Compassion week is a week-long celebration to highlight Houston’s compassionate culture with workshops, service projects, and creative ideas for cultivating compassion. The luncheon was full of individuals and groups focused on having compassion and caring for others…so it was fitting that the keynote speaker, Kristin Neff, PhD, has devoted her life to researching and teaching self-compassion.
Dr. Neff's talk highlighted the benefits of self-compassion such as decreased caregiver burnout and ability to sustain empathy. She reminded everyone in the room of the importance of putting one's own proverbial oxygen mask on first before assisting others. She gave an example of a difficult time when her son was throwing a tantrum on an international flight and as she began to flood herself with self-compassion, not only did it shift from being a terrible experience to a positive one, but her son calmed down as well. Research on self-compassion shows that it improves health behaviors, increases psychoemotional resiliency, improves interpersonal relationships, and more. Self-compassionate people also report more happiness, optimism, life satisfaction, and intrinsic motivation, as well as greater levels of emotional intelligence, coping skills, and wisdom than those who harshly judge themselves. Dr. Neff said she's no longer concerned with proving the benefits of self-compassion but rather learning more about how it can be taught and proliferated throughout systems and communities.
Dr. Neff shared a tool of taking a "self-compassion break" during situations in life that are difficult and cause stress. She also recommends practicing this tool before the stuff hits the fan so it is more easily called to mind when you need it most. A self-compassion break involves 3 steps:
- "This is a moment of suffering." - Mindful awareness that this hurts, this is stress, etc.
- "Suffering is a part of life." - That's common humanity. Recognizing that life isn't perfect, we're not alone and that other people struggle or feel this way from time to time.
- "May I be kind to myself." - This is kindness. You might also ask yourself, "what do I need to hear right now?" or a phrase specific to your situation such as:
May I accept myself as I am.
May I forgive myself.
May I be strong.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May we all be kind.