Self-compassion can benefit your health
Self-compassion has been shown to benefit our personal well-being and mental health.1 Practicing self-compassion means being aware of our own suffering and not criticizing ourselves for the circumstances we are dealing with.1 It also means treating ourselves with the same kindness we would show to a friend.2
How does self-compassion help us stay healthy?
Nurturing self-compassion reduces anxiety and depression levels.3 It also activates the soothing system and calms the threat system (which alerts us to potential dangers so we can protect ourselves).1 Recent research shows that turning off the threat system can boost the immune system, which helps us stay healthy.4
How to boost your self-compassion
Early life experiences can affect a person’s ability to be self-compassionate, as can misconceptions about self-compassion.1 Self-compassion is not self-indulgence, self-pity nor a sign of weakness.1,6 In fact, self-compassion provides people with a very powerful source of coping and resilience.6
Fortunately, there are things people can do to boost their self-compassion. These behaviours will vary from person to person, but they all centre on participating in activities that are soothing and nurturing.7 Some examples of self-soothing activities include:7
- Making yourself a nice meal or snack that you will enjoy
- Calling a friend to chat or meeting for a nice walk
- Looking at beautiful art or scenery
- Listening to soothing music
- Pampering yourself with a bubble bath
- Reading a good book or magazine
- Doing some slow breathing
- Practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques
It is important to plan these activities and schedule them into your week.7 It is also helpful to have a list of specific activities that you can put into practice quickly and easily.
- What is self-compassion? Centre for Clinical Interventions. Government of Western Austrailia. Available online at https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental-Health-Professionals/Self-Compassion/Information-Sheets/Info-What-is-Self-Compassion.pdf.
- Krakovsky M. Self-compassion fosters mental health. Scientific American Mind. July 1, 2012. Available online at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/self-compassion-fosters-mental-health/.
- The power of self-compassion. Harvard Health Publishing. June 27, 2013. Available online at https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-power-of-self-compassion.
- Showing yourself compassion can have mental and physical benefits. Association for Psychological Science. Feb. 14, 2019. Available online at https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/obsonline/self-compassion-benefits.html.
- 4 ways to boost your self-compassion. Harvard Health Publishing. Feb. 12, 2021. Available online at https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health/4-ways-to-boost-your-self-compassion.
- Neff K. The five myths of self-compassion. Greater Good Magazine. University of California, Berkeley. Sept. 30, 2015. Available online at https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_five_myths_of_self_compassion.
- Building self-compassion, module 6: Self-compassionate behaviour. Centre for Clinical Interventions. Government of Western Australia. Available online at https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Consumer-Modules/Building-Self-Compassion/Building-Self-Compassion—06—Self-Compassionate-Behaviour.pdf.