The current social distancing guidelines and living in self isolation means that many of us will have had to meet with ourselves in these times. Where ordinarily we would be with others we may now be alone, where we would find distraction and comfort in going to other places we are now at home. Where we may be in a difficult relationship at home it may now feel like there is no escape or relief and feeling very alone in the presence of another person who may not understand, care or connect with you.
Building the quality of our self to self relationship is very important in these times. There are a lot of terms around to describe our self relationship; self-worth, self-esteem, self-help, self-confidence, self-criticism, self-compassion, self-support, the list goes on. Some parts of the self to self relationship are helpful and others are not. Today it might be useful to grow those parts which will best sustain us in this difficult time.
It is useful to find those things within ourselves which can give us a sense of feeling safe, secure and reassured. Kindness, compassion and gratitude are helpful tools for this.
Speak kindly to yourself when you are struggling; it is understandable you would feel like this, it is a time of suffering in many different forms, many people are feeling sad, scared, lonely and many are grieving. Here are 10 self-compassion exercises by Kristin Neff to try being kind and reassuring with yourself when you have moments of struggle, overwhelm and upset.
Kindness, compassion and gratitude have emotional, physical, psychological, relational and societal benefits for the giver and receiver, it’s a win win!
‘Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’, (Philo of Alexandria). This includes being kind to yourself in your own battles. Kind words diffuse negative situations and grow confidence, kind acts show love.
Gratitude focuses us on what we do have, when we are struggling it can help to re-calibrate us onto an upward spiral. We get the opportunity at the moment to say thank-you together as a society on Thursday nights at 8pm. If you haven’t tried this try, join in with the clapping for our NHS, care workers, shop keepers, refuse collectors, if you really want to go for it you can bang saucepans, if you have a ship, blow your horn.
Collect grateful thoughts in the morning to start the day well and at night-you might find you sleep better. When we meet together as a group we have a weekly ‘Good Notice Board’ where we each think of one good thing in the week-even if it was a tough week. Can you think of one good thing that has happened this week?
Compassion recognises the suffering of ourselves or others and desires to relieve that suffering. What do you need right now to feel cared for?
If we learn to find our own care, compassion and kindness to self we will fill our well from which these attributes will automatically flow to others. If we are trying to fulfil the second but not the first we will feel empty and worn out.
What was good about today? What went well? What was hard today-what kind words do you need to hear? What moved you-how can you reach out?
Paul Gilbert, one of the founders of Compassion Focused Therapy explains that we have a tricky brain, we didn’t choose for our brain to react like this, it’s not your fault you feel scared and anxious, and now we find ourselves here, in isolation. Because our brains have the capacity to imagine and create, in frightening times they can ruminate and worry which is how our brains have developed to protect us, we are shaped by the circumstances we were born into and did not choose this. So it is not our fault that our brains can sometimes loop round lots of anxious and depressive thoughts. Instead of putting yourself down for feeling anxious, learn more self-compassion and remember that you did not choose this brain. The good news is that by learning about applying compassion to ourselves we can feel more safe and secure and less anxious.
Studies about the effect of kindness, gratitude and compassion have shown that when engage in these towards ourselves and others it can improve our health, our immunity, slow down aging and make us feel happier.