A new way to start the New Year
| By Jill Hecht, MSW, LCSW
As the holiday season comes to an end, it can be difficult to transition into the New Year. The New Year usually starts with motivation to set goals. We will exercise more, eat healthy, be more productive, etc.
We have good intentions when we create these goals, but for some reason they tend to be short-lived.
What if this year we create a goal that focuses less on what we would like to change about ourselves, and more about embracing who we are by cultivating self-compassion. Maybe then we would be able to see more long-term results, not just physically, but most importantly mentally too.
What Is Self-Compassion, Anyway?
The word “compassion” means, “to suffer with.” When we see others in distress, we worry and feel badly for them. We have a desire to help them in some way; we have compassion for them. The act of self-compassion is when we direct those feelings and reactions inward.
Dr. Kristin Neff is a lead researcher in self-compassion, and has published multiple books and a worldwide training program on self-compassion. Dr. Neff talks about the human experience and the tendency we have for judging ourselves much harsher than others. “Self-compassion is all about directing the love, empathy, and support we often provide others, to yourself. Some may feel that this is selfish, but this is truly how we are able to heal and evolve as people.”
On Dr. Neff’s website, she identifies three key components of self-compassion. They include:
1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
Self-compassion is to understand that being imperfect is part of the human experience, and difficulties in life are to be expected. We end up triggering more stress and frustration when we greet these difficulties with anger and judgment. Instead, we need to accept them and cultivate kindness and understanding towards ourselves and our situation.
2. Common Humanity vs. Isolation
When we judge ourselves, we typically develop a mindset that singles us out from others. “Why can’t I just be like ___?” Our thoughts spiral and we forget that we’re humans and that being a human means making mistakes. This part of self-compassion is about acknowledging the human experience as being “imperfect.”
3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification
This part of self-compassion requires the individual to incorporate mindfulness, which involves noticing the emotional experience without using judgment. We need to acknowledge the discomfort we’re feeling, not ignore it or attempt to push it away. We want to do this without having the emotion intensify and then lead us to unhelpful behaviors.
Dr Kristin Neff says: “With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. This allows us to hold ourselves in love and connection, giving ourselves the support and comfort needed to bear the pain, while providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation.”
How is self-compassion helpful?
If you’re hoping to start the New Year with new healthy routines, self-compassion can be a gateway to a healthy lifestyle. If we’re able to implement self-compassion we will ultimately strengthen our self-love and our mind-body connection and honor our needs. We can develop an inner dialogue that validates our feelings and pushes us to be the best version of ourselves.
Reach Out to a Counselor to Help
If you’re struggling with sadness and hopelessness, reach out for help. A counselor or therapist may be able to support you as you begin to better understand and incorporate self-compassion into your everyday life.
Jill Hecht, LCSW, MSW
During her free time Jill enjoys spending time with her husband and making her daughter laugh. She enjoys exploring the outdoors and discovering New Jersey’s best bakeries.
Check out Jill’s professional bio here!
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