You’ll be more motivated to exercise
When you feel good, you’re more pumped to get out and be physically active – and you feel good if you treat yourself with kindness. “If you care about yourself and you don’t want to suffer you’re going to be more motivated to do things like exercise,” Dr Neff says. When people exercise because they enjoy it and want to be healthy, it’s more likely to become a life-long habit. “Exercise is much more sustainable if you want to do it – it’s intrinsically more satisfying, as opposed to just trying to look better in your jeans,” she says. And although being kind means going easy on yourself if you skip a day, that doesn’t mean you won’t hold yourself accountable. “People really think self-compassion is going to undermine their motivation or make them flake and not be responsible for their actions, but the opposite is true,” Dr Neff says. “Shaming and destructive criticism undermines your motivation because you lose faith in yourself and become afraid of failure, so you give up.” She says to think about how you would encourage a child – not by telling them they are a worthless loser, but by saying you believe in them and that they can do it.
Your caregivers won’t burn out
Self-compassion could also indirectly affect your health if your caregivers, including family members or healthcare workers, treat themselves with kindness. “For people whose profession or life is made up of giving to others, self-compassion helps them sustain the giving without burning out,” Dr Neff says. “It’s like you’re recharging your own batteries.” If a caregiver keeps giving without helping themselves, they definitely will run out of their own resources, she says. According to a study from Portugal, practising self-compassion to recognise their own needs allowed nurses to better deal with “compassion fatigue,” or the exhaustion of caring for others.
You can better handle life’s challenges
Studies show self-compassion can help you cope with whatever life throws your way, from cancer to infertility to parenting a child with autism. “By preventing the defeating effects of self-criticism, self-compassion allows us to maintain peace of mind and thereby retain our energy,” Dr Seppala says. In addition to being mindful of how you talk to yourself, she suggests other self-compassion strategies like writing yourself a letter, developing a mantra or phrase like, “May I be kind to myself in this moment of suffering,” or making a daily gratitude list. By learning how to deal with adversity, you can be resilient enough in body and mind to meet any health challenge. “Self-compassion is a strength,” Dr Neff says. “It actually helps you cope with life’s difficulties.”
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