Self-compassion provides a bounty of benefits. It helps us create more meaningful relationships — with ourselves and with others.
According to psychotherapist Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, practicing self-compassion helps us tolerate difficult feelings instead of turning to distractions — such as a credit card or remote control — and becoming dependent on them, she said.
“This pattern can be painful, because it traps you in a never-ending quest to avoid discomfort.”
Self-compassion teaches us that we don’t have to turn away from discomfort. “In fact, feeling the emotions that are present allows them to flow, while avoiding them tends to keep them stuck.”
Having a compassionate relationship with yourself also helps you know what you can say yes to, and what you need to say no to, she said. “From that place of understanding, you can relate to others with more integrity and compassion.”
Shinraku defines self-compassion as “a willingness to be kindly present with and responsive to the fullest truth of one’s experience.” It helps us move from “criticism and rigidity, to greater curiosity and flexibility.”
Below, she shared four simple yet significant ways we can practice self-compassion in the morning to set a sweet, supportive tone for the rest of your day.
Place your hand on your heart.
As you wake up, place your hand on your heart. Research suggests that this small gesture stimulates the flow of oxytocin, which helps to reduce stress, said Shinraku, who has a private practice in San Francisco.
You also can pair the gesture with kind words. She shared this example: “I’m here with you right now. And I’ll be here with you all day, no matter what.”
Take a self-compassion break.
Some days we’re anxious or upset about a certain situation, Shinraku said. Other days we wake up upset, and we’re not even sure why, she said. In any of these cases, she suggested starting the day with a self-compassion break, a tip from researcher Kristin Neff. This involves repeating these four phrases to ourselves:
“This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is a part of life.
May I be kind to myself.
May I give myself the compassion I need right now.”
Neff shares this audio on her website, which she suggests readers adapt to whatever resonates with you.
Reflect on the day ahead.
Shinraku suggested reflecting for five minutes on potential challenges and ways you can support yourself as you navigate the day’s rough patches.
She shared this example: Later in the day, you have a big meeting or difficult conversation. When you’re reviewing your day, acknowledge how you feel about the meeting or talk, and figure out how you’ll support yourself before, during or after.
You might decide to have a snack before the meeting to help you focus. You might check in with a friend to help you feel more confident. You might schedule some time to decompress after the difficult talk.
Practice a compassionate meditation.
Shinraku calls this meditation “Embodying Self-Compassion,” which helps people turn toward their experience instead of turning away from it.
Place your hands on your belly and repeat to yourself three times: “I’m willing to be here with all aspects of myself.”
Place your hands on your heart and repeat to yourself three times: “I’m willing to be open to all aspects of myself.”
Place your hands on your head and repeat to yourself three times: “I’m willing to be aware of all aspects of myself.”
Remember that no matter what the day brings, self-compassion is always with you. As Shinraku said, “Self-compassion is a reliable resource that cannot be taken away from you; [it’s] available to you in any circumstance.”