5 Ways to Cultivate Self-Compassion This Valentine's Season
By: Elena Simonsen
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it’s incomplete.” -Buddha
When you think of the word self-compassion, what comes up for you?
If you are like many people, you might struggle with being gentle with yourself. Or you find you give more love to friends and family than you do yourself.
Maybe you find that you talk to yourself using a mean, critical voice, and you find you often experience strong feelings of guilt and shame.
If any of these questions resonate with you, you’re not alone!
February is that time of the year when love is on the brain for a lot of us, but in our busy lives it can be very easy to forget to show love to the person that needs it the most - you!
But to really be well physically, emotionally and spiritually, we must be able to practice self-love and self-compassion.
So, what do we mean when we say “self-compassion"?
Well, to be self-compassionate simply means to approach yourself with kindness, grace, and empathy. It is more than just self-care; it involves being in tune with how you are truly feeling and accepting those feelings as they are rather than pushing them away. It is all about honoring you and your lived experience everyday.
Since February is the month of love and a time to pause and think about the love in our lives, it is the perfect time to think about how you can establish practices of self-compassion that keep you feeling fulfilled throughout the year. To get you started, we have 5 simple rituals you can use to show yourself some love and kindness:
Connect with your Breath. Stop whatever it is you are doing, take a break, and focus on your breath. One breathing technique you can use to promote relaxation and bring your attention to the present is alternate nostril breathing. To try it, seal your right nostril with your right thumb as you breathe into your left nostril for 3-4 seconds. Then seal your left nostril with your left thumb, and breathe out through your right nostril for 3-4 seconds. Repeat for as long as you may need to help decrease your stress and to get in touch with your emotions.
Change your script. Would you criticize your child, your friend, or your pet like you criticize yourself? Probably not! When you notice yourself beating yourself up or judging your feelings, think about how you can change the language you are using. For example, rather than telling yourself “I’ll never be good at my job, I’m a horrible employee!”, try saying “I’m frustrated with my job right now and that’s okay. I will allow myself to feel that frustration.” Talking to ourselves with a neutral, objective voice rather than a derogatory voice can decrease feelings of shame and accept reality with understanding.
Write it out. Take a few minutes to reflect on each day. Maybe you write this in a journal or in a note on your phone. Think about what feelings you experienced, what you are grateful for each day, and what successes you had. This can help you to visualize and celebrate yourself and your achievements each day.
Seek Connection. Reach out to someone you care about, have a genuine conversation with someone you feel close to. Connecting to others can help lower feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation while increasing feelings of empathy and self-worth. Maybe the person you connect with is your spouse, your parent, a friend, a coworker, or a friendly face at a local coffee shop. The important thing is that you are showing yourself kindness by cultivating some sort of connection with another person.
Make time for yourself. Show yourself some love by setting aside time every day to spend some quality time with yourself. Maybe you spend this time taking a long shower, doing some yoga, going for a walk, or going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. Dedicating at least 20 minutes a day to doing something nice for yourself is a daily reminder that you are worthy of your own love.
There are countless other ways that you can show yourself kindness; the list is endless! But if you need help coming up with more ideas, check out self-compassion expert Kristin Neff’s website.
Remember to be gentle and patient with yourself as you are discovering the best way to show yourself kindness; if you try something out and feel like it’s hard or isn’t working that’s okay! Self compassion looks different for each individual since everyone is unique, so keep trying different strategies until you find what works for you. Be patient and consistent in your efforts, and don’t give up or give in to your inner critic.
If you are wanting to learn more about improving your self-compassion, Elena Simonsen is a clinician who understands how to make that relationship stronger and healthier. She can help you explore obstacles and find what works for you personally from a warm, compassionate, and strengths-based approach. Book a free 15 minute session with her here!