At GRIPT we believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, in fact, it’s difficult to have one without the other. By prioritising physical health, you also begin doing wonders for your mental health and vice versa. We always go through a process of goal setting with our clients to understand what it is they wish to achieve and what the driver for their goals is. Through this process we’ve met some roadblocks, those being lack of self-compassion and self-acceptance. When you commit to training and a healthier lifestyle, there is no bandwagon to fall off and there is nothing to mess up, it all just forms part of your learning experience right? Well, that’s the way it should be, but due to self-judgement, it’s not always the case.
NO COOKIE CUTTER APPROACH
We’re very well aware that we are all individuals and therefore different to one another. Choosing a healthier lifestyle is a process of learning and discovery. Arming yourself with a set of tools to help you figure out what works best for your body and mind. Hitting hurdles along the way, although super frustrating, is all part of the process. The difference is how you respond and react to these little bumps and detours; do you berate, blame and self-criticise or do you meet yourself with a little self-compassion and understanding? Because chances are you will inevitably faceplant into a pint of ice-cream at some point so how do you react to that? Do you beat yourself up or do you treat yourself with the warmth and compassion of a good friend, because lets face it, ice-cream is delicious and it’s completely normal to want to eat lots of it. Learning simple self-compassion techniques can help you mindfully and non-judgementally examine the situation, without the critical voice that might just exacerbate the problem. Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal’s findings show that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control. In fact, it shifts the brain into a state of inhibition, which prevents us from taking action to reach our goals. If that isn’t reason enough to start showing yourself some love and understanding, we don’t know what is!
HOW MINDFULNESS AIDS SELF-COMPASSION
Self-compassion as defined by Neff has 3 components:
- Self Kindness – being supportive of yourself, treating yourself as you would a family member or friend
- Common Humanity – an antidote for isolation; understanding that everyone makes mistakes and you’re not alone.
- Mindfulness – observing your emotions, thoughts and sensations without judgement, avoidance or repression.
This is important in the context of self-compassion because you need to be able to first of all recognise the problem, emotion or event, in order to give yourself compassion. Mindfulness also prevents us from over-identifying with a particular feeling or emotion to the point that we can no longer differentiate ourselves from our thoughts. ‘That sucks’ becomes ‘I suck’ . Mindfulness allows us to examine our thoughts as just that, thoughts, not facts!
THE BENEFITS OF SELF-COMPASSION
Research in self-compassion is showing that it may play a role in developing positive body-image. Individuals high in self-compassion experience less body shame and body surveillance, engage in less body comparison and place less emphasis on appearance as an indicator of self worth. In fact, a #fistpo / #selfcompassion study showed that, people following Fitspo accounts (images of toned bodies) had lower self-compassion, low self-esteem and generally a low and negative mood. The same people who then un-followed those and followed self-compassiona and self-love accounts with bright coloured quotes, led to reduction in body shame, body dissatisfaction and increase in self-compassion in just 3 weeks! Time for a social detox maybe?
In addition self-compassion can:
- Lower levels of depression, anxiety, and rumination
- Give you a greater ability to cope with negative emotions
- Fill you with more positive emotions like happiness, wisdom and connectedness
- Increase optimism
- Result in you showing more personal initiative
SO WHERE DO I START?
Start slowly, nothing happens overnight. Practice being aware of a moment and slowing down to understand the emotions behind it, whether good or bad. You’ll be surprised how much insight that practice alone will give you into your own thought process. Treat yourself as you would a best friend, don’t rush to criticise, instead take the time to reassure yourself that you’re not a bad person, useless, lazy etc. Remove these words entirely from your internal dialogue. Remember that you are not alone, making mistakes is what makes us human, otherwise we’d all be a bunch of robots, predictably walking around not doing anything spontaneous and not really living. Try saying this to yourself to start with ‘Everyone messes up sometimes – let’s see what I can learn from this situation so I can try again.’ And finally, diversify your social following and see how your world changes. Here are some of our favourite accounts:
If you’re interested in our sources of information and want to do more reading – here they are!