Hearts, cupids and chocolates, oh my! Tis the season where the world at large conspires to focus us all on our external relationships. However, with so much love in the air, why not focus some of that love internally? Self care is a buzz word in the media. However, in the name of self-care, there is a lot of negative self talk. Whether it is our weight, lifestyle habits, or lack of exercise, it is often easier to discuss the things wrong with us rather than the things that are right. Society often reinforces this negative bias. So, in the name of truly “loving” for ourselves, perhaps, the first step towards self care should be self compassion.
What is self compassion? It is defined as care you give to yourself as you would give to someone else who is suffering. Although the concept is simple, many of us are so used to talking negatively about ourselves and in particular about our physical bodies that it can be tough to change or even recognize. We talk about ourselves in a way we would never talk about someone else. This is not limited to negative body image and weight. There can be a lot of guilt and self blame around other chronic illness like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Further, people in pain or with injuries often are disparaging about the part of the body that is injured.
It might appear that talking about your “terrible shoulder” would not actually impact your pain outcomes or saying you’re a “bad” sleeper will not affect how you sleep, but the research shows that there is an impact. However, how you speak internally and about yourself has a large impact on your health. Positive self talk isn’t just for athletes anymore. Those who have a positive outlook tend to have improved health outcomes.2 Some of these outcomes are subjective like improved overall well being. However, there is growing research that shows immune and cardiovascular outcomes can be improved as well.1 Further, both mindfulness and self compassion have been shown to impact sleep.3 Additional studies have demonstrated improved pain outcomes when self compassion was discussed with patients.4
Self compassion is a practice and takes time. It can be beneficial to start by focusing on the positive area of health or self care in your life. By recognizing and even listing out these items, you are acknowledging the good and bringing that to the forefront. Then it is about bringing awareness when you are speaking negatively about yourself. Think about how you would talk to a young child or a friend and notice when you are not being kind to yourself. Finally, a level of acceptance can helpful. Some pains are not going to go away, and some chronic diseases are hard to change, but the simplest way to improve these might be to simple give yourself a little more love.
-Dr. Nicole Kilian, ND, LAC
Naturopathic Physician and Acupuncturist
Dr. Kilian asks a lot of questions because listening is the foundation of her practice. With degrees in both Naturopathic medicine and Acupuncture, Dr. Kilian is rooted in traditional medicines while keeping the pulse on evidence-based solutions. Dr. Kilian treats many different conditions, but is most interested in how the patient’s daily life is impacted. Dr. Kilian has a collaborative approach to treating her patients. Read more about Dr. Kilian.
1 Asensio-Martínez, Á., Oliván-Blázquez, B., Montero-Marín, J., Masluk, B., Fueyo-Díaz, R., Gascón-Santos, S., … Magallón-Botaya, R. (2019). Relation of the Psychological Constructs of Resilience, Mindfulness, and Self-Compassion on the Perception of Physical and Mental Health. Psychology research and behavior management, 12, 1155–1166. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S225169
2 Heather N. Rasmussen, Michael F. Scheier, Joel B. Greenhouse, Optimism and Physical Health: A Meta-analytic Review, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Volume 37, Issue 3, June 2009, Pages 239–256, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-009-9111-x
3 Kemper, K. J., Mo, X., & Khayat, R. (2015). Are Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Associated with Sleep and Resilience in Health Professionals?. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 21(8), 496–503. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0281
4 Chapin, H. L., Darnall, B. D., Seppala, E. M., Doty, J. R., Hah, J. M., & Mackey, S. C. (2014). Pilot study of a compassion meditation intervention in chronic pain. Journal of compassionate health care, 1, 4. doi:10.1186/s40639-014-0004-x