How to be happy: Compassion is a strength, not a weakness

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Carly wrote in last week wondering how to stop feeling sorry for herself and develop compassion instead. This week we will take a look at how to relate to our internal critic using compassion to ease our emotional distress.

Step 1: Value compassion

Many Western cultures see compassion as a weakness, that it somehow means you are not striving hard enough for success or that you haven't "got what it takes". If you have grown up in a family that does not value compassion, the chances are that you will have a very harsh internal judge that tells you that you are weak and stupid for feeling emotional. Yet the reality is that it is compassion that makes us emotionally strong, when we or others we love are suffering.

Step 2: Empathy

Showing ourselves empathy allows us to create a relationship with distressing emotions. Instead of ignoring or denying painful feelings we can gently work through them, accepting that they are a part of us. We wouldn't turn away a friend who was suffering from our door, we would welcome them in and try and ease their pain. We can do this for ourselves too if we learn to empathise with our feelings and take care of them.

Step 3: Forgive

Learning to forgive our transgressions and faults brings us closer to having a compassionate relationship with ourselves and the world. By forgiving ourselves we can learn from our mistakes and be open to new ways of thinking about our lives. Mistakes help us grow emotionally, especially if we remind ourselves that it's ok not to be perfect. We will always learn more from our so-called failures than our successes.

Step 4: Open and warm

Opening ourselves up to emotional warmth generates compassion and intimacy. If we can be warm with ourselves that warmth will flow into others. Take a few moments to breathe in a sense of wellbeing. Imagine a crest of glowing light flowing through your body on the wave of your breath. Then breathe this warmth back out into the world, imagining it enveloping all those around you. Finally, read Paul Gilbert's, 'Compassion' for more ways to build a foundation of compassion in your life.

Cecilia is Mind journalist of the year

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