A Simple Mindfulness Exercise To Promote Kindness & Self-Compassion

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As a doctor of preventive and lifestyle medicine, I know the importance of stress management and the value in strong connections — with ourselves and others — for overall wellness.

A key element of managing stress and finding true meaning is living your life from a place of unconditional kindness. When you act with kindness and compassion, you can give to others and share your true gifts.

Kindness is an energy that connects us. Compassion enhances our connections with ourselves, with those we interact with, and with the world around us. As you approach life without judgment toward yourself or others, you will notice that there is a shift in your perception and experience of life.

So that's why I recommend making kindness — both toward yourself and others — a daily habit. To help build kindness and cultivate self-compassion, I recommend this simple guided exercise:

1. Find a space and time where and when you can be uninterrupted and give this time to yourself without distractions.

2. Start by recalling a situation in your life that is challenging or difficult and causing you stress. Close your eyes and bring this situation to mind. Feel the struggle, distress, and emotional discomfort in your body.

3. Become aware that this is a moment of struggle. You may acknowledge that this moment hurts, is stressful, or is painful. You may even speak out loud, "ouch," or "this hurts," or "I am in pain."

4. Recognize that stress, struggle, and experiences of suffering are part of life that link us in our humanity but don't have to overwhelm us. Remember that you are not alone, that we all struggle in our lives, and that suffering does not mean you are less worthy, bad, being punished, or alone.

5. With your eyes closed, place your hands over your heart. Take a few deep breaths and relax any tension you are holding in your body. As you exhale, feel that stress dispersing and leaving your body. Feel the gentle touch and warmth of your hands resting on your chest. Feel a warm, comforting, kind light building in your hands and spreading to your heart. Give this healing to yourself. Allow this gentle, healing energy to flow from you and to you, spreading to your whole body and bringing calm and healing where it is needed.

6. Ask yourself what you need to hear and feel right now to give kindness to yourself. Say to yourself, "May I be kind to myself." Speak with the phrases that feel most aligned with your particular situation, such as:

  • "May I forgive myself."
  • "May I be strong."
  • "May I be compassionate to myself."
  • "May I learn from my experiences."
  • "May I accept myself as I am in this moment."
  • "May I be patient."
  • "May I give myself the kindness and compassion that I need."

Use this exercise, inspired by my book The Whole Cure: 52 Essential Prescriptions to Overcome Overwhelm, Reclaim Balance, and Reconnect with a Life You Love, when you feel overwhelmed, despondent, stressed out, or stuck in struggle. Allow it to raise your mindfulness in the situation and to evoke self-compassion when you need it the most.

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