Resources for Recovering Resilience: Soaking in Self-Compassion

Like other practices to recover resilience, it is skillful means to set our intention to cultivate a practice of self-compassion, to notice and name experiences when the happen, to register them in our awareness, to savor them, to let them soak into our consciousness, into the felt sense in our body. To know that our experience is not just a one-time event of the moment, but that it can be installed as a resource. We do this when we:

  1. Pause several times throughout the day to check in with ourselves: have I been kind to myself in any moments of difficulty today? Have I been allowing of the moments of uncertainty, fragility, self-doubt? Have I met the inner critic with respect – thank you for sharing – but also with a pro-active – no, actually, I’m choosing to remember the goodness of my own true nature in this moment? Did I have a moment where I made the wise and loving choice: to hold whatever wobble in a larger container of awareness and acceptance, in the practice of self-compassion.
  2. Keep a self-compassion journal, at the end of the day, or the end of the week. Jotting down two or three moments where you actually showed up for yourself with kindness, acceptance, appreciation. The journal doesn’t have to be elaborate. It’s more a device to put your thoughts and feelings into words, to take a moment to reflect, so the moments of self-compassion get the 30 seconds they need to imprint in your neural circuitry and become installed in long-term memory as a resource for future challenges.
  3. Recruit a self-compassion buddy to share moments of self-compassion with. Like sharing moments of positive emotions with a gratitude buddy, or a joy buddy, or an awe buddy, sharing the reflections on self-compassion with a like-minded, well-intended friend can deepen the experience in the moment and make it easier to retrieve as a resource later. Like sharing with a gratitude buddy, etc., the buddy system works in person over coffee or on a walk, over the phone, even by e-mail (often the simplest and steadiest method). Just five minutes a day, or 20 minutes a week, creates new habits of reflection and appreciation, new resources of kindness and love.

[my September 2012 e-newsletter on “Self-Compassion More Powerful Than Self-Esteem” is archived at this link. The reflections are based on Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. More exercises like the ones above are available at her website:

Dr. Neff will be presenting at the FACES Conference—The Art and Science of Mindfulness and Counseling—in Seattle on October 18, 2012 on Self-Compassion: Theory, Research and Practice and Self-Compassion: Dealing with Difficult Emotions. I will be presenting at the same conference October 19 on the Neuroscience of Integrating Mindfulness and Psychotherapy to Strengthen Resilience and Positive Emotions Build Resilience.