Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.
– Pema Chodron
Our thoughts trigger real biological reactions in the body. While self-criticism steps up the stress response, treating yourself like a friend stimulates the release of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that can enhance life satisfaction.
Oxytocin increases feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness – something we all could use. It’s sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone” because it’s released when people snuggle up or bond socially. But you can also activate it by soothing yourself.
According to self-compassion pioneer Dr. Kristin Neff, people who treat themselves with kindness and understanding are “much less likely to be depressed, anxious and stressed and are much more likely to be happy, resilient and optimistic about their future.”
These 2 self-compassion practices can help you develop a kinder, gentler and more accepting attitude towards yourself.
During a moment of intense stress, or any time you’re feeling emotional pain:
- Place your hand on your heart (tender touch alone stimulates oxytocin)
- Say to yourself:
“This is hard.”
“I’m doing the best I can.”
“I will get through this.”
- Think about what you need:
a deep breath? a time out? something to eat? advice from a friend?
Tame Your Inner Voice
If you catch your internal voice being critical:
- Ask yourself what a good friend would say, and tell that to yourself instead.
- Even if you don’t quite believe it, you will be changing your emotional experience – as well as your body’s chemistry.
Note: For more information on the power and practice of self-compassion, check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s research at self-compassion.org.