Exercises for Self Love, Compassion and Acceptance
Self Compassion Exercise
1) When feeling an emotion, touch one or two hands to a place on your body that needs love and soothing. Give your self compassion by saying something like, Ah, this is a moment of sadness, grief, anger, shame.... or this moment is really hard...
2) I know that I am not alone in this feeling or there are so many others who are experiencing this also...
3) May I be strong, kind to myself, patient with myself.....
Breathe in for you, Breathe out for others.
Self Compassion Exercise
How would you treat a friend? Please take out a sheet of paper and answer the following questions:
- First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you're at your best)? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends.
- Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you talk to yourself.
- Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that lead you to treat yourself and others so differently?
- Please write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you're suffering. Why not try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens?
SELF-COMPASSION BREAK Exercise
Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
Now, say to yourself:
- This is a moment of suffering
Other options include:
- This hurts.
- This is tough.
- This is stress
That's common humanity. Other options include:
- Other people feel this way.
- I'm not alone.
- We all struggle in our lives.
Now, put your hands over your heart, or wherever it feels soothing, feeling the warmth and gentle touch of your hands. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.
Say to yourself:
You can also ask yourself, "What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself". Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:
- May I accept myself as I am
- May I give myself the compassion that I need
- May I learn to accept myself as I am
- May I forgive myself.
- May I be strong.
- May I be safe May I be patient
If you're having trouble finding the right language, sometimes it helps to imagine what you might say to a dear friend struggling with that same difficulty. Can you say something similar to yourself, letting the words roll gently through your mind?
SOFTEN - SOOTHE - ALLOW Exercise
You can practice this exercise whenever you feel stress in daily life.
First discover where the stress or a difficult emotion manifests in your body. Then try the following:
- Begin softening into that location in your body. Letting the muscles be soft without a requirement that they become soft, like simply applying heat to sore muscles.
- Softening...softening...softening... Remember that we are not trying to make the sensation go away-you are just holding it in a tender embrace.
- If you wish, letting yourself just soften around the edges, like around the edges of a pancake. No need to go all the way in.
- If you experience too much discomfort with an emotion, just staying with your breath until you feel better.
- Now, starting to soothe yourself because you struggle in this way. Perhaps putting your hand over your heart again and feeling your body breathe. Perhaps bringing kind or encouraging words to mind, such as, "Oh, it's so hard to feel this. May I be kind to myself." "May I hold myself in loving awareness."
- If you wish, directing kindness to an uncomfortable part of your body by placing your hand over that place. Maybe even thinking of your body as if it were the body of a beloved child, and gently soothing...soothing...soothing.
- Finally, allowing the discomfort to be there. Letting go of the wish for discomfort to disappear. Allowing the discomfort to come and go as it pleases, like a guest in your own home. Allowing...allowing...allowing
- Softening...soothing...allowing. Softening...soothing...allowing. Repeating these words like a mantra, if you wish, reminding yourself to incline with tenderness toward your suffering.
- As you do this exercise you may find that the emotion moves in your body, or even changes into another emotion. Try staying with your experience, continuing to use the technique of soften-soothe-allow.
- Slowly open your eyes when you're ready.
LABELING EMOTIONS Exercise
Find a comfortable, quiet place and sit in a dignified posture, relaxed but upright. Close your eyes or leave them partially open. Take a few deep breaths to relax your body.
- Bringing your awareness to your body by noticing your posture and the world of sensation occurring within the body.
- lacing your hand on your heart and beginning mindful awareness of your breathing. Breathing through your heart. Whenever you wish, you can place your hand back in your lap.
- Now releasing the breath, keeping your attention in the heart region, and asking yourself, "What am I feeling?" Letting your attention be drawn to thestrongest emotion in your body, even if it's only a whisper of a feeling. Using your body like an antenna.
