Wellness Focus: Practicing Compassion with Ourselves

By Susan Donovan JCC Director of Wellness & Group Exercise, JCC of GNH

It’s so easy to criticize ourselves – aloud and in our heads – when something goes wrong or when we are feeling inadequate. Being hard on ourselves can be counterproductive; it doesn’t motivate us to do better, or make us humble. It can actually erode self-esteem and motivation.

However, if we started treating ourselves like we would treat others -- by being comforting and supportive -- we can begin to develop resilience. It takes practice to tune out our inner critic, but in time this practice will build the ability to confidently face some of life’s challenges.

And, being kind to ourselves through self-compassion can actually boost our health! Research supports the theory that people with self-compassion are less likely to suffer from stress and depression.

But what does that actually mean? How can you start practicing self-compassion? Here’s a few suggestions to start with: 

SILENCE YOUR INNER CRITIC. It’s the voice that calls you names, heaps blame, compares you to others. Once you recognize it, you can take steps to quiet it. It’s like bullying, and we pretend it’s okay because it’s ourselves. But it is not okay and should not be okay.

LEARN FROM MISTAKES AND MOVE ON. Dwelling on errors serves no purpose. Simply understand what happened and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future, then chalk it up to being human. We all make mistakes, but it doesn’t detract from our worth, it can help us gain experience and insight. 

PRETEND YOU’RE SOMEONE ELSE. Not for comparison, of course, but spin the Golden Rule. We treat others like we want to be treated, but how about treating yourself as well as you treat others? If you wouldn’t say something to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. Support yourself as much as you support others.

GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD. If mirror affirmations aren’t your style, try activities that help you focus on something other than negative thoughts. Head outdoors for a hike in the woods or a bike ride, try mindfulness through yoga or meditation, sing along to your favorite music, or dig into a craft.

It takes practice to tune out our inner critic but we all deserve to create a judgement-free zone where we can nurture ourselves and provide the same encouragement that we give others – it can result in us becoming happier and healthier!

Susan Donovan, Director of Wellness and Group Ex / JCC of Greater New Haven, can reached at susand@jccnh.org




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