Jamie Price is a meditation and wellness expert and co-founder of Stop, Breathe & Think, a personalized emotional wellness app that offers mindfulness and meditation activities to help you navigate life’s ups and downs. This is part two in her series for Mental Health Awareness Month. Read part one here.
self-compassion: see yourself in a whole new light
It’s no secret that humans like to process their thoughts and experiences by talking them through. In fact, writing about them can actually be good for you. Journaling can clear your mind and free up your mental space. It’s been shown to decrease stress, increase your sense of well-being, and even boost your immune system. (*1, 2)
Journaling is a flexible tool that can be used in so many ways. You’ve probably heard about how keeping a daily gratitude journal can increase your optimism, happiness and life satisfaction. But you may not have thought about a self-compassion journal—one of my favorite ways to take an introspective deep dive.
While journaling itself can provide insight to your experiences, adding a layer of self-compassion can help shift difficult thoughts and feelings (like anger, self criticism, shame or embarrassment) so that you can relate to yourself with kindness and understanding instead. It will even help with productivity, inspiration and creativity. (*3)
This self compassion journal is my go to when I’m feeling stuck on something and just can’t let it go. It’s a great thing to try when you need to process something difficult and don’t feel ready to talk about it with another human.
starting a self-compassion journal
To start a self-compassion journal, sit with a pen and paper or your favorite digital tool. I personally like the new journaling feature in the Stop, Breathe & Think app.
Think about the events of your day. Write down anything that made you feel bad. By this I mean anything you beat yourself up about (you know, the stuff that just makes you cringe or causes you pain). It might look something like “I was on the phone with customer service and kept getting transferred and put on hold. When I finally got to someone who could answer my questions I yelled at the person, complaining about the wait time and the poor service.” See if you can analyze the experience through the lens of self-compassion with these three steps (*4):
3 writing prompts
1. Explore how you felt with mindfulness: With a sense of openness and curiosity write about the emotions that came up during the event, for example, “I was feeling impatient because the call was taking so long. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t valued as a customer and I lashed out at the representative. After the call I felt embarrassed and ashamed.”
2. Remember you aren’t alone: Connect your experience to the larger human experience. Write about how being human means being imperfect. Everyone has painful experiences. We’re all in the same boat. For example, “Everyone loses their cool at times. I’m only human.”
3. Show yourself some kindness: Write something kind and comforting. It can help to think about what you might say to a good friend or child in a similar situation. “Don’t worry, it’s ok. It’s understandable that I felt that way and it’s easy to make mistakes. This week, I’ll try to be a little extra kind and patient whenever I have the chance.”
self-compassion can help your emotional wellbeing
Intentionally cultivating a self-compassionate point of view will help to increase positive emotions and your sense of happiness and optimism. These, in turn, will strengthen your immunity against stress, anxiety and depression. (3) To make journaling part of your daily immune boost, try it first thing in the morning. Set your intention for the day, and make a plan for how you can navigate the ups and downs you might encounter with a compassionate attitude. In the evening, reflect on the events of the day with equal focus on self compassion for the things that were hard and appreciation for the things that went well.
A self compassion journal is a great way to embrace peace over perfection. Emotional wellbeing is a journey, not a destination. It’s not about being perfect or feeling happy all the time, but rather building the confidence to handle whatever comes your way.