“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Sometimes life spins by so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt this way, while in the midst of an exciting transition that has consumed most of my energy, time and focus. Some days it’s as though three blinks later, morning has fallen into night. And with this sense of living in fast-forward, I’ve managed to miss a work deadline — which almost never happens. As a self-driven and highly motivated person, I pride myself on finding solutions and working well under pressure; and on this rare occasion of running late, I was surprised to notice that my first reaction was to be really hard on myself. Instead of giving myself a pass and acknowledging that this has been a ridiculously hectic time (which I would have naturally done for someone else), my first reaction completely lacked self-compassion.
A day or two later I received an insightful email from a friend in New York (who happens to be a meditation expert). Maybe it was her choice of words or that I received her message at the perfect moment; but for whatever reason, I was able to easily take her advice and make a conscious decision to give myself a break and basically just chill out. Almost immediately, I felt a positive shift take place. (I realize this sounds a bit crazy but it’s true.) The moment I exercised self-compassion and accepted the situation, I felt less stressed, happier and more self-assured. It was as though there was a little switch in my brain that I thought was on but had been accidentally mis-set to off. Over the last week I’ve also noticed a more effortless flow taking place in my personal and professional life.
This minor yet impactful experience prompted me to reflect on the importance of self-compassion and what we can do to avoid neglecting it. Because as basic and straightforward as it ought to be, self-compassion is a challenge for many of us and especially when we’re under stress (which is of course when we need it most). As author and Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson shares, “Most of us believe that we need to be hard on ourselves to perform at our best, but it turns out that’s 100 percent wrong. A dose of self-compassion when things are at their most difficult can reduce your stress and improve your performance, by making it easier to learn from your mistakes.”
After browsing through many experts’ strategies on developing self-compassion, I’ve come across a few that are worth sharing, like “comfort your body, write a letter to yourself, give yourself encouragement and practice mindfulness.” Practicing mindfulness seems to be the most essential factor because the more mindful and self-aware we are the more quickly we’re able to recognize our moments of weakness and shift our behavior. In order to be our happiest and most successful we absolutely must embrace who we are and where we are with a deep sense of kindness and connectedness. Sometimes we just need to nudge ourselves back on track.
* Song For This Moment: “Whole Heart” by Griffin & Bipolar Sunshine.
“4 Ways To Boost Your Self-Compassion”, article in Harvard Health.