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Self-Compassion Practices for a Healthier, Happier New Year

Posted by Sandy Yu on 12.19.2019


The societal shift from selfishness to compassion and empathy has made a big impact this year. With more and more companies working to include empathy and emotional intelligence in their business strategy, employees have taken notice to the positive effects of compassionate communication. However, the critical element of self-compassion isn’t often noticed.

It’s not self-pity or narcissism. It’s extending the same level of empathy and humanity we give others to ourselves. A study at Berkeley -- lead by self-compassion thought-leader Kristen Neff -- uncovered the science behind why we need to practice more than just self care.

With more and more attention being given to mental well-being in the workplace, it’s important that we take into account how our feelings of self-value, satisfaction, and fulfillment are impacting our work. Here are 6 tips for making self-compassion a professional focus in the new year:

1. Start by focusing on your mindset

Mindset is everything. It fuels our days and sets the tone for our most basic level of function. By identifying the areas where we struggle most, we’re able to do the necessary work to shift into a growth mindset, aiming our actions toward self-improvement.

Our perceived faults can show up to derail our mindset. Maybe it’s feelings of poor productivity from unfinished to-do lists. Maybe we feel too self-centered. Perhaps you’ve set financial milestones that feel far out of reach.

The questions you need to ask are: 

  • Are the expectations I set for myself realistic? 
  • Is it reasonable to expect to achieve these goals? 
  • And would I set these sames expectations for someone else?

If the answer to any of these is no, take a step back and examine how you can create a healthier set of expectations. Try starting each day with an exercise to focus on your struggles so that the tone of your day is one of small steps to improvement instead of limiting doubt in your ability.

2. Do everything with intention

Once you’ve identified a reasonable and fair level of expectation for yourself, be sure to make the appropriate adjustments to your workflow. Daily to-do lists can set you up for failure if you’re not allocating appropriate time for each task.

When you pack every day to the brim with expectations of productivity, you’ll quickly find yourself sapped of your energy. Constantly sprinting after loaded to-do lists is the quickest route to burnout. And when you don’t devote the appropriate amount of time to tasks, you won’t do your best work, and you’ll find less enjoyment in your work -- even if it’s work you care deeply about.

Structure your time with intention. If you’re packing in a lot of tasks, set time limits and stick to them. If you have a more thought-provoking project that may not fit into a time window, be sure you make it a priority that isn’t mashed in with others.

3. Stop self-punishing

This could be the most damaging practice we participate in. When to-dos remain unchecked, we miss a project deadline, or we don’t hit a goal we were aiming for, we tend to fall into a pattern of negative self-talk that leads to doubt, shame, and lower levels of confidence.

In these instances, give yourself grace. Focusing on what you DIDN’T accomplish isn’t going to change the fact that there is still work to be done. Instead, refocus and set new goals. Note and correct thoughts against yourself, and keep your focus on self-improvement.

4. Know the limits of your fault

Especially in team environments, it can be easy to fall prey to the hotbed of blame when deadlines are missed or work doesn’t hit the mark. Many individuals tend to reflect on their faults and dwell on how their shortcomings contributed to the failure.

It’s important to remember that you’re part of a team -- not the whole team. While it’s fine to acknowledge where you may have misstepped, don’t take all the blame if it’s not yours to take. Take note of when and how you can stand up to defend yourself, and be sure that you’re awarding yourself the same benefit of the doubt that you give fellow team members.

5. Don’t discredit physical comfort and the benefits of exercise

A 2014 study found that physical activity increased both eudemonic (meaning and self-realization) and hedonic (pleasure attainment and pain avoidance) well-being. It’s no secret that physical activity improves our mental state, and physical sensations of comfort are directly connected to happiness.

Focusing on things that make you feel good -- like exercise, a good massage, even a cozy blanket -- can all help give you a little boost. Make sure your work-place ergonomics are solid and that you’re physically as comfortable as possible.

6. Treat yourself the way you want to treat others

You recognize the humanity of those around you, giving compassion and empathy to help ease their experience.

You’re human too. You deserve the same level of care and concern you show others. We’re all working toward the same goals, the same fulfillment and happiness -- self-compassion helps us take bigger steps.

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Topics: self-compassion practices, self-compassion

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