When things go wrong, how do we treat ourselves? What comes to your mind?
—Perhaps some self-criticism, being hard on ourselves?
—Feeling isolated or avoiding others for fear of shame?
—Ignoring our own painful feelings and distracting ourselves with entertainment, food, drink?
If, in recalling and reading this, we find we’re feeling a bit down about ourselves, we could place a hand on our heart or give our arm a reassuring rub. We could tell ourselves it’s okay, we’re all hard on ourselves at times. And we could perhaps encourage ourselves with some self-talk like, “May I be kind to myself in this moment.” Taking a moment to really feel that warmth and reassurance.
Here, we just practised all three components of self-compassion.
This short practice trains us to bring mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness to our suffering.
If we’re currently experiencing emotional discomfort or suffering, we can work with this.
Otherwise, we’re invited to think of a situation in our lives that is difficult, that is causing us stress. Calling the situation to mind, and seeing if we can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in our body.
Now, saying to ourselves:
1. “This is a moment of suffering…”
This is mindfulness, acknowledging what is happening.
Simply put, self-compassion is treating ourselves in the same way we treat a good friend.
Maintaining a good quality friendship requires us to do a few things… to pay attention to our friend, to be kind to our friend and to see ourselves as equally important.
Would you enjoy the friendship of someone who never called you, was always critical of you and saw themselves as better than you? What about someone who avoided you, was scared of you and felt inferior to you? In either case, very difficult to maintain a genuine friendship.
Now imagine the friend who is always there for you, who always supports you; someone with whom you have a lot in common. Easy to be their friend, right? Not just rewarding and fun, but genuine friendship often brings out the best in both people.
Imagine if we could befriend ourselves in the same way? This is self-compassion, and like having a good friendship with someone else, relating well to ourselves also brings out the best in us.
“By practising self-compassion regularly, we can turn a harsh inner critic into a supportive inner coach.”
We all need to stop from time to time and recharge our batteries. Here’s a practical, 3-min self-care exercise that can decrease stress and increases self-awareness, self-compassion and resilience.
This practice uses the acronym S.N.A.C.K.
S is for Stop and self-care. Permission to stop. We can lift our eyes from our screens, perhaps looking at something soothing like the view out of a window, a plant or a family photo. In this phase, we can investigate a soothing touch… placing a hand on the heart or belly, rubbing the arm, hugging ourselves – whatever feels reassuring.
Once we’ve found our soothing touch, we can appreciate this for a moment. Taking in the warmth from that contact or the comforting sensations from the reassuring rub.
Now we can begin taking soothing breaths. Long, easy breaths… exhaling fully on the out-breath… encouraging a sense of letting go. Tuning into the nourishing quality of the in-breath, the way the body naturally energises itself with oxygen.