Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

Be Good to Yourself

Practice self-compassion

A crucial ingredient in emotional health is self-compassion, which we think of as a basic practice of treating yourself with acceptance, kindness, and gentleness—much as you would treat another person you care deeply about.

But kindness is only part of it: researcher and psychologist Kristin Neff says that mindfulness (the practice of paying attention to what happens inside and around you with a nonjudgmental attitude) and being aware of the shared suffering of others are both important components of self-compassion. Although it is difficult to separate which of these components is most important in wellbeing, all appear to help decrease self-criticism, increase a sense of connection with others, and promote better emotional responses in the face of the stress of everyday living.  When you’re paying attention, you become more aware of where you tend to judge or criticize yourself or others harshly, and when you take the time to contemplate the experiences of others, you may find that your perspective on your own situation feels less claustrophobic.

Some psychologists now recommend building self-compassion rather than self-esteem. While self-esteem does strive to cultivate a positive view of oneself, it can lead to self-deception and refusal to acknowledge personal limitations or opportunities to improve. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is about recognizing and accepting the imperfections as well.

Take care of your body

Stress and other negative emotions can produce damaging effects on the body, decreasing the immune response and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation.

Positive emotions, on the other hand, are connected to physical health and wellbeing. Likewise, the body has a profound effect on the mind. For example, eating high levels of omega-3s can bolster positive moods, decrease impulsivity, and alleviate symptoms of depression. Regular exercise can also boost confidence and mood, as well as eliminate fatigue and stress. Sleep also has a profound impact on emotions: a Gallup study found that people who went to bed in a bad mood but got a full night of sleep had above-average moods the next day.

The mind and body are an interconnected system: making positive choices in one area of your life will directly benefit other areas as well.


Reviewed by: 
Kate Hathaway, PhD

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