To Your Heath: Working on a healthy goal? Ditch the tough love

celebrateIf you’re on a diet, kicking off a new workout goal, or trying to quit a bad habit, chances are you’re beating yourself up at every turn. Who doesn’t?

We tell ourselves that we’re lazy if we skip the gym for a day or that we’re weak if we stray from our diets.

We think that tough love not only doesn’t hurt, but will get us back on track.

Turns out, we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.

New research is finding that self-compassion is a powerful tool for helping you adopt and maintain healthy behaviors.

In fact, people who are kind to themselves are also more likely to have better health and mental health outlooks. One recent study even found a link between self-compassion and lower levels of stress-related problems.

So what does does self-compassion mean? In part, it’s about cutting yourself some slack. About not obsessing about that chocolate chip cookie you enjoyed or that jazzercise class you skipped.

Self-compassion is also about boosting yourself up – giving yourself little pep talks so that you recognize the progress you’ve made and are optimistic that you’ll reach your health goal.

Dr. Kristen Neff, a University of Texas at Austin human development professor, told the New York Times that many people shy away from self-compassion because they equate it with self-indulgence.

“They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line,” she said. “Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”

So what can you do to be nicer to yourself?

You might want to start by seeing how self-compassionate you are. Check out this test at the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, which Neff helped found.

Researchers suggest even small acts of self-compassion can help, like writing a letter to yourself listing all of the positive progress you’ve made. Add to the letter periodically, and pull it out when you’re feeling down. Or when you need to remind yourself how awesome you are.

One comment

  • I agree, but I feel like everyone needs to find their own balance. Cause I know i need to cut myself some slack sometimes, I also need to give myself a swift kick in the bottom. For me it is about getting to a net positive. Enjoy the cookie, Enjoy the salad, and Enjoy the walk. Plus 2, minus 1 is a great day. Thanks again for the super post.


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