07 Feb Want to Change Your Life? Try Self-Compassion
It’s hard (impossible!) to be happy if you’re overly self-critical.
It’s hard to be happy if you can’t / won’t forgive yourself.
It’s hard to be happy if you can’t practice self-compassion…
Change can be hard. But if we practice self-compassion, it’s much more likely we’ll succeed.
BY SHAUNA SHAPIRO | FEBRUARY 3, 2020
So often we feel stuck in our lives. Maybe we’re in a dead-end job, or we can’t seem to find a healthy romantic relationship, or we keep procrastinating on starting to exercise. As we struggle to improve our lives, we may become dispirited, feeling as if we’ve missed our chance and it’s just too late.
Why do so many of us fail to change? It’s not because change is impossible: All of us have the ability to transform our life at any age, thanks to neuroplasticity—the capacity of our brain to change throughout our lives. Instead, it’s often because of the critical, judgmental voices in our heads—the ones that tell us we are not good enough and berate us for any mistakes or shortcomings.
Science suggests that constant self-judgment and shame shut down the learning centers of the brain, robbing us of the resources we need to learn and grow. Shame locks us into repeating vicious cycles, instead of helping us form new healthy behaviors. Further, shame undermines our belief in ourselves, marooning us on an island of helplessness and self-loathing. As Brené Brown aptly puts it, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
What’s the alternative? Self-compassion—bringing kindness and care to our own suffering. It might seem surprising that self-compassion can bring about great change, but modern science is backing this up. Research suggests that an attitude of kindness strengthens our ability to learn from our mistakes, which can expand our perspective and make us more creative and resourceful.
Self-compassion and change
Research bears out the different ways that self-compassion helps us make changes in our lives. For example, people who are kinder toward themselves are better equipped to make progress toward health-related goals, such as losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, or recovering from substance abuse. When we’re self-compassionate, instead of shaming ourselves, we are able to face our struggles head-on with all of our resources available to us.
Self-compassion is also associated with the release of oxytocin (the love hormone that facilitates safety and connection), which reduces our distress and increases our feelings of care and support. As psychologist Paul Gilbert proposes, when we practice self-compassion, we are deactivating the threat-defense system and activating the care system in our bodies.
This soothing effect can help us when we are going through difficult times that require us to make changes in our lives, serving as a powerful source of strength and resilience. For example, David Sbarra and his colleagues found that participants who were going through a divorce and displayed more self-compassion when talking about their breakup were healthier, happier, and more resilient. Similarly, soldiers returning from Afghanistan who were taught self-compassion had lower levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.
This research bodes well for those of us who want to make changes in our own lives. Whatever we struggle with, practicing self-compassion can help us make headway on our goals and aspirations. Science is showing that the path to a happier and more fulfilled life starts with growing an attitude of kindness…
… keep reading the full & original article HERE