We all experience stress. Some of us are better at dealing with stress than others, and some of us are hard wired to experience less stress than others. Some of us have learned that the consistent practice of meditation and prayer can be invaluable in calming our bodies and reducing anxiety, Our connection with a higher power may be invaluable as we deal with stress and anxiety. Research is providing us with consistent evidence that the experience of compassion and positive connection with both humans and animals considerably reduces stress, and has a positive effect on our immune response. One very exciting area of study that has been well researched is the areas of compassion and self-compassion. Compassion is an emotion that we experience when we see someone suffering and we want to relieve their pain. Self -compassion is when we notice our own suffering and we extend kindness toward ourselves to relieve our suffering. In self compassion we both soothe, and show reassurance to ourselves. This is something we can practice any time, and can be extremely helpful during difficult and challenging times. According to Dr. Kristin Neff there are three components to self-compassion. The first part is the mindfulness component. We need to be aware that we are suffering, and we need approach our suffering with a non-judgmental attitude towards both our physical or emotional pain. The second part is that we recognize that all human beings are imperfect, that we all suffer, and that this is our common humanity. The third part is showing ourselves care and understanding with regards to our imperfections and shortcomings. As she describes this, self-kindness vs self judgment, common humanity vs isolation, and mindfulness vs over identification. How can we practice self-compassion? As I have mentioned in other post, we can practice treating ourselves as if we were a good friend and extent that level of kindness to ourselves. Phrases like I am sorry that you are hurting or feeling bad, this must be really difficult for you. this is really hard for you, etc. There are many videos on self-compassion that you can check out to become more familiar with this powerful and kind way of relating to yourself. The compassionate self talk reduces your fight or flight response, and stimulates your relaxation response. As we reduce "fight or flight", and the body's :alarm" responses, we reduce the production of cortisol, which strengthens our immune system and reduces inflammation.
Self Compassion and Immunity
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