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Seven Simple Ways to Experience Self-Compassion

15 Feb

The benefits of being kind and accepting of oneself have been studied and widely publicized. It seems we are encouraged on a daily basis to be compassionate to ourselves, but sometimes it's tough to figure out just what that means and how to do it.

What is the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem, we wonder, between self-compassion and self-indulgence? Fortunately, there are as many answers as there are questions, and many people, including Health Journeys' own Dr. Traci Stein, are providing resources to help us through the maze.

"You should know that self-compassion is not the same thing as self-indulgence or self-pity. It will not prevent you from learning or taking responsibility, but it can help you see yourself with new eyes-those of a loving parent, kind friend or a wise and patient shepherd, even if you have not yet experienced that kind of acceptance."-- Dr. Traci Stein, from her new audio program, Self-Compassion Meditations, recorded this month with Bruce Gigax at Audio Recording Studios, in Cleveland.

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Because self-compassion is simply a matter of being kind, there are many ways we can experience it right now.

  1. Plug in: Assess the way you treat yourself, and whether this is the way you treat your loved ones, children, pets or any other tender, vulnerable being. Connect with the being in you that deserves the same kindness.

  2. Unplug: Take a mini-break from the phone, TV, internet, e-mail and social media, if even for a short time. Shutting down the outside connections makes it easier to go inside and connect with the being at your center, the one to whom you send love and acceptance.

  3. 4400bBe present: "Mindfulness is most simply described as present-moment, nonjudgmental awareness. It is a practice that, although derived from Buddhist tradition, in essence is simply the active attention to and acceptance of the present moment, whatever that happens to be."—Dr. Traci Stein, from her book The Everything Guide to Integrative Pain Management.

  4. Practice Lovingkindness: There are many ways to access lovingkindness meditations. One of the best I've heard is a track from our Healthy Weight and Body Image audio program, by Dr. Traci Stein. An instant way to access this benefit is described by The Dalai Lama as simply stopping to take a breath. "As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all beings."

  5. Laugh and Play: One of the things we do with children and pets is play, another is laugh. Allow yourself to do these things and thoroughly enjoy them. Dance, even if there is no music, sing whether anyone can hear you, and let yourself have a belly laugh, even if it's the 100th time you have seen the Seinfeld episode.

  6. Monitor Self-talk: Notice the things you mentally say to yourself and how often you say them. Remember that you are speaking to someone you love.

  7. Give yourself a hug: The simple practice of wrapping your arms around yourself, taking a deep breath and stretching feels wonderful. Rather than focusing on this as an energy medicine exercise, even though it's a great one, think about who you are hugging. Send some compassion, the same way you would if you were hugging a loved one, because you are.

People often resist the idea of self-compassion, because they fear it will cause them to become selfish or treat others with less compassion, but the opposite has been found to be true. According to Jack Kornfield, "A quality of mature spirituality is kindness. It is based on a fundamental notion of self-acceptance. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete."

For more information, check out Traci Stein's impressive array of resources on issues involving self-esteem, self-acceptance, body image and positive changes. Remember to be kind to yourself, as well as others, and let us know the many ways you experience self-compassion. We love hearing from you.

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Maggie DeMellier

Maggie DeMellier is a self-proclaimed reader, writer, runner and redhead. She worked as a surgical technician and pharmacy technician before she earned a BA in Mass Media Communication at The University of Akron. For ten years, she operated a freelance writing business, specializing in medical ads, news articles, features and business writing.  She was a teacher at a career college for six years, and earned a MA in Forensic Psychology in 2010. Maggie is the co-author of Parenting by Law or Grace, published by Synchronisity Press, in 2004.