Are you your own worst critic? Do you set higher standards for yourself than you do for others? Cultivating some self compassion could help you to thrive, and to reduce your stress levels!
A recent study by Gunell and others (2017) showed that uni students who showed higher levels of self compassion, were better able to cope with the demands of stress, and reported higher levels of energy, optimism and engagement, compared to their less self-compassionate peers. They also showed increased psychological needs satisfaction, and decreased negative emotion, leading to higher levels of wellbeing.
The questionnaire measured three components of self compassion: mindfulness, self kindness and common humanity. The participants were 189 first year university students, and were asked how frequently they agree with questions such as “when something upsets me I try to keep my emotions in balance.”
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A further study by Fredrikson and others (2008) showed that people who participated in daily loving kindness meditations showed increased levels of daily happiness when compared to a control group.
The researchers state “these shifts in positive emotions took time to appear and were not large in magnitude, but over the course of 9 weeks, they were linked to increases in a variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relations with others, and good physical health. Moreover, these gains in personal resources were consequential: They enabled people to become more satisfied with their lives and to experience fewer symptoms of depression.
The researchers state that “positive emotions produce success and health as much as they reflect these good outcomes.”
So is self compassion simply being easy on yourself? Rewarding yourself more? Developing self compassion can take time and practice. We often have quite deeply ingrained thoughts about ourselves and the world, which take time to change. Try the below simple techniques to increase your self compassion:
- Try “Loving-kindness” meditations. These meditations can help you to learn to direct compassion towards yourself and to others. In addition, regular practice of mindfulness meditations can help you to connect with the present and let of go of judgements. The less we judge ourselves, the simpler it is to be easy on ourselves!! Try the Calm app, for free and easy to follow loving kindness meditations, or read more here.
- Put things in perspective. If you experience a setback or hardship, ask yourself the following question: “If my friend X were in this situation, what advice would I give them? What would I tell them?” We’re often much tougher on ourselves than we are on others – take the time to think about what your reaction would be if someone else were in the same situation.
- Reframe setbacks into positives – if you’ve encountered something difficult, consider what your learned from the situation? Did you grow from the situation? Did you use your strengths and try hard? Try and reflect on the learnings you gained from the situation, and acknowledge the effort you put in.
- Turn your ANTS into PETS. Get to know your automatic negative thoughts (ANTS), and turn them into performance enhancing thoughts (PETS). What do you tell yourself when you’re judging yourself harshly? You may find the same negative thoughts creep back again and again (“not good enough”, “I’m a failure” etc). Remember that these thoughts are simply thoughts and not facts. Try and think of some more useful self talk that could help you through the situation (Performance enhancing thoughts) – such as “I can keep trying and succeed” or “I can you my strengths to help achieve my goal in another way”.
Are you self compassionate? Would you try these tips? What do you do to cultivate self compassion?