In my last post I described self-compassion as a life skill that we can all keep working on. But why bother? What makes a little self-compassion so important for mental health? Well, over a thousand research studies have documented the benefits that self-compassion has on both mental and physical health. People who demonstrate more self-compassion in daily life tend to be happier, more confident, and experience greater physical health. The evidence shows that self-compassionate people experience less depression, anxiety, stress and shame. So how is it that simply showing yourself compassion can have such a positive effect on overall wellbeing? Here's how:
Our brains respond to kindness by turning down the threat system and stimulating our soothing system. For example, a newborn baby left alone does not know whether she is safe. Her brain's threat response is triggered and she cries out. The parent responds with physical contact, a soothing voice, perhaps some cuddles. This act of kindness and care switches off the threat response in the child and switches on the soothing system, allowing her to calm and refocus on other things.
In this example, the brain is responding to compassion from an external source. Interestingly, our brain responds in the same way to compassion from an internal source (our own thoughts) as it does to compassion received from an external one. In short, this means that when we express kindness to ourselves (through how we speak to ourselves in our heads, and how we behave) we calm the threat response. The result is less depression, anxiety, stress and shame. More confidence, life-satisfaction, and general wellbeing.
Please follow for more posts like this. Lets chat about it in the comments. Do you struggle with harsh self-criticism that holds you back? When are you able to treat yourself with kindness and when is it most difficult?