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Down in the Dumps Part 6: 5 Ways To Show Yourself Love and Self-Compassion
It’s February so you know what that means. Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Valentine’s Day is that special day once a year filled with chocolate, candy, flowers and of course, love. Whether you are single, in a happy relationship or somewhere in between, I often find that people with depression are not very good at showing themselves love. So here are five ways to show yourself love and self-compassion not only this Valentine’s Day, but all year round.
- Write yourself love letters
You might be thinking: “Love letters? Really?” Well, according to self-compassion expert Kristin Neff, a great exercise to practice is writing down one of your flaws and then writing yourself a love letter from the perspective of a loving imaginary friend who shows you nothing but kindness, compassion and support. After writing the letter, just read it over and let all of the warmth and compassion sink in.
- Engage in self-care
When you are depressed, it is so important to love yourself and schedule in time to be compassionate to yourself through self-care. According to Psychology Today, it is so important to engage in self-care and make yourself a priority. Self-care can look different for everyone, but some ideas include meditating, eating well, getting enough sleeping, exercising, taking up hobbies, and connecting with friends and family.
- Change your critical inner self-talk
While it is hard to change your critical inner self-talk over night, it is so important that you keep working towards changing it, no matter how hard it feels. According to Kristin Neff, the first step is to become aware that you are being critical towards yourself (i.e. are there certain mean phrases or words you often tell yourself in certain situations?). The second step according to Neff is to really make an effort to soften your inner critic with compassion rather than judgement. The third step is to reframe your observations made by your inner critic in a more friendly and optimistic way. This third step is often the hardest part, so imagine what a kind and compassionate friend would say to you. Changing your critical inner self-talk is often a hard process, but with practice and patient, it is possible.
- Stop trying to be perfect
I personally think the mindset of perfection is overrated and definitely contributes to my feelings of worthlessness. According to Psychology Today, you need to stop expecting yourself to be perfect and then beating yourself up when you fall short. At the end of the day, we’re all human, we all make mistakes, we all have flaws and we do not have to be perfect all the time.
- Keep a self-compassion journal
Everyone makes mistakes and keeping a self-compassion journal can help you cope with them. According to Kristin Neff, keeping a daily self-compassion journal is a great way to express emotions and to improve your mental and physical well-being. According to Neff, how it works is every night, write down anything you feel bad about or any situation that causes you shame or pain. For each situation you write down, use mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness to put a more self-compassionate spin on things. Here are the three elements of a self-compassion journal:
Mindfulness: In a non-judgemental way, write down all the emotions you feel revolving around a situation (i.e. angry, sad, embarrassed, etc.)
Common humanity: Then write down all the ways in which your experience was connected to the larger human experience (i.e. humans are imperfect, everybody has these sorts of painful experiences, etc.)
Self-kindness: Then finally write yourself some kind and understanding words of comfort (i.e. It’s okay. You messed up but it’s not the end of the world.)
The bottom line
At the end of the day, treating yourself with self-compassion is so important because it teaches you how to love and be kind to yourself in times of happiness and sadness, success and failure. Learning to love yourself with self-compassion is a long and difficult process, but with patience and practice, you will be able to improve your overall well-being.
As always, remember: you are strong, you are worthy, and you are capable of amazing things.
Anika is a student at Western University studying media studies and creative writing. After being diagnosed with anxiety, depression and a skin picking disorder in her first-year of university, she became an advocate for mental health awareness. When she is not studying or writing, she can be found baking, scrap-booking, playing video games, or watching movies and TV shows.
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