Self-care is an essential part of living a healthy life. Its benefits, however, are not felt by us alone. Taking care of ourselves — physically and emotionally — is also the way we fill our reserves so that we can best care for those who need us: our children, parents, friends and co-workers.
Healthy habits lead to a healthy lifestyle. To function at an optimal level, one in which we are thriving in our work-life balance, we need to move our bodies with regular exercise, nourish our bodies with a well-balanced diet and rest our bodies with a good night’s sleep.
And there’s more. Putting down our smartphones and taking breaks from technology can offer stress relief and encourage us to take time for more healthy habits, such as practicing mindfulness and simply stopping to savor some of the beauty that exists in our life.
Another important component of self-care is self-compassion, the notion that we can be kind to ourselves during times of emotional pain and difficulty. This one doesn’t often come easily, as many of us have the tendency to criticize and judge ourselves when something doesn’t go right or as expected. But replacing self-judgment and criticism with awareness and self-kindness comes with benefits for living a happier, more satisfying life.
“Self-Compassion Break” Exercise
The accompanying video (above) includes an exercise in which you’ll learn the three steps that make up a “self-compassion break,” based on the research of Dr. Kristin Neff. During a moment of challenge or difficulty, this exercise offers an opportunity to stop and bring awareness to how you feel, recognize that your emotions are part of the shared human experience and consider what you can do to bring a dose of kindness or comfort to yourself.
“How Would You Treat a Friend?” Practice
While we’re often quick to judge ourselves, we’ll treat a good friend with much more kindness and compassion. The next time you feel triggered to blame yourself for something you’ve said, done or felt, halt your inner critic, take a breath and simply ask yourself, “How would I treat a friend who is in the same exact circumstance? What type of support would I offer a friend who’s in pain?” Then see if you can take those responses and apply them to yourself. How does it feel to show yourself some compassion?
Caren Osten is a certified positive psychology coach and writer. She works with individuals and groups who seek to cultivate greater positivity, clarity and calm as they navigate life’s daily stresses, challenges and shifts. Osten leads workshops and speaks publicly, sharing the benefits, practices and science of optimism, self-compassion, mindfulness and resilience. A contributor to The New York Times, PsychologyToday.com, Mindful and other publications and websites, Osten writes about health, well-being, travel and education. Learn more about her work at www.carenosten.com and find her @carenosten on Twitter and Instagram.