Self-compassion can benefit your health
Mental health · Oct 13, 2021
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 accepting that while it is difficult, it is a normal part of the human experience 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
The opposite of self-compassion is self-criticism. During difficult times, we can get stuck in a cycle of self-criticism, and that can trigger anxiety, depression or anger.1
How does self-compassion help us stay healthy?
Nurturing self-compassion can help reduce 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
Some people are naturally self-compassionate, but for others being self-compassionate is more difficult.5 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 coffee, for lunch or for a nice walk
Looking at beautiful art or scenery
Listening to soothing music
Pampering yourself with a bubble bath, a long shower or a massage
Reading a good book or magazine
Spending time with a pet and stroking it
Imagining yourself in a relaxing scene
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 at times when you are struggling emotionally.7
When more help is needed
If you feel trapped in a negative cycle or if you would simply like to learn more about self-compassion and mental health, your TELUS Health Centres offer personal assessments and counselling.
1. What is self-compassion? Centre for Clinical Interventions. Government of Western Australia. 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.
2. 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/.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Building self-compassion, module 6: Self-compassionate behaviour. Centre for Clinical Interventions. Government of Western Austrailia. 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.