them, and use the energy that they give us and mindfully work to free ourselves from the layers of unspent emotional energy that cloud our relationships, both with ourselves and with others.

The property of  mindfulness or prayer belongs to no particular religion or group of people and neither does the practice of daily praying or meditating belong  to only Buddhists. Anyone can sit mindfully under a tree, or kneel on a bench to find a moment to pray for e.g. empathy of others or compassion for ourselves.

More and more scientists are discovering,  there are benefits in the practice of contemplative prayer, silence, or use of mindfulness to create a  state of being and not doing to help manage stress and combat minor to severe illnesses.  Practice is open to all  faiths. It is astounding the rewards people report how prayer and meditation bring balance to  mental health and well-being.

For resilience, recite a prayer, chant a veda or a mantra,  say a blessing, and accompany it by  lighting a candle or some incense,  hold prayer beads to set in motion a formal or informal setting toward a  quiet time for contemplation and thoughtful prayer, or walk a path and be guided by the simple wonders of  our world and the grandness of its intelligent design.

Open yourself up to intuition, to the natural release of energy – both positive and negative – and to self-awareness.

mountain_pose1PRACTICE DAILY

  1. Check in mindfully each day, the moment your feet hit the floor next to your bed – it is as vital as the air you breathe.
  2. Simply take a few seconds by taking yourself to a calming yet brisk awareness of the ‘here and now.’
  3. Begin this mindful check in, by feeling into the body and mind, simply allowing waves of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations to just be.
  4. Breathe, Inhale, Exhale — No need to judge.
  5. Just let it be.
  6. Breathe, Inhale, Exhale.
  7. Breathe!
  8. Formal breathing practice can be done anywhere anytime.
  9. Listen to all that is around you!

Enjoy one of the traditional core practices of Mindfulness meditation and be thankful to yourself for having taken the time to participate in your health and well-being.

Peace

from: Atharva Veda XIX. 9. 1 & 9:2
(Veda is Sanskrit for knowledge)

May the earth be free from disturbance,
May the vast atmosphere be calm,
May the flowing waters be soothing,
And all the plants and herbs  prove beneficial to us.
May all the foretelling signs of coming events  be free from turmoil and
May all that has been done and that which has not been done prove the source of happiness to all.
May our past and future be peaceful and may all be gracious unto us.
May the atmosphere be peaceful,
May the medicinal herbs be peaceful,
May all my shining objects be peaceful for me,
May all enlightened persons be peaceful for me,
May all the peaceful actions be peaceful by me.
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Peace – An Act of Mindfulness

by Catherine DeAngelis

MP900443617
Peace.
It does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble
or hard work. It means to be in
the midst of those things and still
be calm in your heart unknown

The Web dictionary defines peacefulness as the state of being peaceful, a peacefulness in the mind, body, spirit, that is calm and tranquil. Being in peace is the absence of mental stress or anxiety, and a quality to describe society or relationships operating in a harmonious manner.

Thich Nhat Hanh is author of more than 40 books, including “Being Peace” and “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.” 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.”

Standing Up for Peace

It may be beyond comprehension how many organizations and people are working locally, nationally, and globally for peace.  We may all want to imagine a world that we live in to be at peace and without war.  Although it may seem “altruistic” to stand up for peace globally when war has  been so much a part of our planet since prehistoric times.  Within our world there is conflict, however populations have learned to find peace within relying on many religions for example from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism to Islāmic and Buddhism. It may be impossible to kill the beast of collective inhumaneness that creates war and causes spending of billions and billions of dollars, making human atrocities unforgivable, yet undeservedly relevant for some reason or another.

We praise Nobel Peace Prize Winners for their peace efforts. Nobelprize.org reports prizes awarded 91 times to 121 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2010 – 98 times to individuals and 23 times to organizations. Since International Committee of the Red Cross was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1917, 1944 and 1963, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1981, that means 98 individuals and 20 organizations have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  If you want to find out the motivation behind the Nobel Peace Prize Winners from 1901 to present day – Visit >>Nobelprize.org

Mindfulness for Peace

Mindfulness means learning to pay attention intentionally to what is occurring in immediate experience in a nonjudgmental, caring and discerning way. One technique, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale, based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and societies.  Read At Home in Our Bodies An Interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn.

MBCT 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 all the time

If you are new to mindfulness for peace, Lisa Layman Tiernan, Artfulmeditations.com offers insight on this topic. Tiernan believes everyone wants a peaceful world. So how do we get there? One person at a time. If every being were at peace, there would be no war, no violence and the world would be peaceful. Sound too simplistic? It is. But it is also true.  Tiernan shares a simple exercise to allow you to explore what peace means to you > read Artfulmeditations.com.  You may agree with Tiernan, that the best thing that you can do to bring peace into the world is to practice being peaceful.

 Copyright © 2011 Catangelis Communications – Unauthorized use and duplication of this material without written permission from site owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided full credit is given to owner or to any other copyright materials used by owner is also quoted with appropriate direction to original content.