In the journey towards finding balance in your life, the practice of self-compassion may be a game changer. Self-compassion is the act of recognizing your own humanity, accepting yourself at the present moment, and appreciating yourself not for your productivity, but for your inherent worth. However, self-compassion is one of the hardest things to practice when we have high expectations set for ourselves, perfectionist ideals, and constant messages that we should be doing more. Practicing self-compassion is an active process that involves the mind and body. Here are some things you can work on to incorporate self-compassion into your everyday life.
Start to recognize your self-talk
When we are stressed, the thoughts in our head quicken in pace and amplify. Some of those thoughts are your own mind talking to you about your self-worth or your current situation. You may call yourself names, blame yourself for doing something “wrong” or not being good enough, or tell yourself that your actions have much larger implications than they really do. It can be scary to identify what these internal voices are saying, but this is a significant first step to practicing self-compassion. Try writing down your self-talk in a journal. You may even notice certain patterns in your self-talk.
So, you have recognized your negative self-talk, but what do you do next? It can be overwhelming to simply notice your self-talk without working to reframe it. This is where affirmations come in. If you are just starting to use affirmation work, look over your self-talk and think about what you would tell your best friend to comfort them. Channel these words of love towards yourself, taking the time to write or say your affirmations aloud. Repeat them, giving them time to sink in. If you find it hard to accept affirmations, explore what it might be like to believe one, with curiosity. Patience is key when it comes to using affirmations.
Meditate to presence yourself
Part of the practice of self-compassion is grounding yourself, which means bringing your awareness into the present moment. One way to come into the present moment is to meditate. Meditation can be practiced in many ways, but one way is to sit comfortably with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. If you would like more structure to your meditations, the Mindful Awareness Research Center website has guided meditations that walk you through the process. This amazing resource has a Loving Kindness meditation, if you would like to practice compassionate meditation.
Do things that make you happy
The best way to practice self-compassion is to do the things you love. When we are stressed, it is common to restrict ourselves from doing pleasurable activities until we finish our work and complete all our obligations. But what if we allowed ourselves to do the things we love, guilt-free? Practicing self-care, even for short periods of time, can not only improve productivity, but can also increase mental wellbeing. It is easier to practice self-compassion (and be productive) when we are getting what we need. So next time you are feeling stressed, do something kind for yourself.
Compassion with accountability
It is easy to forget to practice self-compassion. Often times, self-talk emerges without us even noticing. Taking a brief moment each day to give yourself affirmations, meditate, or even recognize your self-talk will make self-compassion part of your routine. The GRIT Peer Coaching Program offers individualized session to work on practicing self-compassion and building skills to improve your overall wellbeing. You can request a coach for spring quarter to increase accountability and work on maintaining balance in your life here at UCLA. Enjoy your journey towards self-compassion!
Maya Ram is a third year World Arts and Cultures major and Public Health minor, and she represents the Bruin Research Center in the HCI Living Well Coalition.