“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama

I think all of us could do with topping up our ‘self-compassion cup’; considering the year we’ve all had. As 2021 kicks off, with the pandemic still very much intertwined in our lives despite where we live, self-compassion will be required to ensure we stay on top of our mental wellbeing.

I invite you to reflect on your intentions or goals set for 2021. Are they realistic? Are they objective? Are they compassionate? Or are your goals motivated by external pressures or expectations from others? For example, mastering the art of French cooking, decoding brail, building a robot, running a marathon each month or learning a foreign language. I know that many people have felt pressured to ‘do more’, take up additional hobbies or work longer hours since the onset of Covid-19; however, this isn’t always in our best interest, as we overload ourselves with too much. It’s important to set self-compassionate intentions and goals to allow enough ‘space’ for growth, healing, uncertainty and change.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

So what exactly is self-compassion?

Self-compassion can be best described as showing kindness and compassion to yourself. Being mindful about your emotions and your experiences. Accepting your pain and focusing on it (inwards). Practicing common humanity; knowing that everyone experiences suffering or discomfort and that this feeling is part of being human and living. Self-compassion is about being patient and allowing yourself time to grow or heal. It is self-acceptance. Allowing room for making mistakes and practicing forgiveness. Self-compassion is putting a stop to self-sabotage.

Self-compassion is a learned skill, which is brilliant news to those who don’t currently practice it! When you exercise self-compassion, you are in essence practicing mindfulness; grounding yourself, stopping, turning inwards, focusing on YOU and your current experience, pain or emotion.

There are so many benefits of having self-compassion. I’ve included the top 9 as documented by PositivePsychology.com:

1) Higher optimism

2) Greater happiness

3) Increased mood

4) A greater sense of wisdom

5) Increased curiosity, exploration and learning

6) More conscientiousness

7) Increased willingness to take initiative, greater motivation

8) Higher agreeableness

9) Greater extroversion (Firestone, 2016)

If you’re interested in increasing your self-compassion, I encourage you to click on the below link to read more on the 6 Self-Compassion Exercises as developed by leading expert Dr Kristin Neff. These exercises and tools will help you to develop, maintain and regularly practice self-compassion. I’ve summarized the exercises below, however please visit this website for more information https://positivepsychology.com/self-compassion-exercises-worksheets/.

1. How would you treat a friend? – what advice or comfort would you provide a friend who was suffering? Can you practice the same to yourself?

2. Self-compassion break – bring to mind a painful experience. Ground yourself and repeat these phrases: “This is a moment of suffering”, “Suffering is a part of life”, “May I be kind to myself”.

3. Exploring self-compassion through writing – bring to mind some of the things your inner critic tells you, write a letter from the perspective of an unconditional loving friend, and then step away and take time to reflect.

4. Changing your critical self-talk

5. Identifying what you REALLY want

6. Guided meditation – here is the link to some fantastic self-compassion guided meditations https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/

If you want to start your journey to increasing your self-compassion in a different way, I encourage you to set some ‘self-love’ intentions as this is a great way to help build self-compassion.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

o Stretch for 10 minutes each morning

o Practice gratitude

o Have a detox from social media

o Practice mindfulness

o Do a puzzle or read a book

o Light a candle when you’re eating dinner

o Prioritize sleep

o Declutter

o Journal about your day and reflect on something positive

o Drink plenty of water

As we enter 2021, a year which might present with continued change and uncertainty, I encourage you all to focus on practicing self-compassion, demonstrating kindness, love, acceptance and common humanity. YOU DESERVE IT!

Yours in wellness, Libby

EAP Specialist, Coach and Trainer @ Positive MIND Consulting, Sydney