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Five Ways to Grow Your Compassion

I love plants and I love finding new and exciting ones when I travel, awed by those unseen in the Pacific Northwest. Redwoods in California, tropical flowers in Costa Rica, and succulents in San Diego. I generally enjoy giving giant trees a hug, but it's much more challenging to share my compassion for a large pointy succulent in the same way. On a recent trip to San Diego, as I struggled to decide what I could do besides wrap my arms around each pointy leaf, my friend said "hug with your eyes!" That moment was both entertaining as I tried to interpret this concept by making my eyes super wide, but also such a great reminder that there is no right or wrong way to share our joys and compassions and that our approach may have to change depending on the situation.

Here are five ways to grow your compassion this month. Find what works best for you!

1. Prioritize

Spend time with the most important person in your life, you! Putting your needs first and taking time to slow down is important to reduce stress, minimize burn out, and grow your self-compassion. All you have to do is pick something that brings you joy (taking a bath, reading, doing a puzzle, going for a walk, playing with your pet), set your phone aside, and dive in.

If you’re concerned about time, feel free to set a timer so you don’t have to worry about your schedule (and try not to check the timer while you prioritize! Know that it will let you know when your time is up and allow yourself to focus on your chosen activity). Notice how you feel before and after your practice. Can you feel your mind and your body releasing? Send yourself gratitude for taking the time to put yourself first.

2. Reframe

It’s easy to slip into a space of self-judgment when we talk about what we should have done, how we could be better, or when we compare ourselves to others. Notice how you think and speak about yourself today and see if you can replace expectations, judgments, and comparisons with kindness and compassion.

For every negative thought that you notice, follow it with a positive one! Instead of saying or thinking that you should or could do more, thank yourself for what you have done. Instead of judging yourself for not exercising or eating a cookie, take a deep breathe and thank yourself for the accomplishments of your day or for enjoying what you eat.

3. Express

Share your compassion with a friend or family member by writing them a letter. Focus your attention on your letter writing by putting aside your phone, turning off your tv, and closing any other windows if you prefer to write on your computer. Make the focus of your letter an expression of gratitude for this person in your life.

  • What do you appreciate about them?

  • What are your favorite things about them?

  • Share a memory of one of your favorite experiences with them.

  • Thank them for being in your life!

Notice how you feel as you write the letter and think about your relationship with this person. Imagine sending that compassion to yourself. When you finish writing your letter to your friend or family member, try writing yourself a letter of self-compassion.

  • What do you appreciate about yourself?

  • What are your favorite things about yourself?

  • Share a memory when you felt particularly proud.

  • And thank yourself for being you!

4. Meditate

Invite in compassion through your meditation practice.

Or check out this 20-minute loving kindness meditation from one of my favorite meditation apps, Headspace.

5. Gratitude

Set aside a few minutes for reflection each day. I use the Five Minute Journal, but you can easily write your practice anywhere that works for you! Writing your responses will solidify and reinforce the practice.

What are you grateful for today? (list three)

You can be grateful for anything! Grateful that you got out of bed, that the sun is out, that you ate a filling and healthy breakfast, that you love something someone did for you, that your dog is cute ... The more detailed and specific you can be, the better!

What would make today great? (list three)

Some examples: I am patient with myself, I suspend judgment, I nourish my body, I take grounding deep breaths, I move my body... Try to think of this as space to set intentions for your day rather than building a to do list.

Daily affirmations: I am… (list two)

Some examples: I am capable and deserving of fulfillment, I am empowered, I am able to believe in myself, I am able to make healthy life choices. Using the phrases "I am able to.. or I am capable of..." can be helpful as you're building new skills and mindsets.

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