I'm A Self-Compassion Expert & This Is How I Enter Every New Year
January is right around the corner, and while some folks out there may have resolutions set, others may feel inclined to grant themselves a bit of a break from New Year's goal setting. (After all, it's been a strange year, to say the least.)
In either case, associate professor of educational psychology and self-compassion expert Kristin Neff, Ph.D., tells mbg there's one thing we can all strive for as we head into a new year.
Why you should have more self-compassion in 2022.
If there was one thing, and one thing only, Neff recommends focusing on in the new year, she says it would be showing yourself more compassion.
"The idea is you switch your goals, your aspirations, and in this case, maybe your New Year's resolutions, away from any particular outcome, in terms of our desire to improve, and your goal actually becomes [to approach your] life with compassion," she explains.
And that doesn't mean you aren't going to try to be healthy and take care of yourself, she adds, but rather that you are going to shift the focus away from "getting it right," and toward "opening your heart."
Neff concedes that we will always inevitably get caught in the messiness of life, but what matters is our ability to intentionally give ourselves compassion and keep our hearts open through it all.
How to actually do it.
Again, self-compassion isn't about complacency or giving up, Neff notes, and it may not come naturally at first. "You have to really be intentional about it, and practice, because the mind doesn't tend to go there," she says, adding, "The goal of practice is simply to be compassionate. No matter how much you mess up, you can always be compassionate toward that mess."
Showing self-compassion is not just a theoretical idea, she continues. "There are practices that have been developed that are empirically shown to help you be compassionate toward whatever your moment of distress is." If you're looking for ideas on how to do so, check out some of Neff's guided resources for working on self-compassion. Might we suggest getting started by writing yourself a compassion letter? Here's how it's done.
The bottom line.
After another wacky year, resolutions may be the last thing on your mind right now. The good news is the New Year is as good a time as any to offer yourself some extra self-compassion—and who couldn't use some more of that?
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Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.