Sometimes we tend to be our own worst critics, hating ourselves over the little things, like failing to go to the gym for the fifth day in a row. But research indicates that tough self-criticism can cause a lot of damage to our health, and that it’s best to be compassionate with ourselves for our mental and physical well being.
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According to The Washington Post, self-compassion is key to leading a healthier life. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, describes self-compassion as the balance of three factors: mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness. These three terms refer to having awareness of your own negative thoughts and feelings without lingering on them, recognizing that we all have our shortcomings, and showing understanding for yourself when you do something wrong.
A study from 2017 says that people who have higher levels of self-compassion are capable of handling their stress better, letting go of things with more ease; this is a really good thing since chronic stress harms your life in all sorts of ways, by directly affecting your health and by exposing you to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
While it should be easy to be compassionate with yourself once in a while, it’s more complicated than it sounds. Self-compassionate people prioritize their long-term well being, valuing it over short term indulgences. So they’d rather take a walk in the sun instead of laying around watching TV all day. According to the study, these people have more perspective, which sometimes can be hard to find.
The article reports that in order to cultivate self-compassion, you must start with mindfulness, paying attention to your thoughts and patterns; observe them and notice if they’re critical, and cut yourself some slack. Take time to hang out with the people you love and create moments for yourself, like cooking a nourishing meal. A good workout can also do wonders for your health and self-care.