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.

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