I’ve been taking an online course created by the Greater Good Science Center called: The Science of Happiness. It is a comprehensive compilation of the research into what cultivates human happiness. Not surprising, personal happiness, correlated with greater well-being, sense of value, purpose, and healthy relationships, comes down to how we think about and treat ourselves.

One of the key “mental habits” of happiness is self-compassion. Self-compassion is self-understanding, self-support, and self-kindness. It’s the opposite of judgment, punishment, and martyrdom. It’s how we are taught to treat others, yet not ourselves. Most of us can soothe a friend much better than we can ourselves. Think about it – how much do you internally push, criticize, or have unreasonable expectations for yourself – then complain about your stress?

The bad news is that we are caught in the gap between the rules of our old social systems and institutions and the truths of our new understanding of what cultivates physical, mental, and emotional health. We’ve been indoctrinated into the pressure to perform, the focus on extrinsic rewards, constant comparison to others, the drill and grill approach to education, and yet we know and experience that those ways of being/thinking produce what the researchers call “toxic thought patterns”, which negatively affect our health, our abilities, and our joy.

The good news is that we are learning not only to value but also to practice slowing down, self-caring, being mindful, being compassionate, and developing our heart intelligence. Why? Because self-compassionate people enjoy greater psychological health and happiness. Who doesn’t want…

  • Less stress, anxiety, depression
  • More heart rate variability and stronger vagal (social) nervous system activity
  • Less perfectionism and fear of failure
  • Greater emotional intelligence and resilience around negative events, emotions, and pain
  • Greater mindfulness, curiosity, and coping skills
  • Better relatedness and relationships

My point is – this Thanksgiving, be grateful for yourself and practice self- care and compassion.

  • Be mindful of yourself – notice and acknowledge your needs, feelings, and desires. Let them guide you in taking good care of yourself so you can enjoy the holiday and your loved ones.
  • Be kind to yourself – soothe, comfort, support, ask for support. Don’t judge.
  • Remember you are human – just like everyone else. You are not less than; you are not the only one struggling or suffering; you are not alone. You are, just like the rest of us, doing your best. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable, accept your mistakes, celebrate your strengths, honor your boundaries, and admit your weaknesses.

How self-compassionate are you?   Find out by completing Kristin Neff’s self-compassion test at her website, self-compassion.org.

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