Considered by some to be weak or fluffy, kindness and compassion are key pillars of our mental wellbeing. In this post, we explore how being kind to ourselves and others can keep us feeling nurtured and connected.
Someone once said that “in a world where you can be everything, be kind”. And after the events of the last year, it may have been harder than usual to keep this in mind. As we’ve adapted to new and stressful circumstances and worried about our health, it’s no wonder we’ve experienced the full spectrum of emotions, and found it difficult to truly thrive and be the best versions of ourselves.
But how much better would we feel if we were able to be 10% kinder to ourselves moving forward – and 10% kinder to those around us?
In our most recent webinar, Michaela Thomas, clinical psychologist, couples therapist, and founder of The Thomas Connection, tackles the topic of self-compassion and kindness, and explains why being kind to ourselves and the people around us is a key foundation for our mental wellbeing.
Keep reading to find out our top four reasons why compassion is a key foundation for mental wellbeing – and check out the full webinar recording below.
1. We need compassion because life is hard
Life is challenging – and never more so than over the course of the last year. We’ve experienced uncertainty, worried for our safety and that of loved ones, and adapted to new ways of living and working in confusing circumstances. As a result, we might have felt more stressed, scared, anxious, or overwhelmed.
But these challenges that life can throw at us are exactly the reason we need self-compassion, and compassion for others. When we hit challenging times, we need to lean on our compassion to help keep our mental wellbeing in check.
2. We can tune into our kind and connected side with a few deep breaths
When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, we’re often advised to take a deep breath before we react. And while it may seem like an old wive’s tale, it actually has a very scientific impact on the body. Taking a minute or so to breathe deeply and slowly is scientifically proven to help lower stress, because it slows our heart rate, slows racing thoughts, and activates our parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of our body that helps us rest and digest, stimulates our metabolism, and helps us relax. When we’re able to activate this part of our nervous system, we are better able to feel calm and more connected with others.
3. Compassion is defined by courage, strength and action
Compassion is how we understand the pain and suffering in ourselves and others, and how we seek to prevent that pain, or make it better. But kindness and compassion can sometimes get a bit of a bad rap, often described as a weakness, being fluffy, or being a pushover.
So let’s dispel that myth right now: prioritising self-compassion and compassion towards others is not an easy route, and takes action and commitment. It takes courage and strength to make sure we’re showing up for ourselves and others, to acknowledge our needs, and to take action. Self-compassion might mean we end up saying ‘no’ to someone when they ask us something, or being kind to ourselves when we make mistakes. Both come from a position of inner strength and self-belief.
4. Our inner critic helps protect us from failure – but can prevent us from being self-compassionate
We’ve all heard our own inner critical voice kick in from time-to-time. It’s the little voice in our heads that tells us off when we’ve done something wrong, or makes us feel bad when we don’t accomplish a goal we set for ourselves.
Our inner critic does have a very real function – and that’s to protect us from failure and disappointment. It helps stop us from becoming something or someone we don’t want to become, such as arrogant, rude, or lazy — and it’s not always easy to ignore.
Instead of listening to this voice and letting it dictate how we act, we can instead start to soften its message. The next time these thoughts surface, try asking yourself if you would tell a friend the same thing your inner critic is telling you – or if you’d be as harsh on your friend as you are on yourself. This will help you to gradually unpick your thinking and understand your emotions.