Compassion, a wonderful concept, practiced by one’s concern for others. But, what about your similar concern for your own suffering? There is another dimension of compassion, one for you alone, self-compassion.
Compassion is defined as “to suffer together.” It is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
Self-compassion, as defined by Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, a therapist in private practice in San Francisco, “is the capacity to find the wisdom and dignity in one’s own experience (particularly suffering), and to respond to it in an appropriately kind way”.
Be kind to yourself? Now there is a concept.
Shinraku continues, “When you’re struggling with depression, the last thing you want to do is be self-compassionate. But this is precisely what can help”.
9 tips for practicing self-compassion
- Start small.
“Simple acts of self-care can demonstrate that sense of kindness and nurturance to one’s self,” says Karin Lawson, PsyD, a psychologist and clinical director of Embrace, at Oliver-Pyatt Centers. “This might be anything from taking a shower to getting a massage to nourishing yourself with food to taking a leisurely walk”.
- Bring awareness to your experience without judgment.
According to Shinraku, You can start to see depression as something you’re experiencing rather than who you are.
- Get curious.
When you’re struggling with depression, one of the hardest parts of self-compassion is relating to yourself with kindness, Shinraku says. “If kindness feels too hard, or inauthentic, get curious instead. If a friend were struggling the way I am, what might I say to her or him? What would I want that friend to know”?
- Interrupt rumination by refocusing.
Instead of replaying the past or worrying about what might or might not happen, refocus attention to the inescapable goodness of you, your breath or other physical sensations starting with your toes on up. Upon finding any areas of tension or tightness, imagine you are sending your breath to those areas as you exhale.”
- Explore exceptions.
Your inner critic may like to speak in absolutes, such as “always” or “never.” When you hear such statements, seek out the exception, Josephine Wiseheart, MS, a psychotherapist at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, and in private practice in Miami, Fla.
says. “Even if we have ‘failed’ or ‘disappointed,’ it does not mean that we always fail or disappoint. And it certainly does not mean that we are a failure or disappointment. No one can always or never do anything.”
- Focus on self-compassionate statements.
Wiseheart suggested this exercise for practicing compassionate self-talk. Create two columns: On the left side of the paper, vent your negative, self-loathing statements. Then read each statement as if your child or loved one is reading them to you. Write a self-compassionate response to each negative statement.
- Write a letter.
Lawson shares this exercise: Imagine your loved one is struggling with the same depressive thoughts. Write them a compassionate letter. Read it aloud.
- Remember you’re not alone.
Another big part of self-compassion is common humanity or interconnectedness, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin).
You can connect to this by remembering you’re not alone, Shinraku says. “In this very moment millions of people, all over the world, are struggling with depression”.
As she added, “Depression doesn’t mean you are defective; it means that you are human”.
- Practice loving-kindness meditation.
According to Lawson, “A loving-kindness meditation focuses on thinking loving and kind thoughts for those around you, including yourself.”
((Quotes by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S, Associate Editor. 9 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion When You Have Depression, psychcentral2015/06/10/9)
Tara Brach, leading western teacher of Buddhist (mindfulness) meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening, author of Radical Acceptance
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