Home Mental Health & Well-Being Why Self-Compassion Boosts Our Mental Well-Being

Why Self-Compassion Boosts Our Mental Well-Being

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It’s easy to show compassion to our loved ones, but it can be a real challenge to show ourselves the same understanding. Our inner critics and negative self-talk can be hard to ignore.

But dwelling on mistakes and focusing on faults, makes it hard to develop resilience and good mental well-being. Self-compassion, on the other hand, helps to build these things. But what is self-compassion?

Self-compassion has 3 important elements

1. Mindful awareness

This involves being aware of your thoughts and feelings without judging them or dwelling on them so that you can keep engaging in life.

2. Self-kindness

It’s important to give yourself the same warmth and kindness you’d offer a friend or loved one in a similar situation.

3. Common humanity

We all make mistakes sometimes. It helps to remember that nobody is perfect.

Why is self-compassion good for your mental well-being?

It’s common to feel stressed and be hard on ourselves, especially in a culture that’s so focused on performance and achieving targets. Research shows that people who have higher levels of self-compassion are often more resilient than those who aren’t as compassionate. They have less of a physical response to stressful situations and spend less time dwelling on these situations after they’ve happened.

This is partly because self-compassion involves actively recognising your strengths and achievements, which boosts self-confidence and our belief in our ability to cope with difficult situations.

But self-compassion also impacts our biology. A self-critical, or unkind stance, towards yourself when you’re going through testing times, activates your body’s natural stress response, sometimes called the “fight or flight” response.

A recent study by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford found that exercising self-compassion helps calm your heart rate and shut down this threat response. Study participants demonstrated a state of relaxation and security. They also reported feeling a stronger connection to other people.

If you exercise self-compassion, you’re also more likely to:

  • take better care of your physical and mental health by adopting healthy behaviours such as exercise, eating better, and healthy sleeping patterns
  • cope better with adversities
  • take more initiative and responsibility
  • be less fearful of making mistakes and receiving rejection
  • be more emotionally intelligent, happy, and optimistic

Self-compassion also encourages personal and professional development, which further improves our confidence and self-esteem. This helps us remember our strengths and skill set objectively without fear of criticism and judgement. We’re then able to identify areas for improvement and make changes for the better.

5 ways to show yourself more compassion

Some people may feel self-compassion is self-indulgent, or self-pitying, and therefore be reluctant to practise it.

But developing the ability to face and manage our difficulties, without isolating ourselves from others and becoming absorbed in our own pain, is the essence of courageous living.

Being able to attend to your own difficulties and challenges enables you to have the emotional capacity to engage with others – and life in general - in a more helpful way.

Here are a few ways you can show yourself more kindness and understanding:

Practise mindfulness

This will teach you how to notice and observe your thoughts without judging them. Mindfulness encourages you to be curious and self-aware, understanding that your thoughts and assumptions are just that. They’re not facts.

Reward yourself

It’s important to celebrate your successes and achievements. Keep a list of your personal skills and strengths. You can review these in moments of self-doubt.

Take a break

Time away from your day-to-day routine, and a change of scenery, can help you keep things in perspective. Getting outdoors in the fresh air also boosts our mental health.

Strengthen your connections

Kindness is contagious! By showing love and understanding to the people who are important to you, you’re more likely to show yourself the same compassion.

Do things you enjoy

Try to find a better work-life balance that allows you to spend time on your passions, hobbies, and interests to boost your mood.

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