Self-Compassion: Week Two
Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
Topics/Agenda – Week Two
- How do we define mindfulness?
- Types of mindfulness
- Mindfulness & Self-Critical Thoughts
- Cognitive Restructuring (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
- Thought Defusion (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)
- How can I use mindfulness as a part of my self-compassion practice?
Mindfulness meditation has been a popular phrase for the last several years, but many folks are unsure of what this means. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
Types of Mindfulness Practice
Formal mindfulness practice is probably what most people think of when meditation comes to mind. Formal practices involve engaging in intentional meditation practice for several minutes at a time. This type of practice can lay a foundation for responding to your emotions more effectively and with greater gentleness.
A very common formal mindfulness meditation is meditation on the breath. Find a quiet place and a comfortable seat before following the instructions below.
- Set a timer. It is ok to start with 30 seconds and work your way up. Try beginning with 60 seconds if you can.
- Take 1-2 deep breaths and then allow your breathing to even out and become regular.
- Bring your attention to one sensation of your breath. This can be the sensation of the breath in your nostrils as you breathe in, the rise and fall of your chest, or perhaps the warm air as it hits your upper lip upon exhale. Simply focus on one sensation.
- As your mind wanders to other thoughts and sensations, gently return your attention to the sensations of your breath.
- When complete, thank yourself for taking the time out today to practice a new skill.
Informal mindfulness practice allows us to bring our mindful attention to everyday activities. This can be a useful practice when you are struggling to find time because of a hectic schedule or if you are not yet ready to practice a formal sitting meditation. With practice, you may find that everyday activities are a very different experience than when you are not engaged with the experience.
Examples of informal meditation practices including bringing your awareness to walking, listening to someone or to music, showering, or even washing dishes.
Next time that you have to wash the dishes, perhaps you can bring your attention to the experience of doing this. Follow the below steps in whichever order works well for you.
- Begin by noticing the sensation of the sponge or brush in your hand as you pick it up to prepare. How does it feel in your hand? Is there a certain smell that you notice as you prepare the soap?
- As you wash each dish, notice the weight of the dish and the changing textures that you feel as you wash the dish. Does the texture change as you add soap or wash it off? Are there any smell changes as you progress?
- When rinsing your dishes, notice the sensation of the water as it hits the dish and perhaps hits your hand. Are there changes in the temperature you notice?
This practice can be done with a single small item or during moments of a full meal. There is no expectation to mindfully eat an entire meal.
- Begin by noticing the smell of your food. Are there any scents that you are surprised by? Any that invoke a certain emotional reaction?
- Bring your attention to the texture of your food as you can see it. Are there textures that you have not noticed before? Perhaps, the colors are pleasing or interesting to look at.
- As you bring your first bite to your mouth, again notice any changes in smells. Are you beginning to salivate? Can you be aware of the changes in your physical response as you get closer to eating something?
- After taking your first bite, what are the first flavors you notice? Secondary flavors? How does this change as you chew? What textures do you notice and how do they change?
- Finally, bring your attention to your throat as you swallow your food. What sensations do you notice this time?
It can be very helpful to check in with yourself as you practice mindful eating. Perhaps you will find that foods you used to enjoy are not as enjoyable as you thought or you will find that you really enjoy a specific flavor or texture that you previously did not attend to.
Mindfulness and Our Self-Critical Thoughts
One benefit of engaging in a regular mindfulness practice, is that it allows us a greater awareness of our thoughts. Part of self-compassion is noticing our self-critical thought patterns and not acting on these. While a final step may be fully replacing your self-critical and judgmental thoughts with self-compassionate phrases, we begin by noticing and adjusting our initial difficult thoughts. There are two exercises that may be helpful in this process.
CBT Tracking and Restructuring
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an empirically supported treatment for many mental health concerns. The use of CBT thought restructuring can help you to change your critical self-narrative to a more compassionate internal narrative.
Below are some common cognitive distortions that individuals who struggle with self-compassion may experience.
All or Nothing Thinking
This happens when we focus on perfect over “good enough.” If we don’t do something perfectly, then we are a failure or a bad person.
When your mind jumps to worst case scenarios, i.e., ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’.
• You perform poorly on an exam and you begin to think “oh no, I’m going to fail this class, then fail out of college, and never get a good job…”
• You have a tense discussion with a friend and your mind tells you that the friendship is over and you will never talk to them again.
There are many things in life that we “should” do,” but often this becomes a way to punish ourselves for not doing the hypothetical “good” things we need to do for ourselves.
Tools to Use
Thought Records are commonly used tools that help you to identify you negative thought and the distortions associated with it and subsequently challenge the thoughts. This record will help you to challenge your critical thoughts and get in the way of practicing self-compassion. The video explains how automatic thoughts can impact our experiences of our emotions and then our behaviors
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Resources
If you find this tool helpful, below are some additional articles and resources for CBT.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a type of treatment that focuses on acceptance of difficult thoughts and emotions in order to free up energy to spend on values-based behaviors. One tool common in ACT work is called defusion. This is a way of refocusing our approach to our thoughts to noticing them as “just thoughts.” In other words, our brain likes to create a narrative and can be quite the chatterbox. This does not mean that our thoughts are truths. Defusion is the practicing of noticing this and creating mental distance from our thoughts in order to more effectively evaluate them. Please view the video below for more of an idea of how this might work.
If you found that this exercise resonated with you, please see below for additional ACT-based resources.
Consider practicing mindfulness meditation, informal or formal, for 1-3 minutes every day for the next week. Test different types of practices to find what feels comfortable for you and that you will want to continue to do.
Watch the videos on Automatic Thoughts and Defusion. Reflect upon which of these might work for you and practice it once or twice before progressing to the next section.
- Insight Timer: This meditation app has a number of sections focused on mindfulness, self-compassion, and other forms of meditation.
- Headspace: Exercise mindful awareness, relieve anxiety, and reduce stress
- 10% Happier: This meditation app not only includes meditations, but also conversations from leading people in mindfulness and self-compassion research and practice. Please note, it does have an annual fee.