Self-Compassion Break

developed by Kristin Neff.

The daily life practice of the Self Compassion Break has been invaluable to me countless times over the years. It takes some of the sting out of whatever difficulty presents itself, as soon as I remember to connect with it. Having practised self compassion for many years, I was surprised about how inspired I felt when reading Kristin Neff’s book Self Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Apparently there was still a part of me that believed that I just had to shape up and shut up, rather than be kind to myself when the shit hits the fan…

As the cover says:

Dr. Neff helps readers understand that compassion isn’t only something that we should apply to others. Just as we’d have compassion for a good friend who was going through a hard time or felt inadequate in some way, why not for ourselves? Many people believe that they need to be self-critical to motivate themselves, but in fact they just end up feeling anxious, incompetent and depressed. Dr. Neff’s research shows that far from encouraging self-indulgence, self-compassion helps us to see ourselves clearly and make needed changes because we care about ourselves and want to reach our full potential.

A further recommendation to this book came from an MSc student who said it ‘read like a novel’. You can’t say that of many mindfulness and compassion books! So below the short practice of the Self Compassion Break:

Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.

Now, say to yourself:

1. This is a moment of suffering

That’s mindfulness. Other options include:

This hurts.
Ouch.
This is stress.

2. Suffering is a part of life

That’s common humanity. Other options include:

Other people feel this way.
I’m not alone.
We all struggle in our lives.
Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.

Say to yourself:

3. May I be kind to myself

You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:

May I give myself the compassion that I need
May I learn to accept myself as I am
May I forgive myself
May I be strong.
May I be patient
This practice can be used any time of day or night, and will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.

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