So, how can we learn self-compassion? In 2010, Dr. Neff and his colleague Chris Germer, a Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer at Harvard Medical School, has developed an eight-week compassionate and compassionate program, which has since been taught to thousands of people. In 2012, the Journal of Clinical Psychology published the results of a small clinical trial (27 people) half of whom participated in the self-compassion class while the control group stayed on a waiting list. Course participants reported significantly greater gains in terms of self-compassion, awareness and well-being compared to the waiting list group, and the benefits were lasting, another year after the end of the course.
In an effort to reach more people, the authors distilled the eight-week course into theExercise book of mindfulness and compassionPosted by Guilford Press last summer. The exercise book offers many writing exercises, guided meditations, and informal practices to teach compassion.
Dr. Neff notes that self-compassion does not come naturally to most of us and requires practice. To learn self-compassion, we must first conscientiously recognize our pain in a non-critical way. Then we must remember that we are not alone, that imperfection is part of a shared human experience. Finally, we must offer kindness and support, just as we would treat a close friend.
Here are some exercises to help you improve your abilities of self-compassion. These exercises have been summarized for the sake of brevity here, but you can find more complete descriptions in the workbook or on Website of Dr. Neff.
Pass the compassionate test
Use this short test developed by Dr. Neff to get a snapshot of your own level of compassion. If you have a low score, commit to learning some self-compassion practices. If you have a high degree of compassion, continue to practice compassion to develop what you already have.
How do I treat a friend?
Close your eyes and think of a time when a close friend came to see you because he or she was struggling with a misfortune, a failure or a feeling of inadequacy. Now, write what you said. What tone did you use? Did your interaction include non-verbal gestures – touching, cuddling or other actions? Now think of a similar situation in which you were fighting. What are you saying? Write it. Now compare the two answers. Were you as kind to yourself as you were to your friend?
Keep a compassionate journal
Every night, think of an area in which you are fighting and focus on mindfulness, common humanity and self-friendliness. First, recognize your pain with awareness. Write down the difficult feelings you have. (I'm worried about a mistake I made at work, I just can not manage at home.)