6 ways to practice self-compassion

Ava Ford, Prairie Health

A version of this article was originally posted on the Prairie Health blog.

If a close friend or sibling has a bad day, we are all quick to send them a mood-boosting text or run out and grab dinner with them. We send flowers to sick family members and write thank you notes to those who do good in our lives. But as simple as it can seem to be gracious and compassionate towards others, we sometimes fall short when the receiver is our own selves.

Let’s look at six things we can do to cultivate self-love and bring it into our everyday lives.

1. Celebrate your victories.

Just like you might congratulate a coworker for doing a really great presentation or cheer on your kid in their school play, you should be celebrating your own victories! Whether you perform an eight-hour open-heart surgery or simply get out of bed in the morning, no victory is too small to celebrate.

Be gentle with yourself. Be proud that you are doing your best. If your best is going to work and just making it to the end of the day, then that’s fantastic. Give yourself a long hot shower, or read the next chapter of your favorite book. Celebrate!

2. Don’t say “maybe” when you want to say “no.”

Every time you compromise your own happiness and mental health for the sake of someone else, you are telling yourself that you value others’ well-being above your own. Don’t do it!

For example, if someone at work asks you to cover for them and you are already having a really stressful and tiring day—don’t say maybe, say no. You won’t be able to help others if you don’t help yourself first! 

3. Don’t apologize for your feelings.

Your feelings are yours, and they are valid. No one has the right to tell you what you should or should not be feeling (not even yourself). In mindfulness practice, one of the first lessons learned is the art of acknowledging and noticing your feelings without judgment.

For instance, instead of getting upset with yourself because you feel you’re overreacting to an insensitive joke, tell yourself: “I acknowledge that I feel angry,” or, “I notice that I’m feeling upset.” Acknowledging your feelings not only validates them but limits the negative self-talk you might be having about what you’re feeling. And if someone else tries to tell you your feelings are “wrong”? Well, that says more about them than it says about you.

4. Imagine how clear your path would be if you let go of the opinions of others.

Others’ opinions should not concern you. Live your life to the happiest, fullest, and best of your ability—whatever that means to you. If that means spending 20 fewer minutes on work in the morning and going for a walk with your dog, then that’s the perfect and absolutely correct thing for you to do! Everyone’s “perfect” is different. 

5. Start each day by finding something positive about yourself.

Maybe you are having a really good hair day. Or maybe you got a great night’s sleep, and you are feeling a bit sharper than usual. Even if it seems really difficult, try your hardest to find one thing you can be happy about with yourself every morning. Maybe it’s even something from the past, a moment you chose compassion when you could have chosen anger. Or a moment when you were truly present with yourself. Then, go into your day feeling guided by that self-love and positivity.

6. Don’t believe everything in your head.

We can become so self-critical that it can be difficult to quiet the judgmental voices in our head. It’s important to remember, however, that the inner critic is just trying to keep us small and safe—not happy. We don’t have to listen to it.

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