And it only takes four minutes.

By Rachel Wright
April 07, 2020
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Self-compassion is something that doesn't come naturally to many people, and, yet, it's necessary in order to live a life of love and pleasure. According to Kristin Neff, Ph.D., a leading researcher on the topic, there are three facets to self-compassion:

1. Having self-kindness instead of self-judgment

2. Recognizing that suffering and feeling inadequate are part of the shared human experience

3. Acceptance/mindfulness

Self-compassion is all about showing the same kindness that you'd easily show someone else, to yourself. How often do you give a friend empathy for something you criticize yourself for? Without showing yourself compassion, you will constantly be fighting against your own feelings, thoughts, and experiences. (Related: I Finally Shifted My Negative Self Talk, But the Journey Wasn't Pretty)

Everyone messes up. You may feel like crap sometimes. You may wish you had handled something differently. You may even feel like you're not "enough." You can be your own worst critic, but when you're hard on yourself, you take away your ability to show up and be your best self. Who is going to perform well when they feel ashamed or unworthy? Who is going to write well if they're told that they are a poor writer? Who will be a great friend, partner, or parent if they're told they are a bad communicator? (Related: How to Ditch Your Negative Attitude Once and for All)

Your internal dialogue matters. It creates your thoughts, which create your feelings, which leads to your behavior. So, if you're constantly speaking poorly about yourself to yourself, it's going to be difficult to perform at your best. (Related: Tips On How to Turn Your Stress Into Positive Energy)

Don't be discouraged if this all sounds ~very~ familiar to you. Regularly practicing self-compassion is easier than you think. In fact, all it takes is four minutes a day.

The "self-compassion break," created by Neff, is a helpful tool that's at your disposal any time you need it. From start to finish, it should take about four minutes.

Step 1: First, think about something happening in your life that is causing you stress in a way that you can actually feel physical discomfort. Perhaps it's your head hurting, your shoulders tensing up, a knot in your stomach or sternum, or tightness in your jaw.

Step 2: Once you can feel the stress and discomfort, say to yourself "this hurts" or "this is a moment of stress." This is mindfulness: witnessing the feeling, acknowledging it, and not fighting it off.

Step 3: Then, it's time to recognize that element of human experience by saying something to yourself like, "We all struggle," or "other people feel this way, too," or "I'm not alone in this." You might even try putting your hands on your heart or somewhere else on your body that feels loving and warm, suggests Neff.

Step 4: Think about a phrase that could be comforting; ask yourself, "What do I need to hear right now?" Examples of this self-compassion could be:

  • I will be patient with myself.

  • I forgive myself.

  • I will learn to accept myself as I am, right now.

  • I will give myself the compassion that I need.

You can use this practice anytime, anywhere and only takes a few minutes. It allows you to hit all three aspects of self-compassion in one exercise and will help you to cultivate so much more kindness toward yourself—something everyone needs.

Rachel Wright, M.A., L.F.F.T., is a psychotherapist, licensed marriage and family therapist, and sex and relationship expert. She's a co-host of the relationship podcast The Wright Reasons.

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