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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

The Beginner’s Guide to Practicing Self-Compassion Meditation

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The Beginner’s Guide to Practicing Self-Compassion Meditation

Many of us who want to make a positive impact on the world try to have compassion for other people. But how many of us ever think about directing that compassion toward ourselves? Probably very few. The idea usually brings up thoughts of being self-absorbed or self-centered.

But, what makes us less deserving of our compassion than other people? If we want to achieve a higher level of personal development, which includes real happiness and inner peace, then we need to be able to have compassion for all people, and that includes ourselves.

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” — Buddha

In this article, I’ll show you how to practice self-compassion meditation, so you can realize happiness and inner peace. I’ll include a self-compassion meditation script with suggestions on how to use it for maximum effectiveness. But before we get into the practice, it would be a good idea to understand what self-compassion is, and its many benefits.

What Is Self-Compassion?

When we have compassion for another person, we are aware of the person’s suffering, and we want to do something to alleviate it. This shows that we care enough about them to want to help.

Compassion also means that we are aware of the imperfect nature of being human. We realize that people have faults, and we don’t judge them harshly when they make mistakes.

As the term implies, self-compassion is compassion directed at ourselves. It is the same as compassion for another person. Intellectually, it sounds pretty straightforward, but actually putting it into practice can be a challenge.

So when we have self-compassion, we have an objective awareness of our own suffering, and we do what we can to ensure our well-being. In addition, we are not overly critical of ourselves, as we accept our mistakes and try to learn from them.[1]

Self-Compassion Is Not Self-Pity

Self-pity is an egocentric wallowing in our own problems, where we usually dismiss any realistic solutions. We allow our feelings to consume us, and just want attention and pity from others.

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With self-pity, we’re not able to see our problems objectively. We are too consumed by our emotions to see clearly. We’re in a state of mental and emotional confusion.

When we’re in self-pity, we don’t see our suffering in the broader context of the human condition. Therefore, we feel alone in our problems.

Self-Compassion Is Not Self-Indulgence

In our attempt to be good to ourselves, we may overindulge in activities that bring us pleasure. For example, we may reward ourselves for something good that happened to us by eating a quart of ice cream.

Remember, self-compassion is about taking care of our health, and not indulging in sensual pleasure or emotional gratification. Some things that are good for us may not be pleasurable, such as dieting or quitting smoking.

Some people may be afraid to do something that is truly for their benefit, because they’re afraid of failure. This is often the case with dieting. They don’t take into consideration the fallible nature of being human.

Self-compassion not only provides you with motivation for change and growth, but also with the ability to accept yourself when you fail.

Self-Compassion Is Not Self-Esteem

Self-esteem

is about feeling good about ourselves based on our perceived value. We all want to like ourselves, and that’s okay. But that is not the same as self-compassion, and the desire to care for ourselves in a healthy manner.

As a matter of fact, self-esteem can be either healthy or unhealthy. It all depends on how we acquired it. Did we put other people down in order to make ourselves feel better? Or, did we help someone during a difficult time.

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Now, self-compassion can lead to a healthy self-esteem, but just be aware that they’re not the same.[2]

Why Practice Self-Compassion Meditation?

There are many benefits of practicing self-compassion meditation. These benefits have been confirmed by scientific research.

Emotional Well-Being

People who are self-compassionate tend to have a better outlook on life. They know they’re taking good care of themselves, so they’re happier, and feel better about themselves.

In general, they love themselves, but not in an egocentric way. They love themselves in the same way that they love their partner, or family member. They love themselves unconditionally.

Physical Health

Self-compassion leads to a better lifestyle, and therefore, better health. People who cultivate self-compassion eat healthy, engage in physical exercise or activity, and good hygiene. By taking good care of themselves, they avoid the health consequences of neglect or abuse of their body.

Mental Health

Self-compassion also leads to better mental health. Self-compassionate people know how to manage stress, and are able to focus better. They are more optimistic, motivated, and feel a greater social connectedness.[3]

How to Practice Self-Compassion Meditation

There are several effective methods by which you can develop self-compassion, such as comforting your body, writing a letter to yourself, giving yourself encouragement, and mindfulness.[4] Here we’re going to focus on self-compassion meditation.

