Welcome to today’s blog, all about self-compassion and self-kindness.
This is being posted on Monday morning in the UK, to help you start your week in a different way, but whatever time you’re reading this, wherever in the world you come across it I invite you to pause for a minute and think, okay, how could I start the rest of the week from this point of view?
First, I want to explore what I mean by being kind to yourself, which to many seems like quite a simple thing. However, it’s one of those things that I’ve consistently found is something people find quite tough to do.
I have this phrase which I often repeat, but it’s a really important one, which is:
If you treated your friends like you treat yourself, would you have any?
If you said some of the things that you say to yourself out loud to other people, how would they respond?
When you reflect on that, if you find that the conversations that you’re saying to yourself are not the kind of things you would say to other people, then self-kindness, or self-compassion, is definitely a thing you want to look at.
As I mentioned earlier, it is something that shows up in so many people’s lives. For some people it’s easy to spot – for others, slightly harder. For example, some people are nice themselves in certain contexts and not so nice in other contexts. So check in with yourself and find out if are you being nice to yourself at home, at work, around your performance, educational work, around goal setting around healthy habits, eating, drinking, exercising and so on.
Because it may be that you consider yourself to be really great at self-compassion but there may be some little corners of your life where that is not quite the case…
Some of the research into self-compassion is very interesting. It’s been identified as being important for a range of health issues, it affects, for instance, cardiovascular health and sleep patterns (Cosley et al., 2010; Parker et al., 2020; Shonin et al., 2017; Terry & Leary, 2011). There’s even some research that suggests it affects the telomeres; these are the little end bits of your genes, which are as we get older, the telomeres kind of frazzle and a bit like an old shoelace that unwind at the end. Having good quality telomeres is a really good predictor of healthy longevity and there is a link between being kind to yourself (they used a loving-kindness meditation in this particular study) and maintaining the quality of your telomeres. (Hoge et al., 2013)
So even on a genetic level, there’s some really interesting research on how good self-compassion is for you.
The other cool thing about self-compassion is that generally being compassionate not only benefits you but also benefits the people around you. You tend to become more thoughtful and more altruistic. It’s not the same as just focusing on yourself – that’s not self-compassion. It means considering yourself and being kind to yourself so that you can bring more compassion into the world generally.
There are lots of exercises and guided meditations to develop self-compassion on my website and YouTube channel to help you build your self-compassion skills, but for today the message is, check in with yourself and ask yourself:
Am I being compassionate to myself? Am I starting off from a place of loving myself?
Robert Holden who has written a book called Lovability says when he was at school, the worst thing you could say to anybody was ‘you really love yourself, don’t you?’ That was the ultimate offensive jibe that anyone could level at you. But actually, as he points out, we really should love ourselves, not to the detriment of other people, but we should be kind. We should have a positive self-regard for ourselves. It’s so important. So check in with yourself over the next seven days to discover if you being kind to yourself and whenever you aren’t, just pause for a minute and bring yourself back to bringing kindness to yourself as a starting point.
I hope you found this a useful starting point for building self-compassion come and join me next week for another Health and Happiness tip.
Cosley, B. J., McCoy, S. K., Saslow, L. R., & Epel, E. S. (2010). Is compassion for others stress buffering? Consequences of compassion and social support for physiological reactivity to stress. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(5), 816–823. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2010.04.008
Hoge, E. A., Chen, M. M., Orr, E., Metcalf, C. A., Fischer, L. E., Pollack, M. H., DeVivo, I., & Simon, N. M. (2013). Loving-Kindness Meditation practice associated with longer telomeres in women. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 32, 159–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2013.04.005
Parker, P., Banbury, S., & Chandler, C. (2020). Efficacy of The Rediscovery Process on Alcohol Use, Impulsivity and Flourishing: A Preliminary Randomised Controlled Study and Preliminary Cohort Study. EJAPP, 4(13). https://www.nationalwellbeingservice.org/volumes/volume-4-2020/volume-4-article-13/
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., Garcia-Campayo, J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2017). Can compassion help cure health-related disorders? British Journal of General Practice, 67(657), 177–178. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp17X690329
Terry, M. L., & Leary, M. R. (2011). Self-compassion, self-regulation, and health. Self and Identity, 10(3), 352–362. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2011.558404