Most people have regrets over choices made(or not made), and many people wish their lives were in some way different. Mindful self-compassion is the practice of being self-aware in the moment and practicing kindness and empathy to yourself while you are there.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to live in the moment – not thinking about the future or the past, but simply being aware of the sensations and activities that you are doing right now. Mindfulness itself is a huge and expanding field of study.
People, in general, aren’t particularly good at staying in the moment – some of us tend to look over past events repeatedly, while others worry so much about the future that they don’t get to enjoy the present!
Of course, you need to think about the future and plan ahead at times to give yourself the best possible life. Having goals can be a very healthy thing.
However, if most of your energy is going into the future, you’re missing living in the now.
I have always been a somewhat anxious person who thinks ahead to problem solve, and I have had periods where I was very focused on traumatic and stressful events that had happened to me.
By doing that, I compounded a lot of my pain.
I have done a lot of work on picking apart different events in my life, and being able to separately acknowledge the losses, instead of being in an emotional tangle of hurt and sadness.
I have learned to let myself grieve then get back into the flow of life. Those were skills I definitely did not have as a child and young adult. I now spend less of my time and emotional energy on my past and things that went wrong, and more of it on focusing on my present life.
As I write this, Rorschach is on the bed cleaning himself, the air conditioner is humming along, I am headache free, and Al and I just got his next important doctor’s appointment scheduled. My day-to-day life is, all things considered, pretty good, and my goal is to keep enjoying it, one day at a time. Mindfulness exercises and meditations help me to remember to do so, and I highly recommend building mindfulness meditation into your day to day life too.
How does mindful meditation help?
Meditation and mindfulness are evidence-based rational routines that can help you focus more on yourself and your body and your emotions, allowing you to increase your self-awareness and better know who you really are.
When you are more self-aware, you can build or rebuild your life in directions that can make you truly happy. If you do not work on your self-awareness and figuring out your own bodily needs, it’s easy to fall into the trap of escapism.
I have watched people lose themselves in TV shows(or any other obsession) and know others do it through drug abuse. They don’t improve, they don’t try to make themselves better, and they just stay, stuck, unable to truly heal.
I feel bad for them, but I know that I can’t help them and trying to help will make it much harder for me to take care of myself. I don’t want you to fall into those traps, or if you are starting to, I want to help you make a conscious effort to get yourself out of it! It is always possible to adjust your state of mind, but the more firmly entrenched a habit is, the harder it is to break it.
Taking time to be aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the moment is the best way for you to really know how you are feeling, help yourself relax, and help yourself heal.
Until you face your emotions about an issue, you can’t really solve the issue itself. The better you can describe a problem, the more obvious the solution should be for you. It is work, but it is work that leads to you feeling better, being happier, and healing.
I am now doing an online course on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and I encourage you to check out this free resource! I have been very slowly working on my meditation for years, and my neurologist strongly recommended doing an MBSR course to help me manage my Functional Neurological Disorder(FND) symptoms. Feel free to check it out, and I hope you, too, can find yourself on the path to mindful meditation.
Self-compassion is another vital healing process. Its again something only you can do for yourself, and as such, it is a predominantly internal process.
When you think about your actions, processes, health, and life, how critical are you? How quickly?
Self-compassion is the ability to be kind to yourself and caring, just like you would be to a friend.
I have a long history of being afraid of being abandoned and therefore not wanting to be alone.
When I found myself home alone, I would often start feeling anxious or feel like I couldn’t enjoy anything I tried to do – the feeling of loneliness(and being unloved and unlovable) would kick in and I would get angry with myself for making it worse.
That, of course, would reinforce the fear of being alone and the feeling of being unlovable, so the issue would compound itself rapidly.
If instead, I had been able to connect more with my self-compassion, I likely could have been able to soothe myself with better thoughts – I was only alone for a few hours, my partner/family/friends still loved me, I was safe and deserved to enjoy myself.
The better I could feel at the moment, the easier it would be for me to shake off those fears and anxieties. The negative self-talk I did to myself was the main thing increasing my stress and agitation.
The more self-compassionate I could be, the easier that time alone was. By being compassionate to myself, I am better able to enjoy what I am doing and able to recover much more gracefully from situations I didn’t like.
Why do we need mindful self-compassion more than others?
When living with a disability, there are a lot of additional stresses on us.
Financially, we often have reduced income and increased medical expenses after the onset or increase in the severity of our conditions.
Physically, we generally have an increase in physical pain or limitations due to our conditions.
If we are dealing with a mental health issue, our thought process is affecting our ability to live day by day.
If the disability isn’t directly mental health related, the acceptance of the physical issues we are managing is also apt to cause some mental health problems.
Socially, our conditions often affect our relationship with those around us(often we are more dependent on others, less able to care for ourselves, and frequently we no longer are able to attend work or social gatherings to the extent or in the ways we used to).
It’s all a huge adjustment, and the mental and emotional toll of managing all that stress often slows our healing process or makes it more challenging. All of this is why self-compassion is so very essential for us as we are going through the process of accepting our conditions and improving our coping skills.
Living with mindful self-compassion
Through mindfulness, we can better recognize our physical and emotional needs, become more self-aware, and in many cases be better able to articulate our needs and desires.
Once we learn these things about ourselves, practicing self-compassion helps us to handle these in a constructive way, and help our healing, rather than seeing failure and berating ourselves for it.
By recognizing myself, my limits, and my needs using mindfulness, I am quicker to realize when I’m out of sync with myself or when I’m not doing well, which can often help me self-correct often without a physical or emotional crash.
By practicing self-compassion, I’m more resilient each time something stressful occurs.
I am just managing the problem, as opposed to solving the problem while beating myself up emotionally, then needing to figure out how to put myself back together after that.
If you have rarely experienced compassion from others the situation is even more challenging, but that just means that it’s a skill worth developing in yourself.
If you focus in on this, you can be better in touch with yourself and your feelings, heal better and more completely, and are much more likely to be able to enjoy your life.
Conclusion: Mindful self-compassion
Meditation and mindfulness are both very good techniques to care for yourself. The idea of being still and focusing inward is very important because many of us are very distanced from our bodies and our needs.
There are so many things outside of ourselves vying for our attention that we need to actively set aside time to just ‘be’, and mindful self-compassion is a way to ‘be’ while being more self-aware, really be able to connect with your own needs and desires, and unknotting the tangle your emotions are likely to be in.
We have had more than enough experiences to make us more self-critical. We are too used to escapism instead of facing our problems.
By understanding ourselves, we have the best possible chance to really enjoy our lives.
So when you feel stressed or frightened by your situation –
Let it go.
Just focus on being you and knowing who you are and what you want.
The better you know yourself, the better you know your needs and desires, the easier it is for you to determine what your next right step in life is, and the happier you are likely to be.
And doesn’t everybody, deep down, just want to be happy?