- Give your strongest feeling a name. If you sat down for this exercise without any strong emotions percolating, you might be feeling "contentment." Perhaps you're just "curious." Eventually you'll probably find another emotion, such as "longing," "sadness," "worry," "urgency," "loneliness," "pride," "joy," "lust," or "envy."
- Repeating the label two or three times, in a kind, gentle voice, and then return to your breath.
- If you wish, finding where the emotion is located in your body, and practice "soften, soothe, and allow," and then return to your breath.
- Going back and forth between your breath and your emotions in a relaxed way. Letting your attention be drawn from your breath by an emotion, labeling it, and then returning to your breath. There is no need to find an emotion if there isn't one. Then just be open to the possibility of emotions as you breathe. If you feel overwhelmed by an emotion, stay with your breath until you feel better.
- Gently opening your eyes.
FORGIVENESS FORGIVING OTHERS Exercise
- Contact the pain that this person has caused you, perhaps even feeling it in your body as residual stress.
- Offering yourself compassion for how you've suffered, perhaps saying: "May I be safe. May I be peaceful. May I be kind to myself. May I accept myself as I am"
- If it feels like you need to stay here, keep giving yourself compassion.
- If it feels right to try to forgive, seeing if you can now try to understand the forces that made this person act badly. Recognizing that it's only human to make mistakes. Consider if there were any environmental factors impacting what happened. For example, was he or she under a lot of stress at the time? Or consider the factors that may have shaped this person's personality (e.g., financial stress, difficult childhood, low self-esteem, cultural factors)
- Beginning to offer forgiveness to the other person, perhaps saying the phrase: "May I begin to forgive you for what you have done, wittingly or un wittingly, to have caused me harm."
- If it feels right, deciding not to be hurt like this again, at least to the best of your ability. FORGIVING OURSELVES
- Take a few moments to consider how your actions impacted the other person and feel your regret and remorse.
- While opening to the truth of what you did, also recognizing that it's only human to make mistakes. Maybe you feel some shame. That's also human.
- Offering yourself compassion for how you've suffered, perhaps saying: "May I be free from fear. May I be free from shame. May I be kind to myself. May I accept myself as I am"
- If it feels like you need to stay here, keep giving yourself compassion.
- Now trying to understand some factors leading to your mistake. Taking a moment to consider if there were any environmental factors impacting you at the time. For instance, were you under a lot of stress? Or were certain aspects of your personality triggered in an irrational way, old buttons pushed?
- Now seeing if you can offer forgiveness to yourself, saying the phrase: "May I (begin) to forgive myself for what I have done, wittingly or unwittingly, to have caused [this person] harm."
- If it feels right, deciding not to make this same mistake, at least to the best of your ability.
- When you notice that you're feeling stress or emotional discomfort, see if you can find the discomfort in your body. Where do you feel it the most? Make contact with the sensations as they arise in your body.
COMPASSIONATE LETTER TO MYSELF Exercise
- Everybody has something about themselves they don't like; something that causes them to feel shame, insecure, or not "good enough." Please think of an issue you have that tends to make you feel bad about yourself (a mistake you made, your appearance, relationship issues, etc.)
- Now think about an imaginary friend who is unconditionally wise, loving and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and weaknesses, including what you don't like about yourself. This friend recognizes the limits of human nature, and is kind, accepting, and forgiving.
- Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend, focusing on the perceived inadequacy you tend to judge yourself for. What would this friend say to you from the perspective of unlimited compassion? And if you think this friend would suggest possible changes you should make, how might these suggestions embody feelings of care, encouragement, and support?
- After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back to it and read it again, really letting the words sink in. Feel the compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you. Love, connection and acceptance are your birthright. To claim them you need only look within yourself.
- Write a letter as if you were talking to a dearly loved friend
- who was struggling with the same concern that you are.
- What words of compassion and support would you offer? Then go back and read the letter, applying the words to yourself.
- Write to yourself from the perspective of a friend who cares deeply about you, savor the feeling, put the letter down, and then read it to yourself later on.