This is the fourth in a series of blogs about self-compassion, which focuses on some of the tools of self-compassion. As a therapist, I can honestly say, that it is one of the best practices available – based on solid scientific research. It can make a huge difference to how we feel about ourselves and how we manage difficult situations and difficult feelings.
My previous blog looked at The Self-Compassion Break and Self-Compassion through writing. This blog focuses on an exercise called How Would You Treat a Friend? and Affectionate Breathing. All these tools are taken from Kristen Neff and Chris Germer’s excellent websites (see links below)
Settle yourself down in a position in which your body is comfortable and supported – you might be sitting on a comfortable chair, or lying down. Now let your eyes gently close, and take a few slow easy breaths releasing any tension in your body. Place a hand over your heart, or another soothing place, as a reminder that we’re bringing not only our awareness but AFFECTIONATE awareness, to our breathing and to ourselves. You can leave your hand there if it feels right, or simply let it rest by your side at any time.
Now just starting to notice your breathing, not just as the air enters and leaves your nostrils, but in the whole of your body, just feeling your body breathe in and feeling your body breathe out. Just letting your body breathe YOU. There is absolutely nothing you need to do. Perhaps noticing how your body is nourished on the in-breath and then relaxes with the out-breath.
Now noticing the rhythm of your breathing, flowing in and flowing out. Taking a bit of time to feel the natural rhythm of your breathing. Feeling your whole body subtly moving with the breath, just like the movement of the sea, waves gently coming in to the shore and then going out. Your mind will naturally wander like a curious child or a little puppy. When that happens, just gently returning to the rhythm of your breathing.
Allowing your whole body to be gently rocked and caressed – internally caressed – by your breathing. If you like, even giving yourself over to your breathing, letting your breathing be all there is. Becoming the breath. Just breathing. Being breathing. And now, gently releasing your attention to the breath, sitting quietly in your own experience, and allowing yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling and to be just as you are. And whenever you feel ready, taking your time, simply slowly and gently opening your eyes.
How Would You Treat a Friend?
Often the easiest way to start to find compassion for yourself is through this exercise: treating yourself like a good friend. We have no problem giving our friends love, compassion, and understanding, even when they make a mistake or are in a bad mood. However, it can be much harder to extend that same understanding and compassion to ourselves when we make a mistake.
Try following these instructions to start showing yourself more compassion:
- Think about a recent time when a close friend was struggling in some way. How did you respond to your friend in this situation? Simply acknowledge or even write down what you did, what you said, and note the tone that you used.
- Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or you are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Again simply acknowledge or write down what you typically do, what you say, and the tone in which you talk to yourself.
- Did you notice a difference? (For most of us, there is a huge difference!!!!) If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?
- Finally, think or write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering.
A great introduction is to try some of these Self Compassion Guided Meditations:
https://chrisgermer.com/meditations/ Chris Germer
https://www.compassionatemind.co.uk/resource/audio Paul Gilbert
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
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