How to be a Compassionate Friend (to yourself!)

self-compassion friend

Do people often tell you that you are too hard on yourself? Do you have a critical inner voice that keeps telling you that you are a failure, a loser, or just not good enough? Are you willing to accept that your inner critic is not really your friend and that a lot of the stuff you are telling yourself is simply not true?

The study of self-compassion encourages us to accept that the self-critic exists in most of us but some of us just have self-critics that are meaner, nastier, and louder than others. Some researchers in self-compassion assert that we develop that self-critical inner voice to keep us safe and to avoid taking dangerous risks and when we look at it this way, it is possible to have compassion for that negative voice- it is trying to protect us but just going about it the wrong way!

If you feel that your inner critic’s harsh voice is contributing to feelings of depression, anxiety, or inferiority, here are some steps that you can take to minimize that voice:

Step 1 – Begin to develop an understanding of the commonality of human experience. What this means is that when we accept that everyone is flawed and imperfect in their own unique way, it is so much easier to accept our own flaws. We can see that perfection is unattainable, and that we all screw up sometimes, make the wrong choice, or say the wrong thing. We all suffer and feel pain.

When people tell me that they feel that they are weird or that they messed something up, I don’t try to tell them that they aren’t weird or that they haven’t made a mistake. Instead, I usually say, “yeah, you’re weird but so is everyone else” or “you may have made a mistake, it’s probably because you’re a human being and human beings make mistakes.”

Accepting that we aren’t perfect doesn’t mean that we stop growing, learning, and striving for our goals. It just means that we do our best within whatever limitations we are living with and don’t beat ourselves up when things don’t go the way we planned.

Step 2–  Practice mindfulness. It’s amazing how much negative self-talk goes on just under your awareness. Becoming aware of the negative messages that you are telling yourself is essential to the process of getting more control over the emotional impact that the inner critic’s voice is having. Once you are aware of the voice, pay attention to it, and then remember that the thoughts you are having are not facts. Look for evidence that the message is inaccurate and that the voice is exaggerating, magnifying, or even fabricating the truth.

Step 3– Find balance in your life by developing a counter-voice to the inner critic. The counter-voice can be thought of as a compassionate friend who offers soothing, empowering messages while telling the inner critic to quiet down. Think of the way that you would speak to a child who is hurting and apply that voice to yourself.

Step 4– Visualize your compassionate friend. Writing the visualization down can be helpful. Think about what your compassionate friend might look like…. maybe it is a younger/older version of yourself or maybe it is an animal that you find beautiful and inspiring.  Explore what your compassionate friend sounds like, and what tone of voice he or she uses.  Most importantly, try to think of some of the things that your compassionate friend tells you when you are feeling like you need support and love.

An example of a compassionate message would be something like “ I know that you are feeling pain right now and, unfortunately, it’s a part of life to feel pain like this. You are going to get through this because you are strong and full of love and spirit.”

When you feel down or afraid, try to use this visualization and allow your compassionate friend to reassure you, soothe you, and allow you to feel loved and cared for.

Try this free Self-compassion Meditation with Anastasia Amour

By Polly Guetta

Gratitude Meditation

On Tuesday, May 10th the MDABC hosted a training event for our volunteers and staff in which we explored the ways in which we would like to grow as an organization and how we can all contribute to our organization’s mission. We had a lot of spirited discussion as we attempted to reach a better understanding of how to work together towards our common goals.   We ended our session with a gratitude meditation which we’d like to share with all of you.

Gratitude Meditation

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Get into a relaxed seated posture. Bring your hands together to form a bowl and close your eyes. Take a few deep, calming breaths to relax and centre. Slowly, take three deep breaths and repeat the words “For this day, I am grateful.”

  1. Next, bring to mind those people in your life to whom you are close: your friends, neighbors, family, coworkers…. Repeat the words, “For the people that I share my life with, I am grateful.”
  1. Next, turn your attention to yourself: you are a unique individual, and you possess imagination, the ability to communicate, the ability to learn from the past and plan for the future, and the ability to overcome any pain you may be experiencing. Repeat the words, “For all of my abilities, I am grateful.”
  1. Finally, think about something that you saw or felt today that made you smile. It could be as small a thing as seeing a child laugh or the feeling of a soft breeze on your skin. Repeat the words, “For being able to see the ordinary as beautiful, I am grateful.”

Continue to focus on your breath as you take 3 more deep breaths. Open your eyes and look into the bowl that you have made with your hands. Realize that your bowl is full of all the things that you have expressed your gratitude for. When you are ready, release your hands and prepare to meet the rest of your day with a renewed sense of wellbeing.

 

Why Mindfulness?

Why are more and more people drawn to the practice of mindfulness? We see thatstones mindfulness centres, groups, and classes are popping up everywhere…is this just a trend that will soon fizzle out?

