Many people find it easier to extend kindness to others but do not extend the same kindness to themselves. Self-kindness is a type of self-compassion that can be described as an attitude of warmth and unconditional acceptance and comfort towards yourself. It is a compassion-based practice that stems from the Buddhist tradition and is the wish that all beings (including yourself) may be happy and good things may come their way. As it is a practice, it is something that is developed over time. The idea being that before you can be truly kind, you must learn to be kind to yourself.  When we are kind and compassionate to ourselves it improves self-acceptance and our ability to connect with others.

One way to improve compassion and self-compassion is through meditation. A loving-kindness meditation can help us to practice how to be kind to ourselves. Just like breath is the focus of attention to in a sitting meditation, compassionate phrases like ‘may I be free from worries’ or ‘May I be truly happy’ are the focus in a loving kindness meditation. When our mind begins to wander towards judgment and self-critical thoughts, we gently return attention to a compassionate phrase about ourselves or someone else.

A Loving-Kindness mediation has four elements:

  1. Meaningful Intention: A phrase that clarifies our intention “may I be happy” provides meaning.
  2. Flexible Attention: Repeatedly refocusing our attention to the compassionate phrases when our mind wanders.
  3. Positive Emotion:  Building positive internal resources that improve our belief in our ability to cope.
  4. Calm Connection: Silence that helps us to connect with our inner experience.

The purpose of Loving-Kindness meditation is not to avoid or eliminate pain or suffering. Rather it is to practice having a gentler attitude towards ourselves and others when experiencing suffering. It’s like being there for a friend who is going through a hard time, you can’t take the pain away, but you can give them love, compassion and be with them through their suffering. Loving-Kindness is also not about changing our circumstances or wishing for specific outcomes such as “May I get a new job”. And remember that Loving-Kindness is a practice and develops over time. While you may see some immediate positive changes, lasting change in our feelings, attitudes and thoughts can be a slow process and requires patience.