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Compassion And Self-Empathy Promotes Healing

There is quite a lot of overlap in empathy and compassion.  Webster’s defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”  Webster’s defines compassion as “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings of misfortunes of others.”  So empathy is all about understanding and sharing while compassion is all about pity and concern.  Regardless of the kind of situation from which you are recovering – addiction, eating disorder, mental health condition – you are likely to be harder on yourself than you would be on almost anyone else.

For example, when we think about the mental health problems that we have experienced such as an eating disorder or depression – Have you thought about the harm that you could have caused to your body and your mind had you kept up with the disorder?  These things can make you beat yourself up.  Past wrongs that cannot be changed and near slips in the present can be the worst.

When you find that you are being hard on yourself, you may want to take a minute to think about empathy and compassion for yourself.  You may be regularly going out of your way to be there for your loved ones in all of the times when they are hurting, but you will not be the best person that you can be until you cut yourself a little bit of slack and learn that taking care of yourself is one of the best ways that you can help others.

4 Ways to Encourage Self-Empathy and Compassion

1. Breathe

Something so simple can be incredibly difficult to remember to do.  Your body is set up to naturally breathe as much as you need to keep living, but sometime being conscious of your breathing can make a big difference in how you feel.  Take a few minutes a few times a day to stop whatever you are doing and focus on your breath.  Close your eyes and take a few good, deep breaths for no other reason than it is good for you, and you likely do not do it enough.  Deep breathing can slow your heart rate and make you feel calmer overall.

2. Slow Down 

Taking time for deep breathing will naturally make you slow down a bit, but taking the time to think through your actions before rushing headlong into any situation can force you into making more mindful decisions.  Take stock of what is happening in the moment.  It is natural to want to rush through everything and make your decisions quickly, but that is not always going to yield the best results.  Take your time and think as clearly as possible.

3. Don’t Aim for Perfection

Perfection is not an attainable goal.  Anyone who tells you that you can achieve absolute perfection is lying to you.  What you can achieve is what is right for you and the other people in your life.  Much of the modern media ideal of how life is supposed to work perpetuates the idea that your life should be perfect and complete with the whole happy ending thing.  Most of us spend our time struggling and toiling and making the most of the happy moments in between.  Spend some time thinking about what you really want from your life and how you want your future to look.  The journey to reach the things that you want may be difficult, and you will need to readjust as you go, but it will be a lot better than trying to achieve unattainable perfection.

4. Be Kind To Yourself. Always.

Rather than waiting until something stressful has happened to be kind to yourself, do it all the time.  If you take the time to practice small acts of kindness for yourself regularly, you will be better prepared when a stressful situation presents itself.  Go to a yoga class twice a week.  Take a walk after dinner.  Sit down to read a book or the newspaper for 45 minutes each evening.  Watch your favorite television show every week.  Get a pedicure.  Spend a night in the woods.  Anything that is going to make you feel a little more relaxed all the time is going to be able to keep you from feeling like you are going to burst when something difficult comes along.

All of these things are going to be able to help you gain some compassion and empathy for yourself when you might not be feeling your best.  Take the time to do them, and you will start to feel better immediately.

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