Practice self-compassion by writing a love letter to yourself, and become happier and more productive as a result
Did you know that 40% of your happiness is within your control?*
Happiness is not a static state.
It can be generated through the practice of specific habits, such as demonstrating self-compassion.
Self-compassion is strongly associated with numerous aspects of wellbeing, including higher levels of positive affect, happiness and optimism, as well as lower levels of anxiety and depression. Demonstrating self-compassion can even improve emotional resilience.*
Individuals who practice self-compassion aim just as high but aren’t as devastated when they don’t reach their goals. They are more likely to adopt mastery goals which indicates intrinsic motivation, curiosity, and the desire to develop skills and to master new material.*
Why is this? Self-compassion provides a safe and nonjudgmental context to confront negative aspects of the self and strive to better them. In this way, it is a more effective method of motivating change (post failure) relative to other approaches to dealing with failure.*
At work, self-compassion is related to showing personal initiative, curiosity and exploration. Self-compassionate people tend to be intrinsically motivated with a growth-oriented mindset.
“When positive emotions are in short supply, people get stuck. They lose their degrees of behavioral freedom and become painfully predictable. But when positive emotions are in ample supply,…they become generative, creative, resilient, ripe with possibility and beautifully complex.” Frederickson, 2004
What is exactly is self-compassion, though?
"A clear sighted but kind and connected way of relating to ourselves even in instances of failure, perceived inadequacy, and imperfection."*
"Entails treating oneself with kindness."*
"Is about recognizing one's shared humanity."*
"Includes being mindful when considering negative aspects of oneself."*
"Provides a safe and nonjudgmental context to confront negative aspects of the self and strive to better them."*
OK, but how does self-compassion manifest as a behavior?
The habit of self-compassion has 6 aspects:*
Self-Kindness (e.g., “I try to be understanding and patient toward aspects of my personality I don’t like”)
Self-Judgment (e.g., “I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own laws and inadequacies”)
Common Humanity (e.g., “I try to see my failings as part of the human condition”)
Isolation (e.g., “When I think about my inadequacies it tends to make me feel more separate and cut off from the rest of the world”)
Mindfulness (e.g., “When something painful happens I try to take a balanced view of the situation”)
Over-Identification (e.g., “When I’m feeling down I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong”)
How can you practice self-compassion?
Start today by writing yourself a love letter.
Be grateful to yourself.
What are you most proud of? What do you love about yourself? Which of your strengths are most powerful? What is a challenge you've recently overcome? What about a situation you've handled with grace and compassion?
Write it down. No need to share it with anyone else.
Send it to yourself in the mail. Open it on a bad day.
Lyubomirsky, Sonja; King, Laura; Diener, Ed. (2005). The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? Psychological Bulletin, Vol 131(6):803-855.
Neff, K.D. (2011). Self-Compassion, Self-esteem and Well-Being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 5 (1):1-12.
Neff, K.D., Rude, S.S. & Kirlpatrick, K.L (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality 41: 908–916
Ying, Y. (2009). Contribution of Self-Compassion to Competence and mental Health in Social Work Students. Journal of Social Work Education, Vol. 45, No. 2
Shepherd, D.A. & Cardon, M.S. (2009). Negative Emotional Reactions to Project Failure and the Self-Compassion to Learn from the Experience. Journal of Management Studies 46:6
Breines, J.G. & Chen ,S. (2012).Self-Compassion Increases Self-Improvement Motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin XX(X) 1–11
Frederickson, B. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The Royal Society. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 359, 1367–1377