It’s January, the month that many people set New Year’s resolutions or intentions. I like to think about it as an opportunity to open your heart to new possibilities, and new scientific evidence shows that compassion for yourself goes a long way toward sticking to your goals and intentions.
How would you like to feel this year?
How can you make this year more delightful and rewarding?
In my practice this month, I see a pretty big increase in clients resolving to live a pain free life. It can take people a long time to make this first step. To visualize what their life could hold for them just by looking more closely at their choices. It’s the beginning of a commitment to look at their bodies in a different way. In a way that their body is not just something utilitarian in nature, but something vital, that needs more than a tune up every 30,000 miles.
One of the biggest obstacles we place in our pathway toward healing is how hard we are on ourselves. Maybe it was the way we were brought up, or the pressures of our culture, but many of us take a self-critical approach to our health. We beat ourselves up with self-judgment over our perceived failing, in this case an injury or a pain that is lingering around. Or we put on our best stoic act to prove that we can take it. Neither choice moves us closer to more optimal health.
As you open up your heart to new possibilities for yourself this year, remember to treat yourself with kindness, and mindfulness. Kristin Neff, associate professor of human development at the University of Texas, says, “The number one thing I’ve found in my research is that people think it’s good to be a little self-compassionate, but not too much. There is a strong belief that we need self-criticism to motivate us. Meaning, ‘If I’m not hard on myself, I’ll let myself get away with everything.’ This, says Neff, reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about self-compassion.
Neff’s definition of self-compassion is being kind and supportive with yourself when you’re confronting personal challenges. She says, “It has an active element of caring, of wanting the best for yourself. It means saying to yourself, ‘I want to heal, to be happy, to be healthy,’ and knowing that sometimes requires you to make a change.” Instead of beating yourself up if you have a set back, you can choose loving kindness. It offers you a better chance to find the inner strength to stay the course, and therefore find the delight and rewards you are looking for.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson