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Self-Compassion; a kind approach to mental health

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Mental health and wellbeing have become an integral part of looking after ourselves and our loved ones. Taking time to look after your mental health is just as important as caring for any sort of physical injury. Mental health and well-being impact our ability to function in daily life, socialize, work, go to school and be successful in achieving our goals. However, looking after our mental health can be a lot easier said than done. This task is also intensified when mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, and even phobias are present.

One therapeutic technique that has become increasingly more popular in the world of mental health is self-compassion. Self-compassion is essentially practising having kindness for oneself and removing the self-critical judgement that can often arise in the face of mental hardship. Self-compassion focuses on acknowledging the negative feelings that appear during stressful or mentally difficult situations, understanding they are present, being compassionate to yourself for having these feelings and moving to implement coping strategies. Self-compassion aims to shift the potential judgement and shame that people may feel when experiencing a mental illness due to societal stigmas created around mental health and move towards a place that allows you to be kind and work towards improving your mental wellbeing.

Studies have shown that depression and anxiety disorders, including social anxiety and phobias, are significantly associated with high levels of negative self-judgement, consequently exacerbating the negative impacts on mental health. Negative self-judgement can involve feelings of anger, guilt, and embarrassment. Introducing self-compassion practices helps to shift these negative feelings and move them towards more positive emotions that acknowledge mental health struggles are a natural part of life that almost everyone has some experience with. Studies have shown a positive relationship between self-compassion practices and increasing resilience, confidence, and overall positive wellbeing. Self-compassion also highlights that people are not weak for struggling with mental health, nor should we be ashamed for seeking support.

How can you practice self-compassion?

A couple of ways to practice self-compassion include:

1. Acknowledge your feelings

A fundamental part of self-compassion practice is acknowledging any negative feelings that you are struggling with. Often when we are experiencing mental hardship we try and push our feelings away and disregard them. This can lead to more intense rumination and ultimately make them worse. Acknowledging what we are feeling, good and bad, is a great place to start with self-compassion. Having the ability to pinpoint what exactly is harming our mental health is also extremely important in being able to move forward. One way to do this is through self-report tests. Here at oVRcome, we offer a range of free tests for different phobias and social anxiety, so you can acknowledge and help understand if this is something you are struggling with.

2. Practice kindness

Once you have been able to identify and acknowledge what you are feeling, the next step is to practice kindness and be compassionate towards your emotions. It is often so easy to judge and critique ourselves over the way we are feeling. Being kind to ourselves allows us to remember that it is okay to not be okay, and negative emotions and feelings are a part of life. Allowing ourselves to feel them without judgement and apply positive-self talk has been shown to improve negative symptoms.

3. Let your feelings exist whilst adopting a growth mindset.

Self-compassion practice acknowledges that it is okay to seek help and support for your struggles. Stigmas around mental health and illness can often result in feeling weak or embarrassed for needing help when in reality, this is not the case. It is always okay to seek support for mental health, supposedly as you would for a physical illness. Adopting a growth mindset towards the negative feelings and emotions you may be experiencing allows you to approach and seek support in a way that is empowering. If phobias, phobia-related anxiety, or social anxiety is something you may struggle with, begin your journey of growth with oVRcome’s variety of VR exposure therapy programs that support you on your mental health journey, from the comfort of your own home.

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