In the previous few blog entries we have discussed loving-kindness, softening self-judgement, and building a sense of common humanity. Now I would like to share a few more activities and exercises that build on all three of these skills and concepts. These exercises come from the book The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Depression by Kirk D. Strosahl and Patricia J. Robinson. I have found this book and it’s exercises to be very helpful with clients.
The first exercise is Feeling Loved. Think of a time in your life when you felt really loved. Try to imagine what this felt like including any physical sensations. Remember what it felt like to be cared for and accepted. Maybe it was from a parent. Maybe it was a significant other or a best friend. Or maybe it was even from an animal. Just try to relax and get back to a time when you felt truly loved. Next try to see if you can turn this same love onto yourself. If you have difficulty doing this then try to love that doubt and difficulty as well. Whatever shows up in your mind, shower that with love. Try to do this whenever you feel disconnected from yourself and with practice, like all of these exercises, it will become easier.
The next exercise is to practice self-compassion for you flaws. We often don’t like to dwell on our flaws but we truly grow when we can accept them as part of our whole self. Think about some things that you don’t like about yourself. Write down some of these flaws. Then write down and think about why these characteristics bother you so much. Next, try saying these flaws out loud and stating “and I love this part of me too.” This exercise might sound silly but we can truly move on and work toward our goals and values when we can accept those aspects of ourselves that we do not like.
The final self-compassion exercise is to wish yourself well. This is something you can practice every day. Try to take a few minutes at the start of the day to sit with yourself and check in with how your body feels and what is going on in your mind. Sit in stillness and tell yourself “may I live in safety”, “may I have physical health”, “may I have mental health”, and “may I have ease of being.” Again, this takes practice as it is not normal to say these things to ourselves.
Take note of how you feel before, during, and after these exercises. Try your best to turn the love you feel toward others onto yourself and with practice you can build a great deal of self-compassion! Reach out today if you want to talk through any of these exercises or if you just feel you need more help learning to have compassion for yourself.