In fact, mindfulness has been practiced for centuries and although it may have recently seen a  surging in popularity in the West, it is certainly not a flash-in-the-pan Wellness trend. People who practice mindfulness find that they feel happier, more content, and more relaxed. Studies have shown that this practice can also help you to increase your self-compassion and your compassion for your fellow beings. This compassion can often lead to more altruistic behavior which creates a better society for everyone.

Very simply, mindfulness can be defined in this way:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,
in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”   Jon Kabat-Zinn

Kabat-Zinn is a famous Buddhist monk and teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and many of the strategies and exercises that counsellors use when they teach mindfulness are based on his teachings.

If you would like to learn more about the practice of mindfulness and how it can help you to recover from anxiety and depression, we invite you to consider registering for MDABC’s Spring 2016 Mindfulness Course. Click here to start the application process.

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Top 5 Mental Wellness Digital Apps

By Rachel B.

1. Moodnotes

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Description: MoodNotes by Thriveport, LLC offers the user a new innovative approach to journalling. Designed in conjunction with two American psychologists, it employs cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. It works by asking the user to capture his or her mood in the “face” icon, and then allows the user to add detail with a note-function. By translating your emotions into data, it empowers you to chart your moods, recognize patterns, target negative thinking traps, and develop better self-awareness. This app will be a useful companion to counseling with a professional therapist. Read more at Wired.Co.UK.

Cost: $4.59

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Requires iOS 8.0 or later.

You can purchase and download the app here

2. Headspace

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Description: Headspace is a wildly popular app – co-founded by Andy Puddicombe and Rich Pierson – that teaches the user meditation through authentic and accessible voice guided sessions. Over the summer of 2015, version 2.0 was released to much fanfare. Each user’s journey is now mapped into a timeline (much like Facebook) and shows the user’s development and achievements over time. In the beginning, you work through the “foundation” sessions. From there, content is divided into four categories called “Health,” “Performance,” “Relationships,” and “Headspace Pro” (which allows the more experienced user to experience meditation sessions unguided by Puddicombe’s voice). Users have reported that the app has allowed them to develop the skills to meditate for extended sessions, which has improved their mood, sleep and daytime energy levels.

Cost: FREE for first 10 meditation sessions

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS and Android devices.

You can download the app here.

3. DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

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Description: Based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan, this app is a rich resource of self-help skills, reminders of the therapy principles, and coaching tools for coping. This app could be useful to explore and learn about DBT as a therapeutic practice, or be used in conjunction with therapy with a professional.

Cost: $4.99

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS software, iOS 7.0 or later required.

You can purchase and download the app here.

4. Optimism

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Description: Optimism by Optimism APPS is a mood-charting app specifically designed for people coping with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Based on your input of core data for each day, the app generates graphs and charts to give you a portrait of trends in your well-being, sleep quality, and exercise frequency, etc. One of the strengths of Optimism is that it highlights medication and the importance of adherence in treatment approach, which other mental wellness apps tend to overlook.

Cost: FREE

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS 8.0 or later.

You can purchase and download the app here.

5. Freudie

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Description: A silly, fun app called Freudie by The Psych Files that lets you select and insert an image of the iconic father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, into any photograph or selfie.

Cost: $1.19

Compatibility: Compatible with Apple iOS, requires iOS 6.0 or later.

You can purchase the app here. 

If you know of any other apps that help you to prioritize and manage your mental health, please leave the names in the comments.

New Dates for MDABC’s Self-Care and Self-Compassion Workshops

The MDABC is pleased to invite you to register for a FREE Self-Care and Self-Compassion Workshop. Get started on taking better care of yourself today!

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Beds, Bathtubs, and Books – Finding Your Own Personal Sanctuary

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Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.” –Herman Hesse

Every one of us needs a sanctuary – a place in which we can retreat and feel at peace. A sanctuary is where we can reconnect with ourselves, take a deep breath, and just relax by allowing ourselves to let go of the feeling that we have to be productive every minute of our lives.

Sanctuary means different things to different people and in describing our own personal sanctuary, we reveal something about our truest selves. With this in mind, some of our MDABC staff and volunteers generously described their own personal sanctuaries so that our readers may be inspired to think about what their own sanctuary means to them. And if by chance, you don’t have a place that you feel is a sanctuary, I hope that these entries might get you thinking about creating or finding one.

From Catherine St. Denis, Operations Manager at MDABC:

“My place of sanctuary is my bathtub. When I’m in the hot water with the steam drifting all around me I feel as if there is nothing that needs my immediate attention. I put in my foam earplugs and just let the water surround me. I might read a book or play a game on my phone but no matter what, that locked bathroom door and earplugs allow me to let go of whatever I want and just feel the warmth and water all around me. I love it!”

From Teri Doerksen, Receptionist at the Wellness Centre at MDABC:

“My sanctuary at home is my well-worn sofa that has an African-themed throw neatly arranged on it.  I can see all four plants that I have in my living space, and they provide a certain calming, reassuring energy that makes my home feel like a home.”

