Do you think that the only way to stay healthy is to be hard on yourself? If you eat junk food rather than vegetables, or you miss a couple days at the gym, do you fill your head with negative self talk? It’s not fun, and no one really enjoys it, but we think we deserve this “tough love.” If that’s what you think, this new research might surprise you: scientists say self-compassion is better for you if you want to create good health.

In a 2017 study, entitled, “Self-compassion and physical health: Exploring the roles of perceived stress and health-promoting behaviors”, researchers observed 176 individuals and the relationship between self-compassion, stress and health-promoting behaviors.

They found “that taking a kind, accepting and mindful stance towards one’s flaws and failures may have benefits for reducing stress and promoting health behaviors.”

What self-compassion is

But how did this study define “self-compassion”? According to one of the researchers, Kristin Neff, “self-compassion” can be broken down into three things:

  1. Being mindful, especially of negative thoughts and emotions without being judgmental about them.
  2. Being aware that no one is perfect, and that we all go through difficult times.
  3. Being kind, caring and understanding with yourself, especially when you make mistakes or aren’t perfect.

When individuals exhibit this self-compassion, researchers say they also are more likely to choose health promoting behaviors and stick with them over the long period of time.

What’s more, self-compassionate individuals were better at handling stress, which also helped them to avoid unhealthy coping skills. This, too,  leads to overall improved health.

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