Can being kind to ourselves improve our health-related quality of life?
A study looks at self-compassion and its effect on depression and anxiety
A recent article by Pulmonary Hypertension News reports on a questionnaire-based study in the U.K. indicating that anxiety and depression are likely linked to less self-compassion by pulmonary hypertension (PH) patients and their caregivers. Studies have also shown that depression and anxiety are alarmingly high in people with PH. I can relate, because I also struggle with anxiety as a result of my PH.
This got me thinking about how our health might affect how we treat ourselves.
What is self-compassion? Stanford Medicine quotes various researchers who describe self-compassion as “a self-attitude that involves treating oneself with warmth and understanding in difficult times and recognizing that making mistakes is part of being human,” and an “emotionally positive self-attitude that should protect against the negative consequences of self-judgment, isolation, and rumination (such as depression).”
Sit with that for a few minutes and think about the times you have talked negatively about or to yourself. How do you respond when you make simple mistakes? Do you remind yourself that we are all human and mistakes happen? Or does your inner critic speak the loudest?
Treat yourself how you would treat others
Let’s imagine instead that a friend comes to you struggling with a poor decision or mistake they have made. Would you respond differently than you would to yourself by allowing your friend grace? Or would you criticize them? Pay careful attention next time this occurs. Note what you say and how you say it. Then, when you make a mistake, try to respond to yourself in a similar manner.
When I think about self-compassion, I think about allowing myself space and grace, just as I would with others. I wasn’t taught to treat myself with compassion, but by learning to speak to myself with kindness, I can stop being my worst critic and start celebrating the things I do right.
Reaching out for help from others can be a form of self-compassion, too.
There are many ways to treat ourselves more kindly, and it all starts inside our minds. By learning ways to better treat ourselves, we can understand the benefits of self-compassion.
So how does self-compassion affect our overall well-being? Studies have found that those who practice it are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as exercising regularly and maintaining a more nutritious diet, which can contribute to improved physical health, such as reduced blood pressure, better sleep, and reduced inflammation.
In addition to the physical benefits, self-compassion is also linked to improved emotional well-being. Research shows that those who practice self-compassion are less likely to feel anxious or depressed and are more likely to experience feelings of happiness and contentment. Self-compassionate people also tend to have a greater sense of purpose in life and cope better with difficult emotions.
Self-compassion can be a powerful tool to cultivate greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, resilience, and overall well-being. However, it is essential to note that developing self-compassion takes practice and dedication. Learning to speak with a new inner voice may be uncomfortable or awkward at first. But we must keep trying.
We can get started by trying activities that bring us joy and contentment, such as reciting positive affirmations, practicing meditation, journaling, or listening to music. Check in with yourself periodically, allow yourself to experience each emotion, and avoid judging your feelings as “bad.”
We can reflect on moments of self-compassion that have been meaningful to us and ponder how they have shaped our lives. For example, my new therapist taught me a three-minute mindfulness exercise that reminds me to be compassionate with myself.
Never hesitate to reach out for support if needed. You can talk with friends or loved ones or connect with a therapist who can help guide you on your journey of self-compassion. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself. As we continue to practice self-compassion, we can learn how to tap into our inner resources more.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.