5 Amazing Benefits Of Being Kinder To Yourself

It's time to "Do unto yourself as you would do unto others."

September 1, 2016
self compassion

Self-forgiveness is one of the best and most important ways you can treat yourself, but it is also one of the hardest things to do. Until you learn how to truly let go of the grudges you hold against yourself, once you have cleared the path to truly make amends, you will miss out on the critical tool you need to mobilize and take action when the time is right.

Compassion is an emotion. Compassion literally means "to suffer with." Among emotion researchers, including Kristin Neff, PhD, associate professor in human development and culture at the University of Texas at Austin, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. In short, you really want to help. Add the prefix self- in front of compassion and it's still an emotion. Now the term simply means that we feel motivated to relieve our own suffering—to help ourselves. Isn't that a nice concept? Why is it so hard?

Related: 8 Strategies For Boosting Confidence

Neff, who pioneered self-compassion as a field of study more than a decade ago and has written bestselling books on the topic, says this atrophied practice is a better and more effective path to happiness than is developing high self-esteem. Talk about a hot-button issue. It's so in vogue to strive to be our "best selves," it's almost a little too much to take. So here we are going around playing like ostriches, denying our flaws (which aren't going anywhere, by the way), and we beeline straight to how to feel good about ourselves, to push ourselves to new challenges, and to say yes to what we fear most, even when we are doubtful of our capabilities. But really what we wind up doing is nothing more than flapping our self-esteem flags in a proverbial parade of pretend pride, without completing the prerequisite to self-esteem: being kind to ourselves. It's like we signed up to take nuclear physics without first learning the periodic table of elements. That's just backward.

That's why practicing self-compassion is not only beneficial, but required. Read on to see what will happen when you practice self-compassion.

This article was originally published by our partners at Rodale Wellness.

relaxed woman
Build Resilience And Decrease Stress

Psychological Science published a study that revealed higher levels of self-compassion are related to improved emotional recovery after marital separation and divorce.

productive man
Increase Productivity

I don't have a research study to point to, just logic. You have more energy and intentional focus on the things you want to get done when you aren't spending your brain matter criticizing what you can't get done. Words have wings, they become things.

Related: 11 Habits Of The Happiest People

woman hugging herself
Foster Better Body Image

In 2012, Body Image published a study that found that people who practiced self-compassion were less obsessed with their appearance, were not as preoccupied about their weight, and appreciated their bodies more.

woman feeling anxious
Decrease Mental Health Issues

A 2012 study in Clinical Psycholgy Review showed a decrease in anxiety and depression in people who practiced self-compassion. The study also found that a self-compassionate view reduces the harmful effects of stress.

Related: 10 Foods To Avoid If You Have Anxiety

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Live Happier Lives

A brain-imaging study led by neuroscientists at the National Institutes of Health showed that the "pleasure centers" in the brain—the parts that activate when we experience things like chocolate, cash, and kissing—are also active when we are compassionate to others. Why should this not be the case when turning compassion inward and showing kindness and generosity to ourselves?

Adapted from WHOLE