Saturday, May 19, 2018

Reasons to Build Self Compassion

You can probably think of people you know who seem hold a wealth of compassion, and others who appear to have little. Recent studies suggest that compassion is not a fixed trait; it can improve, which in turn, leads to other benefits.

A recent study  by a research team in Australia summarized the effects of compassion-focused psychological treatments. Here's what they found:

First, the treatments were effective in increasing compassion. The average increase was considered "moderate," meaning we would likely notice that the person was a better version of themselves.

Those who received training in compassion experienced a range of additional benefits, including:
  • Greater mindfulness. Compassion requires our presence and our acceptance, so it's not surprising that the treatments led to increases in this dimension. As we'll see below, it also makes sense given that some of the specific interventions were explicitly mindfulness-based.
  • Better mood and lower anxiety. Compassion training was effective at lowering the symptoms of depression and anxiety, which is a remarkable finding. By focusing on alleviating others' suffering, we alleviate our own in the process.
  • Enhanced overall well-being and lower distress. Along with greater compassion came an overall sense of wellness and ease in life. These findings again underscore that compassion is helpful all around.
A crucial finding from the review by Kirby and colleagues was that compassion training could also increase our capacity for self-compassion. Psychologist Kristin Neff, who has led the way in research on self-compassion, defines it  as:

     "...being touched by and open to one’s own suffering, not avoiding or disconnecting from it, generating the desire to alleviate one’s suffering and to heal oneself with kindness. Self-compassion also involves offering nonjudgmental understanding to one’s pain, inadequacies and failures, so that one’s experience is seen as part of the larger human experience."

Self-compassion is the antidote to our tendency to ignore our own needs and be critical of ourselves when we most need love and support.

--Excerpted From Psychology Today

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