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Mindful Self-compassion: A path to well-being

Sometimes, it’s easy to be critical of ourselves and say mean things like, “I hate myself for saying that,” “I don’t know anything,” “Nobody likes me,” or “I am such a failure,” and so on.

It’s true that we must show compassion to others, but we must also be compassionate to ourselves. We do this by treating ourselves the way we treat our loved ones, especially when we fail.

This does not mean that we don’t recognize our own mistakes or deny that we screwed up. Self-compassion is all about understanding that as human beings, we are not perfect and naturally make mistakes. But we don’t focus on it or criticize ourselves harshly for it; instead, we forgive ourselves and gently learn from it.

"May I be kind to myself."

When we are in a difficult situation, it’s always important to be aware of how we feel about our struggles and why they happened—this creates some space for growth and change. We also need to be especially mindful whenever we judge ourselves harshly so we can see clearly how we can improve.

Studies have shown a positive connection between self-compassion and well-being. People who are kind to themselves are more motivated to improve their shortcomings due to their objective perspective on things. Mindfulness helps us understand ourselves better and accept ourselves for who we are, flaws and all.

When we are feeling down and need a dose of self-kindness, here are a few things we can do:

1. Experts say that it might help to write a letter to ourselves from the perspective of a good friend. The goal is to practice compassionate dialogue and get used to talking empathically to ourselves, especially during times of struggle.

2. Spend some quiet time and breathe deeply and slowly. Relax the body and put your hand on your heart to help release the calming hormone oxytocin. We can then talk to ourselves, either silently or out loud, and say that it’s okay to feel this way or to go through this moment. Eventually, we can ask ourselves what we need and then start to think about solutions.

3. Meditate and try to think of solutions from a place of love and self-compassion. We can even make use of technology and tools, like guided meditation recordings, relaxation apps, calming music, mindfulness websites, online classes, and so on.

4. Write in your journal. This can be an extension of your self-compassion meditation. Mindfully write about what’s happening in your life and release all your worries. Do not censor yourself; just let everything flow from your heart, to your hand, and onto the paper.

5. Take a nap or do something you enjoy. Giving yourself what you need, as long as it will not harm you, is an important aspect of self-compassion. Eat nourishing food, exercise, or spend time with friends—these are some of the many ways that you can be compassionate with yourself.

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