I’ve developed a meditation script specifically for self-compassion and unconditional love. What the meditation does is reprogram your subconscious mind to be more loving and compassionate toward yourself. Once the affirmations of the meditation are ingrained into your subconscious, they will manifest themselves in your thoughts and actions without any conscious effort.

There are several ways you can practice self-compassion meditation:

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  1. Read the meditation. Begin by sitting quietly and follow your breathing for a few minutes. You can also listen to soft music if you prefer. Once your mind has settled down a bit, read the meditation script either silently or out loud.
  2. Listen to the meditation. You can either listen to someone else read the meditation script, or make a recording you can listen to at any time. In fact, listening to affirmations in your own voice is highly effective for personal transformation.
  3. Write the meditation. Simply write the meditation script by hand in a notebook.

So which method is the most effective? I would say writing the meditation is the most effective because you’re applying several senses to assimilate the meditation—sight, touch, and hearing (if you verbalize it as you read and write it). In general, the more senses you apply, the more the affirmations of the meditation will be imprinted into your subconscious mind.

What I would recommend is that you write the meditation by hand for about 10 to 15 minutes per day. You are welcome to do it longer if you want. You probably won’t get through the entire script in that time, so just write as much as you can during the allotted time, and then pick up where you left off in your next session.

Though you’ll see results in just a few days, it’s important to continue doing the meditation consistently for at least a couple of months in order for the changes to become permanent.

Self-Compassion Meditation Script

Here is the self-compassion meditation script:

As I continue on my journey through life, I am becoming an evolved human being. There is a beautiful person within me wanting to emerge. May I allow this wonderful person to shine through, and see him/her each time I look into the mirror.

What I Deserve

I am aware that I deserve unconditional love and compassion. May I be loving, kind, and compassionate toward myself. May I be happy and joyful. May I be peaceful and free from mental, emotional, and physical suffering. May I live long, and have healthy loving relationships.

Forgiving Myself

I am aware that as a human being, I am fallible, and so are the other people in my life. May I be forgiving of my own mistakes, as well as those of others. May I see my mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. May I be patient and understanding.

Caring for My Body

As I develop compassion for myself, I will take good care of my body. May I learn which foods and nutrients nourish my body and mind, and lead to optimal health, performance, and longevity. May I have the strength to make healthy choices in my diet in order to realize good health.

I will rejoice in my successes, and will not feel guilt, shame, or remorse over minor lapses.

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May I incorporate sufficient physical activity into my daily routine to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. May I be mindful of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, unnecessary medications, and other substances that are obstacles to my personal growth, and have the strength and courage to let them go.

Caring for My Mind

I am aware that a peaceful mind is the key to good mental and emotional health. May I develop that peaceful mind through meditation, and living mindfully in the present moment. May I cultivate a quiet and peaceful environment, so it allows my mind to calm down naturally.

May I be aware of the great wisdom that is within me, and allow it to emerge through a peaceful mind. May I learn to cherish peace and quiet.

Caring for My Emotions

I am aware that there is a reason for each of my emotions. May I have the inner strength to look at the sources of my painful emotions, so I can transform and be free of them. May I have the inner strength to not depend on pleasure and emotions as my sources of happiness, but rather on a peaceful mind.

May I always remember that I deserve love and compassion from myself. Just as other people are deserving of peace, love, and happiness, so am I. May I be courageous in dealing with difficulties, and always meet with success. May I be diligent and committed to my personal development. May my True Nature shine through, and onto all beings I encounter.

End meditation script.

Final Thoughts

To many of us, practicing self-compassion may seem a little strange. However, it is essential if we want to realize our full potential, and this includes living a happy, healthy, and peaceful life.

We can learn to care for ourselves in a way that is not self-centered or selfish, if we’re able to get past our false humility.

Self-compassion meditation is another powerful tool to help you in your personal development. It’s easy to practice, and you’ll see fast results. And if you stay with it, it will literally rewire your brain for better care of yourself throughout your life. This is something you’ll truly come to appreciate as you get older.

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More About Meditation

Featured photo credit: Ester Marie Doysabas via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Self-Compassion.org: Definition of Self-Compassion
[2] Self-Compassion.org: What Self-Compassion Is Not
[3] Wellness Mama: Talking to Yourself With Self-Compassion (& Why It’s Healthy)
[4] Health Harvard: The Power of Self-Compassion

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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