From Caer Weber, MDABC Volunteer:

“I think my sanctuary is my bed. I have curtains on one side that makes it into a ‘fort’ – so cozy. It’s my favourite place to read. And often in the background are neighbours’ children playing in the backyard and sounding so happy. Oh there’s stuffed animals too. A must.”

From Martin Addison, Executive Director of MDABC:

“My sanctuary is not a place but an activity: reading the poetry of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. When I read, I find that these august gents will often speak to me – not through the ears but through some kind of whole body experience. And because it is whole body, it has the tendency to hold the phone, the TV, the computer and my chores at bay. It is a wonderful antidote to a busy day leaving me with a sense of fulfillment and achievement.”

From Polly Guetta, Development Coordinator of MDABC:

“I think of my living room as my sanctuary. It is decorated in pale shades of grey, turquoise, and coral pink. When I have a free moment, I like to sit on my big, comfy sofa with a cup of coffee and do nothing but sip and look at all of my green plants and the way that the objects on my shelves are arranged. It can be a very peaceful place for me to relax, rejuvenate and reflect.”

From Valentina Chichiniova, Certified Counsellor at the Wellness Centre at MDABC:

“My sanctuary is my living room. Simplistic in style, the room is decorated in red, black and white with beautiful green plants all around. Our style is minimalist with natural bamboo and wood wall decorations. The big windows look directly at the patio full with trees and plants. The entire space feel inviting, warm, and connected with nature. This connection with nature gives me sense of peace and serenity. The perfect place to read, converse, or have a cup of coffee or tea!”

From David Bowes, MDABC Volunteer

“I often find sanctuary in the outdoors – especially walking along the ocean at night.  Being under the stars and beside the ocean in Vancouver fills me with a sense of wonder and peace.  I find that watching herons fish silently by the moonlight can be almost mystical to experience.  While it is not a sanctuary that I create, it is one that I can enter into which draws me beyond my ‘small self’ and connects me to my source.  The natural world is always changing and pulsing with rhythm and energy – reminding me that the one constant in life is change – and in that swirl of glorious complexity I find sanctuary.”

Meet Caer Weber – One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

                       caer

How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

I started to attend one of the support groups in 2009 though I wasn’t sure I liked it at first. Too scary. All those strangers! But after a couple of times I started to like it. Then I started to think that I would really love to facilitate a group. I had done some facilitating before and really loved it. So by 2010 I was facilitating a support group weekly and just loving it. I continued to do it until 2014.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

Last year I decided I wanted to change what I was doing with MDABC a bit. So I came up with a proposal. I offered to be a facilitator liaison. Essentially I would help train other facilitators – now that I had 4 years under my belt – to help Catherine St. Denis, Operations Manager, in her role of connecting all of the facilitators with the organization itself. To help be that bridge. I knew Catherine had more than a full plate. I think everyone does at MDABC. That’s why they need volunteers. Anyway, I started doing that last year.

I also started to think a lot about self-care and came up with another proposal. To run an 8-week closed group focusing on self-care. I ended up doing that in the spring earlier this year After that group MDABC asked me to run some half-day workshops on self-care. So I ran three of those workshops.

I continue to be facilitator liaison, and it’s quite a bit of work and quite challenging. I am also about to do 2 more half-day workshops on self-care and especially on self-compassion. I hope to do a lot more of those and maybe add-ons to them.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

First, and possibly the most important thing is that just working with the staff at MDABC has been one of the most rewarding things about this work. They have given me a lot of space to run with my ideas and I’ve never had such a great and supportive environment to work in. I am so grateful for them.

I also find that I keep trying to make the things that I do better. I keep looking at them and saying “Am I satisfied with this or do I need to change something?” It feels like a very creative process. And when I do the facilitator training and meet the new facilitators it’s invigorating and inspiring to meet all these people who really want to help. When I do my self-care workshops I learn so much from what people tell me about their struggles. I get to know what the common themes are especially with people with mental illness.

It’s all absolutely fascinating and such a learning experience for me. A real gift.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

I’d like to see a real campaign started that focuses on self-care, self-compassion and mindfulness. Some of those things have already begun. I would like to see us keep building on that theme. I have just begun using these things in my life and I’m amazed at how much better and how much more alive I feel. I really hope people have a way to learn that they are alright just as they are and none of us need to suffer quite so much if we are kinder to ourselves and are more present in the world. A waking up to self.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

Right now I need my 30 minutes of meditation before bed. I have not been able to keep a meditation practice for this long before (8 ½ months) and I am noticing huge changes in my life. I am slowing down, am more grounded, and much softer and more compassionate towards myself and to others. And when I really blow it and get really upset about something I am now turning to mindfulness to help me find my center again.

So I think 1. meditation, 2. self-compassion and 3. ice cream or chocolate at least once a week. Oh yah and to be mindful through it all. Especially when eating the ice cream or chocolate.