Making a change to develop healthier habits is never a perfect process. Instead, there are highs, lows, twists, setbacks, small and big wins. We know this, yet so often we expect ourselves to be perfect — and then beat ourselves up when we deviate from our plan. But rather than criticizing yourself, try some self-compassion. Doing so may help improve your physical health — find out how.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is being a supportive, good friend to yourself when you struggle or notice something you don't like about yourself.1 There are three components of self-compassion:2
- Common humanity: Recognizing that all humans suffer and feel inadequate, so you are not alone.
- Mindfulness: Observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
- Self-kindness: Being gentle with yourself when you experience difficulties, because you know it's inevitable.
Every one of us is deserving of compassion. And even if you struggle to practice self-compassion, you can learn to do so. What’s more, being kinder to yourself transcends beyond having a more positive attitude, it may also help you reach your health goals.
The benefits of self-compassion
You may tell yourself that you need to “try harder” when you enjoy food that's not on your meal plan or if your schedule gets thrown off and you don’t have time to exercise. But research indicates that practicing self-compassion may be more effective at helping you reach your goals — and be better for your health than being hard on yourself.
One study found that people who are self-compassionate reported lower levels of stress, better overall physical health, and practiced healthy behaviors such as exercising regularly, practicing stress management and making healthy food choices. 3
Being more accepting of your struggles may also fuel your motivation to improve.4 In fact, one study found when adults experienced an exercise setback, those who were more self-compassionate were less likely to ruminate over their situation and more likely to try again or focus on a new goal.5
Accepting a set-back and pausing to reflect on it is key, as it allows you to not only assess if your current goal and plan are right for you, but it also means you may master a new skill in order to achieve your aspirations, which can give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence.6 Self-compassionate people also tend to have a better handle on stressful situations, which means they may feel less depleted and can put more energy toward managing their health and any medical problems that may arise.7
3 ways to be compassionate toward yourself
The next time you find yourself being critical or thinking negatively, pause and consider one of these self-compassion practices.
1. Think about a friend
If you were talking to a friend who was in your situation, how would you speak to him/her? How does that differ from what you are saying to yourself? Turning around negative self-talk takes time, but continue practicing, and you will find your inner voice becoming more like a friend and less like a judge.
2. Take a break
In our fast-paced world, it can be all too easy to keep moving and ignore our feelings. Instead, pause and acknowledge how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Some steps you can take can start with accepting that you’re experiencing something difficult or challenging right now. Then try to ask yourself, “How can I express kindness to myself?” You can make a declaration that you may feel stressed, that you are not alone in feeling this way and try to repeat a positive phrase such as, “May I give myself the compassion that I need.” Repeat as often as you need.8
3. Put yourself first
Sometimes the demands of taking care of a family, a job and managing the stress of everyday life can make self-care take a backseat. But self-care not only helps you manage stress, it can also help you be a better caregiver, employee, boss, parent, and friend. So take that bubble bath, enjoy a short walk in nature, get that massage — do whatever would be an expression of love toward yourself.
Sometimes we need a friend to help us be a better friend to ourselves. Jenny Craig consultants are there for you every step of the way. Contact us to book a free appointment and speak with a personal consultant today.
Brittany is a writer, editor, and digital strategist specializing in health and lifestyle content. Her clients include Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, and Yoga Journal. Brittany earned her master's and bachelor's degrees from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. To stay sane from working too hard, she turns to yoga, strength training, and meditation.
Favorite healthy snack: smoothies
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