This Positive Daily Practice Promotes Emotional Healing

The strategy helps people cope without being defensive.

The strategy helps people cope without being defensive.

Treating oneself kindly when things go wrong is one of the best ways to promote emotional healing, research finds.

People who are more self-compassionate experience less negative emotion.

Self-compassion allows people to accept responsibility for bad experiences, while feeling better about them.

Self-compassion is also linked to more:

  • optimism,
  • feeling alive,
  • and energy.

Being self-compassionate involves three components:

  1. Directing kindness and understanding towards the self.
  2. Knowing that suffering is part of the human condition.
  3. Accepting mindfully what is happening.

People who are self-compassionate place less importance on the outcome of events; instead, trying to accept them mindfully whether they go well or badly.

One way of increasing self-compassion is through expressive writing, research finds.

A practical approach to boosting self-compassion is explained in my ebook “Accept Yourself“.

Professor Mark R. Leary, the study’s first author, said:

“Life’s tough enough with little things that happen.

Self-compassion helps to eliminate a lot of the anger, depression and pain we experience when things go badly for us.”

The conclusions come from a series of studies in which people remembered negative experiences, imagined things going wrong and were even given unflattering feedback themselves.

In each case, people who were higher in self-compassion coped better.

Professor Leary explained why self-compassion is beneficial:

“Rather than focusing on changing people’s self-evaluations, as many cognitive-behavioral approaches do, self-compassion changes people’s relationship to their self-evaluations.

Self-compassion helps people not to add a layer of self-recrimination on top of whatever bad things happen to them.

If people learn only to feel better about themselves but continue to beat themselves up when they fail or make mistakes, they will be unable to cope nondefensively with their difficulties.”

Despite the importance of self-compassion, it is self-esteem that is often people’s focus, said Professor Leary:

“American society has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to promote people’s self-esteem, when a far more important ingredient of well-being may be self-compassion.”

However, much of the benefits of self-esteem may, in fact, be down to self compassion, said Professor Leary:

“As you disentangle them, self-compassion seems to be more important than self-esteem, and is in fact responsible for some of the positive effects of self-esteem.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Leary et al., 2007).

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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