You treat your best friends with love, respect and kindness -- but do you extend the same courtesy to yourself?
We're often our own worst critics -- and that can take a serious toll on our everyday lives. Self-compassion, or the art of expressing warmth and understanding toward yourself at all times, is an important element to wellbeing. Not only does it benefit your mental health, but research shows it can even improve aspects of your physical health.
The best part? It's fairly simple to do. Practicing self-compassion is just "talking to yourself with an encouraging inner dialogue," self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, told The Huffington Post. This includes acknowledging a difficulty or a challenge and telling yourself it's okay that it's occurring.
Life is better when you treat yourself with kindness. We chatted with a few self-compassion researchers on the overwhelming benefits of the practice. Check them out below and transform your mental attitude ASAP.
1. Self-compassion makes you more resilient.
Think of a time when you may not have received a promotion or a job you really wanted. Did you beat yourself up about it or ruminate over your mistakes? Chances are that's not going to help you in the next similar situation. It's easier to bounce back from failure when you're kind to yourself, says self-compassion researcher and Harvard Medical School clinical psychology instructor Christopher Germer.
"Self-compassion is an important factor in emotional resilience," Germer told The Huffington Post. "There's just a wide range of elements it enhances when it comes to emotional wellbeing."
2. It betters your relationships.
Not only will your relationship with yourself improve, it'll strengthen your other relationships as well, Germer says.
"Studies suggest that self-compassion can lead to an increase in social connectedness," he explained. And it makes sense: by expressing compassion inward, you're setting yourself up to be a more understanding person overall -- and that can help you relate and bond with others.
3. It'll help you be less of a perfectionist.
If you're harshly self-critical, you may want to make room for the practice to release yourself from the chains of perfectionism, Germer says. Research suggests that those who reported low self-compassion also reported more perfectionistic self-presentation. And that aim for perfection can take a toll on your wellbeing.
"People tend to be much crueler to themselves than anyone else," Neff said. "When you practice self-compassion, you essentially have a friend in your head."
4. Self-compassion helps with body positivity.
Preliminary research is also suggesting that self-compassion can serve as an intervention for those who may be at risk for body-based mental health issues, Germer explained. That's a huge step for body positivity.
"Women with disturbed body image who listened to [self-compassion] tapes for a few weeks may find that although the may not have lost weight during that time, they had a less harsh and critical relationship with their bodies," he said.
5. It's a nonjudgmental way of talking to yourself.
Self-compassion is not a measure of your confidence or how you feel about yourself at a given moment, Neff says.
"Self-compassion is not self-esteem because it's not a judgment of your worth," she explained. "It's a more stable way of relating to yourself and it doesn't go up or down. It's not based on judging good or bad. It's there during success and times of failure."
6. It allows you to engage in healthy activities.
Practicing self-compassion is more than just giving yourself platitudes -- it also means participating in fulfilling, calming activities. Self-compassionate people journal, read books, spend time with loved ones, take bubble baths or do anything that promotes self care, Germer says.
7. It helps you become your own biggest ally.
Self-compassion puts the best person in your corner: you. The habit turns you from your biggest enemy to your strongest cheerleader, Neff says.
"If is a friend is upset, you're encouraging and understanding," she explained. "A self-compassionate person treats themselves with that same attitude."
8. Self-compassion makes you happier.
When it comes down to it, Neff says the practice can transform your overall outlook. Research shows that self-compassion can make you more joyful -- and who wouldn't want to live life with a happier frame of mind?
So go on, be kind to yourself. You deserve it.