Tuesday, May 15, 2018

4 Ways to Improve Relationships and Caring

Have you wanted to improve your relationships and express more care and concern for the people in your life? Are you tired of beating yourself up and ready for an alternative? Consider giving one of these approaches a try.

  1. Guided Meditation. A common practice to enhance compassion is the loving-kindness meditation. It involves deliberately fostering a sense of warmth and care for others and oneself, starting with those who are easy to love and moving gradually to more complicated relationships. Ready to give it a try? Here's an example: The Befriending Meditation from Finding Peace in a Frantic World (link is external).
  2. Education. Simply learning more about compassion can increase our ability to enact it. For example, it can be helpful to learn about the benefits to ourselves and others of greater compassion, and to distinguish it from other experiences, like pity or, in the case of self-compassion, being self-indulgent. We may find that just by being more aware of the concept, we're better able to practice it. Neff's book (link is external)is an excellent starting point.
  3. Self-Reflection. When we take time to think about our own experiences of compassion, we might discover things that can get in the way. For example, we might find that being overextended lessens our access to compassionate responses, or that overly harsh expectations of ourselves make it hard to be self-compassionate. This reflection can help us discover ways to remove these blocks.
  4. Imagery. We often resist compassion from ourselves and even from others. It takes practice to open ourselves to receiving love and care, and that practice can begin through imagery. For example, one study asked participants to "imagine a ‘compassionate being’ expressing compassion to them." Over time, we can become more comfortable with being on the receiving end of compassion — which can also increase our ability to extend compassion to others.
  5. Writing. Some studies had participants write a letter to themselves from the perspective of a compassionate friend, since for some reason it's much easier to be compassionate with others than with oneself. With practice, we can begin to internalize greater compassion for ourselves. Writing (as opposed to just thinking compassionate thoughts) may be particularly beneficial, because we can be more deliberate and explicit about the words we use; it can also make it easier to commit the practice to memory so we can access it when we need to.

--Excerpted From Psychology Today

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