Practice Compassion

Thanks to the people at Action for Happiness for this image

As I wrote last week (link) there is a lot of hype around Christmas. It’s tempting to get swept up in ‘silly season’ and rush between events and the shops and spend hours and hours doing things to prepare for the ‘perfect Christmas’. I put it to you that there’s no such thing as perfect. Letting ourselves off the hook on this one might be the first step to being compassionate towards ourselves.

I’m a big fan of this ‘compassion’ thing. As I’ve written before ( Psychology can have the reputation for being fluffy but not much substance. But I think Compassion is one of the things that proves this wrong. Compassion is about kindness but it’s about more than that. The compassionate mind foundation talks about compassion as:  “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it.” This means a commitment to do what we need to do to help ourselves and others. Which might be relaxation or taking a night off, or it might mean knuckling down to do some work we’ve been putting off and feeling bad about.

Any time of the year is a good time to be compassionate, but starting at this time might feel easier, when there are plenty of easy ways to do it. Food banks give us reverse advent calendars and tell us what they need, homeless centres ask for volunteers and retiring collections after carol concerns offer us easy ways to be compassionate to others. But we can do more than that. Not as an extra burden but as a way to look after ourselves, and at the same time do something which helps others. A recent report suggests that people think we’re becoming less kind as a nation. You and I can change that.

This might involve just noticing when you are hard on yourself or on someone else (even if only mentally) and be kind instead. It might involve paying someone a (genuine) compliment when you can see they’re having a bad day. It might involve giving yourself permission to leave work early or stop studying earlier because carrying on isn’t doing you any good.

I was listening to someone speak today and they were talking about small, quiet acts of kindness or gifts. Gifts don’t have to be material things. They might be taking on a task that someone else hasn’t got time for. It might be just tidying up a shared space at the end of the day. It might sharing a gift idea for a mutual friend. It might be promising yourself not to snap at someone who is already struggling even when they annoy you. Do this both because it’s kind and because being kind to others is good for our mental health too.


  1. Values, mental health and climate change - Headspace Guildford - December 30, 2019

    […] What is clear is that we need to be doing more. I say this not to preach, but to make a commitment for myself and to make explicit the link between climate change and the science behind it and our individual and collective well-being. We know the risks of climate change are not just on the planet and on the biodiversity or extreme weather events but on our own physical and mental health. It is predicted that mental health will be poorer and catastrophic events like flooding and fires will result in an increase in post-traumatic stress symptoms as well as mood and anxiety difficulties. Reduced availability of resources and food scarcity will impact on how able we feel to face the new challenges of this new age. And physically we’re facing heart and respiratory problems, increase in parasites and blood borne diseases and more malnutrition. So, to do nothing is not an option. Whatever we do, our aim at Headspace Guildford is to tread lightly on the earth and to continue to be there for people as we all wrestle with this emerging and growing threat in the context of our lives and the lives of those we care about. At Headspace Guildford we already do a lot that helps look after the planet. Things like using cleaning products that are eco-friendly and refilling bottles, not buying new plastic, and reducing our carbon emissions by only heating the office when we are in there and even then, turning the thermostat down. We use energy efficient lightbulbs and have an eco-flush on the toilet. We reuse and recycle whatever we can. But we could do more. We’re also looking into green walls, solar panels and other longer-term projects which will continue to have a positive impact on our carbon footprint. This is a marathon, not a sprint, but just like supporting people with any challenges they are facing, we are in this for the long term and will be humble and learn along the way. If you can think of anything else we should be doing, please do let us know. Together we are stronger but we can all take steps forward in the direction of our values, finding the strength and the motivation to make a change for good in the world (which also helps us to feel more about to manage link ) […]

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