Friday, October 11, 2013

Self-Compassion and Life Satisfaction!

"Sanctuary" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I was reading "Self-Compassion in Clinical Practice" (an article in the JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: IN SESSION) by Christopher K. Germer and Kristin D. Neff.  They describe self-compassion as having 3 core components: self-kindness (rather than self-judgment), a sense of commonality with humanity (rather than the isolation of an overly well defended ego), and mindfulness (rather than over identification, when relating to painful experiences). Their research evidence demonstrated a high correlation between self-compassion and psychological flourishing.  They also noted a reduction of depression and anxiety. After an 8-week training program in mindful self-compassion Germer and Neff found participants demonstrated a significant increase in self-compassion, mindfulness, compassion for others, and life satisfaction and a decrease in depression, anxiety, stress, and emotional avoidance. All gains in outcomes were maintained at 6 months and 1-year follow-up.  In fact, life satisfaction actually increased significantly at the 1-year follow-up, demonstrating a willingness to continue the self-compassion practices which in turn enhanced the participants' quality of life over time.  For the exercises used in mindful self-compassion see the resources and handouts on Christopher Germer's website.  Really nice!  I'm thinking the Fun Monday 14 Secrets Challenges will have to include some of these ideas!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Stress and our highest intentions

"A Cheerful Message"  Collage by Lani and textures from FlyPaper
Author Andy Douglass was listening to the Indigo Girls speak on "On Being".  There was some questioning of where the great protest songs of this era are? It's not like we don't have things to protest, that's for sure.  "We Shall Overcome", "This Land is My Land," and so many classics are sung at rallies, and Andy wondered about contemporary songs that touch the collective spirit. He asked his FaceBook friends why we don't seem to have strong protest music like earlier generations had.  Why aren't we writing the songs that tell the stories that are happening to us now?

I gave the question some thought, and started wondering about  our high speed, noisy, cluttered, over-crowded lives.  Could it be that we are so stressed, we've lost our collective spirit?  Stress is so chronic, so pervasive we may be increasingly self involved and less capable of the kind of empathy required to participate in affiliative experiences. It's those affiliative, collective experiences which give rise to that feeling of a common spirit, a wish for justice for all, and of course classic protest music.

We have all experienced the physical response to stress, how our heart beats faster, how our breath gets shallow, and how our blood pressure rises and that's all pretty easy to talk about.  But stress also means self absorption, a heightened sensitivity about internal and external stimulus, and a need to keep the "self" safe.  This may be a little trickier to observe if we are under stress. 

But just think back to a stressful day (you may not have to look far).  Don't you find people drive like lunatics, seem to be the most rude and unkind when you are under stress?  In situations like that, or even in the normal day to day bombardment of life, how can we best notice that we are a part of a whole?  How can we remove a little less stress from our lives?  How can we all learn to be more sympathetic,  more kind to our "selves" (all of our selves, not just "me")?  Perhaps with some reduction of stress around us, we can become more affiliative, which further reduces stress.  We can be more open, we can hear the stories around us, and we can start to align our thoughts, our words, and our actions with our highest intentions, and we can write the songs that so badly need to be sung.

Here's a little example of collective spirit, affiliation and light in a dark place.  "Here comes the sun."