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Ring in the New Year With Self-Compassion

  • Published
  • 31 December 2020
  • Category
  • General

As we say good riddance to 2020, it’s important to recognize there will be a continued need for moments of reflection, paths ahead for personal improvement and a demand for resilience in the New Year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown us for a loop. It has forced a re-evaluation of what is most important in life, for example, it may be good health, close ties with family and friends, freedom of movement, secure employment or feeling part of a collective whole (inter-connectedness).

Research shows as many as 50 percent of U.S. adults in the United States make resolutions, but fewer than 10 percent actually keep them for more than a few months. Stress, hardships and losses related to COVID-19 may make it even more difficult to prioritize New Year’s resolutions for 2021, says Charles Herrick, M.D., chair of Psychiatry at Nuvance Health.

Already feeling discouraged? Here’s some good news: studies suggest that when people are less self-critical and kinder to themselves, they are more likely to believe they can overcome mistakes, re-engage with resolutions after setbacks and achieve their goals.

Experts say the root of these efforts is self-compassion.

Practicing Self-Compassion

If the idea of practicing self-compassion feels unnatural to you, you’re not alone. To have self-compassion, you must be willing to turn inward and acknowledge suffering, a counterintuitive exercise that is challenging for many, according to Kristin Neff, Ph.D., a leading authority on self-compassion and psychology professor at the University of Texas.

Neff outlines the three elements of self-compassion as:

  1. Self-kindness vs. self-judgment
    Recognize that failing is a productive and necessary part of life. Rather than talking to yourself in a critical tone, be gentle. Recognize that imperfection is a reality that cannot be denied or fought against. Accept perceived shortcomings with sympathy and kindness.
  1. Common humanity vs. isolation
    Acknowledge that perceived failures often lead to feelings of isolation, as if we are the only one to have ever made a mistake. This tenet of self-compassion involves acceptance toward our feelings of inadequacy as part of a shared human experience.
  1. Mindfulness vs. over-identification
    Observe your negative thoughts and emotions in a state of mindfulness. Create a non-judgmental, receptive state of mind. Avoid “over-identifying” (the act of identifying oneself to an excessive degree with someone or something else, especially to the detriment of one’s individuality or objectivity). This practice helps put suffering into perspective and increases the ability to relate to others without making it about your own pain.

Self-compassionate people tend to experience more positive emotions, which are associated with healthier behavior, renewed motivation and a strong sense of purpose.

Making Resolutions

When making resolutions, Martin Seligman, Ph.D., director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests choosing goals that make you feel alive and allow you to flourish. He recommends:

  • Cultivating positive emotions by expressing gratitude and forgiveness.
  • Engaging in a challenging task by deploying your applicable skills and strengths.
  • Connecting with others to give pursuits greater dimension and get needed support.
  • Identifying a purpose or meaning that is bigger than yourself, such as service to others.
  • Understanding what you expect to receive as your reward when you accomplish your goal.

No matter what kind of resolutions you make, you will be more likely to succeed if you limit their number, prepare for the inevitability of veering from your original path and forgive yourself when you do.

Happy New Year to you from all of us at WorkCare!

 

 

 

 

 

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