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Are You Kind...to Yourself?

The new ‘golden rule’ is self-compassion, treating yourself as you’d treat a best friend.

| September 30th, 2011
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Self Compassion

When the going gets tough, do you get even tougher on yourself?

Tearing yourself down with self-criticism or building yourself up with inflated self-esteem are two sure ways to prolong a hard time.

Fortunately there’s a simpler way to relieve your suffering: self-compassion.

What does self-compassion entail? “It’s not about judging yourself positively, it’s relating to yourself kindly—whether you’re succeeding or failing,” says leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

When a relationship “fails,” in the case of divorce, having self-compassion can decrease distress, according to recent research in Psychological Science. Our Relationship Expert David Sbarra, Ph.D. wrote of his study exclusively for YouBeauty.

COLUMN: Self-Compassion Eases the Pain of Divorce

“There are three pillars of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness,” Dr. Sbarra says.  Exercising these components can help you deal with the loss of a job or relationship, or even just cultivate more self-compassion everyday.

Here, we’ll explain what each of these pillars mean, and show you how to apply them to your daily life, with a journal exercise  from Dr. Neff’s book “Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.”

1. Mindfulness

If you’re endlessly ruminating about the last argument you had, chances are you’re not being mindful. It’s difficult to deal with your present situation when you’re getting carried away by the dramatic storyline of what's upsetting you in your life.

If you find yourself at work still going over the dialogue of your morning fight with your partner, recognize that it's upsetting you, and then focus on the present moment: that deadline you have coming up. You can address your concerns with a talk in person, rather than try to solve a problem at home from your desk at work.

A simple place to start being mindful? “Just noticing that you’re lost in the story,” Dr. Neff says. To break out of the “rumination broken record player effect,” see what’s actually happening, without ignoring it or blowing it out of proportion, she says.

COLUMN: Stop Obsessing Over Negative Thoughts

Journal: Take a moment to write about how an event made you feel during the day. The example Dr. Neff gives is getting angry at a waitress and not leaving a tip.

Try to recount the event without putting judgment on it—neither downplaying it nor hyping it up. An objective way to be aware of your feelings about the waitress is writing: “I was frustrated because she was being so slow. I got angry, overreacted and felt foolish afterwards.”

Practicing meditation can also help you start to notice your thought patterns more objectively. There are many different forms, and Dr. Neff specifically offers guided self-compassion meditations on her website.

MORE: Your Guide to Meditation

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