There is growing evidence linking self-compassion with better physical health, but what does self-compassion actually mean?
To be self-compassionate involves a number of things:
- Being kind to yourself
- Not judging yourself on the basis of your perceived failures or flaws
- Accepting that no one is perfect a�� we all have flaws, make mistakes and experience failure
- Recognising that stressful events are part of the human experience
- Being mindful about negative feelings that can arise following failure or stress, but maintaining a balanced approach about those feelings
Mentally punishing yourself for your perceived failures, wona��t shame you into better behaviour, ita��s more likely to make it worse.
People who are attempting to cope with stress are more likely to turn to behaviours that offer short-term relief, or a quick fix, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or indulging in high-calorie, processed foods.
At the same time, they are less likely to look after themselves, through exercise or even medical care.
Emotional eating can lead to negative thoughts, with self-criticism causing further negative emotions and anxiety and the stress cycle of eating to self-soothe continues.
A study published in Health Psychology Open in 2017, surveyed 176 individuals to test a serial mediation model that linked self-compassion, perceived stress and health behaviours, with a comprehensive index of physical health.
The research suggests being kinder to yourself and accepting your perceived flaws and failures, will help to reduce stress and promote good health.
The positive effects of self-compassion.
- Self-compassion is linked to lower stress levels – Self compassionate people respond to failures and setbacks with acceptance rather than judgement. They recognise their mistakes as normal, i.e. everybody does it. They dona��t let negative emotions consume them.
- Self-compassion is linked to positive behaviours a�� If youa��re self-compassionate, youa��re more likely to eat healthier, exercise and stick to a diet, as well as being more likely to quit smoking.
- Self-compassion is about putting things into perspective.
So, you had a piece of that birthday cake someone brought into the office. You worked late and ended up going straight home rather than to the gym. Instead of beating yourself up about it, show a little kindness to yourself for once.
- Tell yourself, ita��s not the end of the world – Tomorrow is a new day.
- Dona��t make unrealistic expectations of yourself a�� If you set yourself the goal of going to the gym every day, your chances of failing will be much higher.
- Learn to forgive yourself a�� Dona��t let failure define you.
- Encourage yourself with positive thoughts a�� Tell yourself how good you will feel if you go out for that run, or choose the healthy option at lunch.
Motivate yourself to do the right thing because you want to, not because you feel you have to. Your goals, no matter what they are, will ultimately involve attaining happiness and to achieve this, you need to be kind to yourself along the way.
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