How do we grow our self-compassion? Just like any change we wish to make in our lives, real change must be cultivated over time. Small changes become longer lasting changes when practiced. And eventually these changes become habits.
Making (and breaking) habits
We know from our own experience that forming new habits takes time. And breaking negative habits, or leaving behind behaviors and attitudes that are not serving us well is difficult.
Growing our own self-compassion, and overall happiness and well-being, is a phenomenon that is being studied extensively by mind-body researchers. There is clear scientific evidence that we actually create new neuronal pathways when we practice self-compassion. And when we abandon our negative behaviors and thoughts, the neural pathways that govern them wither away.
Permission to be human
That doesn't mean that we should only experience positive emotions and not negative ones. On the contrary, if we suppress our negative emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration, or jealousy, they are likely to linger and we may tend to hold onto them in ways that are not healthy for us. Giving ourselves permission to be human, by letting uncomfortable feelings flow through us, as well as experiencing joy, happiness, and enthusiasm, for example, contributes to our whole being wellness.
Cultivating our self-compassion also makes us more resilient. When we are kind to ourselves, and feel connected to others who are also working towards becoming more compassionate, we are better prepared to face difficult situations and challenges that come our way in the normal course of living -- at home and in the classroom.
Practice, practice, practice
Although there is some debate as to exactly how long it takes, the general consensus is that forming a new habit takes about 30 days of continued, consistent practice. That is when transformation and sustained change can begin.
Because cultivating self-compassion takes practice, and change is challenging, it’s great to have a community who is cultivating alongside us, to support one another, and cheer each other on.
When I was studying positive psychology, part of my program was to take a 30 Day Challenge. We each had to identify some sort of practice or activity that we thought would build our self-compassion and elevate our joy over time. What was interesting to observe was that so many of us had difficulty identifying things that we loved to do and would bring us joy, rather than picking something we knew would be "good for us."
So what did I do for mine? I danced! Not just any kind of dancing. As part of our two immersion weeks at Kripalu Institute for Yoga and Health, I was introduced to a practice called Let Your Yoga Dance, which I fell in love with. So, that’s what I did for 30 minutes a day for 30 days as my practice challenge. And I noticed my mood lifting, my joy expanding, and I became calmer and happier all around.
For me, and for most of us studying together in our virtual classroom, having an "accountability buddy," and regular times where we checked in with a small group of fellow students who were also taking their own 30 Day Challenge, made all the difference. That's the power of community.
Invitation to our "Grow Your Own" 30 Day Challenge
We invite you to take a 30 Day Challenge to grow your self-compassion. You can choose any practice that you enjoy and you think might help you be kinder and gentler with yourself, expand your joy, support your overall well being, and/or increase your happiness level. You can choose anything. As long as you commit to sticking with it for 30 days, while monitoring your progress (i.e., getting closer to feeling less "compassion fatigued" and more "self-full").
Some suggestions for practices are in Hack 1 of our book Hacking School Culture: Designing Compassionate Classrooms.
What practice will you choose?
What mind-body activities are fun and enjoyable for you?
How might that practice mitigate your compassion fatigue?
How do you want to feel at the end of 30 days?
How will you monitor your experience?
Whom will you rely on to keep you on track?
We have created a free 30 Day Practice Challenge tool for you to use to record your progress in cultivating your self-compassion and increasing your calm and overall happiness.
When you subscribe to our website you will receive access to the 30 Day Practice Challenge tool, as well as a full range of other resources, reflection questions and protocols to support your Book Club reading.
We would love to hear from you. Let's discuss how we are growing our self-compassion and becoming more self-full so we can build our compassion towards others. Join our Facebook group for conversation with others in our Compassionate Classrooms community.