Practicing mindfulness in your daily life is more than just being aware of your breathing and your emotions. It’s more than simply being “present-focused.” According to researcher Dr. Kristin Neff, mindfulness is one of the three aspects of self-compassion. Thus, mindfulness is part of a larger whole—and part of the noble goal of self-compassion.
All too often, people who are extremely empathetic fail to extend that empathy to themselves. How many times have you seen someone who is giving, kind and generous to others being his or her own worst critic? People sometimes feel like being self-compassionate is selfish and unworthy. In a society that values being other-focused, taking any time at all to be self-focused is sometimes looked poorly upon.
However, this is a fallacy. Everyone deserves compassion, including the self! Mindfulness—along with self-kindness and embracing one’s own “common humanity”—is a big part of that. Being consciously aware of inner phenomena that tend to fly under the conscious radar (like thoughts and feelings and the “self-talk” narrative) is one way we can take a step toward extending the empathy we feel for others to ourselves. By increasing inner awareness through mindfulness, we can increase our own productivity, happiness, and even compassion toward both ourselves and others.
So, take a moment and focus inward. Take the time to notice and appreciate right now, rather than wringing your hands about an uncertain future or feeling mired in the guilt of some perceived past transgression. Listen to your body and your mind, taking the role of an impartial third party. Embrace mindfulness and take the first step toward self-compassion.