Self-Compassion Exercises You Can Practice as a Dad

lifestyle Sep 12, 2022
Self-Compassion Exercises You Can Practice as a Dad

We all have our moments of weakness — times when we feel down, insecure, stressed, or in the midst of a troubling situation. All of that is a part of living life. But take a second to ask yourself: how do you treat yourself when those kinds of things happen?

That’s where self-compassion comes into play.

At its core, self-compassion is all about treating yourself with the same compassion, forgiveness, and nurturing care and aid that you would give others in difficult times. It means taking care of and helping yourself, rather than simply ignoring your troubles or mercilessly judging yourself for your shortcomings.

However, showing self-compassion is easier said than done. For many of us, showing kindness and compassion to others comes more naturally than practicing self-compassion. Thankfully, self-compassion can be learned.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Research shows that being kinder and more self-compassionate to ourselves offers several benefits. These include bringing down your anxiety and stress, as well as lowering your chances of falling into depression. It can also help keep you more motivated and more confident.

So, how do we practice self-compassion and reap these benefits?

According to Harvard psychologist and expert on self-compassion Christopher Germer, we can improve our self-compassion using physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational methods. Although the best way to foster self-compassion is subjective to each person, one of the most recommended practices is practicing meditation.

What Is Self-Compassion Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying greater attention to the present moment and yourself, as well as being more accepting and non-judgemental.

Practicing mindfulness meditation for self-compassion involves training our awareness of our mental and emotional state. Although this can involve clearing our mind of distractions, it doesn’t mean turning off our thoughts.

Instead, we nonjudgmentally acknowledge and observe our feelings and the actions that they bring. Self-compassion meditation also entails accepting the bad within and around us with a kinder, more forgiving attitude.

Self-compassion Exercises To Get Dads Started

Self-compassion practices that revolve around meditation are highly effective. They aren’t the only things you can do to practice self-compassion, though.

Below are five quick and easy self-compassion exercises to help you get into the habit:

Exercise 1: Acknowledge You Are Suffering

Admitting you have a problem is always the first step to solving it. This is also the first step for practicing compassion — whether it's towards other people or yourself.

In this case, acknowledging you are suffering paves the way to being more compassionate towards yourself. This can be as simple as saying or thinking, “I’m really struggling with being a father” or “Being a dad is harder than I thought” and other similar statements.

Acknowledging you are suffering doesn’t make you any less of a man or a father. Rather, it makes you more relatable, emotionally stable, and open to self-compassion.

Exercise 2: Recognize You Are Not Alone

After acknowledging that you are struggling, it’s important to recognize that you are not alone. You are not the only person — much less the only dad — to go through these hardships and moments of doubt.

This is part and parcel of the human experience. We all experience the ups and downs of life. If other people can come out on top of their suffering and struggles, so can you.

Recognizing that fact and knowing that other people have gone through or are going through the same thing lifts a huge weight off your shoulders. That knowledge alone can help ease anxiety, stress, and other negative feelings.

Exercise 3: The Friend Test

Oftentimes, it’s easier to be kind and compassionate towards other people than ourselves. If you are one of these people, use the Friend Test to practice more self-compassion.

Pretend that one of your close friends comes to you for advice about the exact situation or question you are struggling with. How would you help them? What would you tell them to do? More importantly, what would you do for them?

Now, take your answers to all those questions and apply them to your situation. Give the same loving advice or responses and show the same level of compassion you’d provide to your friends to yourself.

Exercise 4: Be Kind and Loving to Yourself

Acknowledging your suffering is only half of the journey. The next part is taking action. After recognizing your feelings and your struggles, it’s time to be kind and loving towards yourself.

A good way to start is through positive affirmations. Always remember that the words we say to ourselves are powerful. Do away with self-criticism and harsh judgment. The same words of comfort that you would say to a friend in need can be your affirmations and source of strength.

Examples of things you can say to be kinder and more loving to yourself include:

  • “I’m here for you.”
  • “I care about you.”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “I love you.”

Our own touch can be healing, too. Putting a hand over your heart and taking a few moments to take deep breaths and recognize your needs can help ease your stress and anxiety.

Exercise 5: Picture Yourself as a Child

This idea is largely similar to the Friend Test. In this case, instead of pretending that a friend comes to you for advice, picture yourself as a child going through the same feelings you are having. What would you say to ease their minds?

If a child — especially your own — approaches you filled with feelings like guilt, shame, or embarrassment, you comfort them instead. You avoid saying anything negative that might make them feel worse or add to their trauma. You prioritize showing love, kindness, and forgiveness.

These are all things you also need to show yourself even as adults. Growing older and having more responsibilities doesn’t mean you are not entitled to the same care and compassion children easily receive.

The Key to Practicing Self-Compassion

Change doesn’t happen overnight. If you want to show more self-compassion, you need consistency. Keep on doing these self-compassion practices and meditating. Author and associate psychology professor on self-compassion Kristin Neff notes the importance of allowing ourselves to be slow learners. As long as you are consistent in your self-compassion exercises and focused on improving, you will eventually form and reinforce your habit of self-compassion.

Watch the "Self-Compassion Exercises You Can Practice as a Dad" video here:

This is the 3rd video in a 3 part Self-Compassion Series.  The other videos are:
Part 1 = What is Self-Compassion?
Part 2 = Why Self-Compassion is So Important as a Dad

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