Let me ask you this…Have you ever had a time where you were struggling about something, and you kept playing the situation over and over in your head? Ask yourself: what is the tone of voice of your inner-self? Is it kind? Caring? Comforting? Encouraging?

Generally, our inner voice, especially during times of struggle, is actually a very loud inner-critic. We tend to talk to ourselves in a tone and manner in which we would never talk to a friend; in fact, we likely wouldn’t even talk like that to a stranger or someone we don’t like!

So, why do we talk to ourselves in such a negative, harsh way?

The answer to “why” we do this may be varied, but I do know that it is something that we’ve been conditioned in. It can feel self-absorbed, boasting, or even downright awkward to talk kindly to ourselves, but yet we have no problem in being harsh.

If you were to go to a dinner party, and start complaining of all the things that were going wrong in your life, you’d probably get a lot of people commiserating and identifying with you. But if you were to go into that same dinner party and talk about all the positive things going on in your life – how great the kids and your relationship are doing, how successful your business is growing and how you succeeded in losing that stubborn 5 pounds – you might not have too many people who would want to keep talking to you! Am I right? Have you had this experience?

So how do you break the cycle of focusing on the negative, and begin to practice more self-compassion? Here are some mindfulness steps that can help:

  1. Label difficult emotions: name the emotion; observe it; create space between your emotion and your reaction to it; begin to take your emotions less personal – you are simply human, and a range of emotions are part of the shared human experience; accept what is arising; honor your emotion rather than trying to fix it or make it just go away
  2. Find where in your body the difficult emotions are residing: experience it as sensation; practice having less over-identification with them;
  3. Soothe and comfort yourself for having the difficult emotions: hands over your heart; give yourself a hug; palms open in a receiving posture (rather than a tight-fisted closed posture); gentle words; comforting affirmations.

Self-compassion is a beautiful practice to cultivate. Research has shown the many benefits we receive when developing these tools. Kristin Neff, PhD is the leading researcher in this field, has found the following:

  • Increase in: life satisfaction, happiness, confidence, gratitude, optimism, immune function
  • Decrease in: anxiety, depression, stress, perfectionism, shame, body dissatisfaction
  • Increase in coping and resiliency
  • Less fear of failure à more likely to persist
  • More personal responsibility, motivation and to repair past mistakes
  • Better health habits
  • More caring and supportive relationships with partner – more forgiving, less controlling and verbally aggressive