In celebration of National Wellness Month, Crosworks welcomes Rebecca Hellmann as a guest blogger. Rebecca is a mindfulness and self-compassion teacher based in Columbus, Ohio. She, too, has assessed her career and moved from the world of corporate marketing to teaching mindfulness and compassion skills full-time to individuals and teams.
There are so many components of wellness – eating healthy, connecting with good friends, getting the right amount of exercise, practicing good sleep habits. The list goes on and on. But what about the role of your mind and your mental habits?
There is a growing body of research that indicates that the way we “relate” to ourselves can have a profound effect on our wellness – helping us deal with anxiety, depression and stress, not to mention being more equipped to handle the overall ups and downs of living a fully human life of aging, sickness, loss and worry. But what does that even mean, “How we ‘relate’ to ourselves?”
Well . . . picture that a good friend shows up to you in distress (or perhaps your child, if that’s relevant). Something went wrong in their life–perhaps they dropped the ball on something, they’re judging themself for not doing enough, they are worried about a conflict at work or school. How do you respond? What words do you say? What’s your tone? What physical gestures of comfort might you offer?
Now, compare that experience to how you turn to yourself when you are in distress – when you fall short, when you experience hardship. What tone do you use? What words do you say?
If you are like many people I teach, there may be a slight smile on your face as you realize where this is going. Know you are not alone! It’s true for the vast majority of us – we know how to be kind, supportive and patient to those we love. But it’s very unusual, maybe even uncomfortable, for us to turn that same kindness to ourselves.
What if I told you that people who are aware of their thoughts and actions and turn to themselves with warmth, wisdom and compassion:
- Are more likely to engage in perspective taking. Many fear that self-compassion is just a form of self-pity. In fact, self-compassion is the antidote to self-pity because self-compassion recognizes that life is hard at times for all people; this isn’t unique to me.
- Are less likely to dwell on how bad things are. When we are self-compassionate, we remember that everyone struggles from time to time and we don’t exaggerate the extent of our struggles.
- Are more resilient. They have a reliable source of inner strength that builds courage and enhances resilience when we’re faced with difficulties (chronic pain, divorce or trauma). Self-compassion doesn’t make us vulnerable and weak — it actually does the opposite.
- Have high personal standards. A common misgiving is that self-compassion might undermine our motivation to achieve. Most people believe self-criticism is an effective motivator but it’s not. Self critical tends to undermine self-confidence and leads to fear of failure.
Kristin Neff, who founded the Center for Mindful Self Compassion and who brought self compassion into academia, says:
|“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.”
And not only does that feel good . . . it has a meaningful impact on our mental health and wellness. It also increases our ability to show up to the world in a way that allows others to be fully human, as well. That seems to be something that this world could use a bit more of.
It sounds good – but how do we do it?
It’s not always easy. We need to rewire much of the way that our minds have been habitually formed. But with gentle and patient practice – in a supportive environment and community – it can be transformational.
The practice of self compassion explores three components: Self Kindness + Common Humanity + Mindfulness
With formal and informal practices and exercises, we can begin to see where our habitual ways of responding to ourselves aren’t skillful and we notice what happens when we try something different.
Louise Hay has a wonderful quote that often comes to mind when I think about my own journey of self compassion, “You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
What might it be like to become your own cheerleader, supporter, confidante and advocate? And aren’t you (and the health of your mind and body) worth it?
Rebecca Hellmann trained at the Center for Mindful Self Compassion, as well as the Mindfulness Training Institute. For more information regarding Rebecca and her offerings (including an upcoming Mindful Self Compassion* course that begins this fall), please visit rebeccahellmann.com.
*Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is an evidence-based program developed by Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff designed to cultivate self-compassion, reduce stress, and increase well-being. The multiple dimensions that construct MSC work together in harmony to strengthen and enhance self-regulatory resources, emotional regulation, resilience, and well-being. A steadily growing body of MSC research continues to expand, with more than 5,000 studies to date finding MSC to be an effective intervention to increase self-compassion, mindfulness, social connectedness, life satisfaction, well-being, happiness, and compassion for others (Germer & Neff, 2013). MSC research continues to find that increased self-compassion is associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression, shame, fear of failure, and burnout (Neff, 2023). Self-compassion plays a vital role in emotional well-being and supports and strengthens emotional regulation and resilience and is applicable across clinical, community, medical, and educational populations.