4 ways to boost your self-compassion

Take a moment to think about how you treat yourself when you make a mistake or fail to reach a goal. If you tend to beat yourself up when things go wrong, you, like most people, can use a little more self-compassion in your life.

Forgiving and nurturing yourself seem to have benefits in their own right. They can even set the stage for better health, relationships, and general well-being. So far, research has revealed a number of benefits of self-compassion. Lower levels of anxiety and depression have been observed in people with higher self-compassion. Self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, thereby lowering their own levels of related anxiety and depression.

Learn to have self-compassion

Some people come by self-compassion naturally, but not everyone does. Luckily, it is a learnable skill. Several methods have been proposed, and training programs are being developed, to help people discover and cultivate their own self-compassion.

Here are four ways to give your self-compassion skills a quick boost:

  • Comfort your body. Eat something healthy. Lie down and rest. Massage your own neck, feet, or hands. Take a walk. Anything you can do to improve how you feel physically gives you a dose of self-compassion.
  • Write a letter to yourself. Think of a situation that caused you to feel pain (a breakup with a lover, a job loss, a poorly received presentation). Write a letter to yourself describing the situation, but without blaming anyone — including yourself. Use this exercise to nurture your feelings.
  • Give yourself encouragement. Think of what you would say to a good friend if he or she was facing a difficult or stressful situation. Then, when you find yourself in this kind of situation, direct these compassionate responses toward yourself.
  • Practice mindfulness. Even a quick exercise, such as meditating for a few minutes, can be a great way to nurture and accept ourselves while we're in pain.

For more ways to draw on your strengths and find the positive meaning in your life, purchase Positive Psychology, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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