The importance of self-compassion: How to be kind to yourself and boost your mental health

Self-kindness is an important aspect of mental health and well-being. It involves being compassionate and understanding towards yourself, acknowledging that you’re human! Everyone makes mistakes and experiences difficult emotions at times.

Self-kindness is often overlooked, with people focusing on self-criticism or perfectionism. However, research shows that being kind to yourself has numerous benefits. It can improve mental health and well-being, reduce stress and anxiety, and even improve physical health.

Think about the teachers you had when you were younger- who got the most from you? Who did you want to do your best for; the teacher who criticised and chastised you or the teacher who supported and praised you? Now think about who’s voice you channel when you talk to yourself…which approach is likely to be the most helpful?!

One way to practice self-kindness is to talk to yourself in a supportive and understanding way, just as you would to a good friend. This might involve acknowledging your feelings, rather than trying to suppress or ignore them, and reminding yourself that it is okay to make mistakes or not be perfect.

It is also important to be mindful of the thoughts we have about ourselves. Negative self-talk can be really destructive in our lives. It can erode confidence and motivation, preventing us from reaching our full potential. If you find yourself frequently engaging in negative self-talk, it may be time to try and change this habit.

Here are some strategies that help with replacing negative self-talk with more kind, helpful and productive thoughts:

  1. Identify your negative self-talk patterns. Before you can change your negative self-talk, you need to be aware of when and how you do it. Pay attention to the things you say to yourself when you make a mistake or face a challenge. Do you tell yourself that you’re a failure or that you don’t deserve to be happy? By becoming more aware of our negative self-talk patterns, we can start to catch ourselves in the act and change what we’re doing.

2. Challenge your negative thoughts. Once you’ve identified your unhelpful thinking patterns you can question the validity of these thoughts. Are they really true? Is there evidence to support them or are they just negative assumptions? By questioning the truth of our negative thoughts, we can start to see them for what they are – irrational and unhelpful.

3. Set realistic goals. Unrealistic goals can set us up for failure, which can lead to negative self-talk. Instead, try setting smaller, achievable goals. As you accomplish these goals, you’ll build confidence and motivation, which can help to reduce negative self-talk.

4.  Seek support. Changing negative self-talk is often easier said than done, and it can be helpful to have someone to talk to and support you. Link in with an Occupational Therapist to help you develop healthier habits and thought patterns.

With concerted effort over time you can start to tame your inner critic and cultivate a more positive and productive inner dialogue. It may take time and effort, but the benefits – increased confidence, motivation, and self-worth – are well worth it.