has concluded that:
People who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be anxious, depressed, and stressed. Rather, they are more likely to be happier, more optimistic about their futures, and more resilient!
On the other hand, when we utilize self-criticism, our body perceives this as danger, and automatically reacts. Our body goes into the “ fight or flight response” where our amygdala (the oldest part of our brain) prepares for the perceived threat. The amygdala signals the body and the following happen: our blood pressure is increased, adrenaline and the hormone cortisol containing the potential strength and energy needed to deal with the danger are produced.
Neff’s research indicates that generating feelings of self compassion actually lowers our cortisol. An increase in feelings of safety, feeling cared for, increases a persons ability to be more open and flexible to their environment, or changes in their environment.
The person who is able to learn to give compassion to self, becomes significantly less defensive. “ Self compassion provides emotional strength and resilience allowing us to openly admit our shortcomings, forgive ourselves, and be more fully human.”
When we “soothe our painful feelings with the healing balm of self compassion, not only are we changing our mental and emotional experience, we are also changing our body chemistry.”
According to Kristin Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer (also from University of Texas/Austin) Self compassion can be learned by anyone, even those who did not learn affection in childhood. Even if they feel uncomfortable when they are good to themselves.
Self Compassion practiced regularly by yourself, or with a small group of trusted friends or colleagues will create positive changes in our bodies chemistry, in our behaviour, and more positivity in our lens to the world.
Next week: how to practice self compassion when things go wrong in our daily life.