18 Jul Break the Cycle of Suffering with Mindfulness & Self Compassion
The human mind is truly an astonishing device. When used properly it propels us to divinity. But when used against us, plunges us into the depths of hellish suffering. It is because of this uncontrolled power of the mind that people are unable to cope with what life throws at them. The result is hopelessness, grief, sorrow, depression, lack of self compassion, etc. In fact, one of the leading causes of death around the world is not cancer or heart disease or any other physical ailment, rather it is depression. 800,000 people die every year because they are not able to manage what goes on in their mind. According to many psychologists, in every third family, we are likely to find a depressed soul. This is truly a startling occurrence. The good news is there are proven ways to fight this menace.
Mindfulness and self-compassion have been proven to benefit many people who are undergoing stress, trauma or heartbreak. Some experts say that to be self-compassionate, we first have to be mindful. Some argue that the other way is true; it is self-compassion that leads to mindfulness. Though there’s no denying that both are useful, as aspects of both overlap.
These techniques help us by putting a break or stop to the negative spiral of thoughts that seem to be out of control.
Let’s see some practical steps to help us overcome our negative thought patterns and lead an exuberant journey in life:-
1. Acceptance of the moment
The first step in solving any problem is to accept its existence. If you are feeling low, then accept it. There’s no need to hide from anyone if you’re feeling anxious and stressed about something. People go through life running around for happiness, without realising that it is right there within them. Unless we address the issues in our lives that are affecting us day in and day out, they will keep on growing until it is too late to get it under control. It is like the principle of compounding interest. For e.g., if you don’t pay your credit card bills on time, then it will keep on ballooning until it is out of control and you find yourself in a debt-trap.
Thus, what mindfulness does is it puts a break to the cycle of negative thoughts. The first thing to do is find a place and vent out all the frustration and heaviness that you are struggling with. You can either scream or mentally imagine it.
Just say the following words: “I accept the suffering.”
Accepting is half the battle won. You can do this exercise over and over again until you feel confident that you have accepted it.
2. I’m Not Alone
The next part after acceptance is the realisation that you are not alone. And indeed you are not alone. There are many people in this world going through worse problems than you and are still in a better and an upbeat state of life. Another aspect of this step is to realise that it is okay as human beings to have such feelings of helplessness, frustration, and hopelessness. There is nothing wrong to feel ashamed of or feel guilty about.
In this step you affirm to yourself, either verbally or mentally: “Pain and suffering are a part and parcel of life. I am not the only one to suffer from it. ”
This breaks the isolation you feel inherently in your life and connects you to the common humanity and life around you.
3. Be compassionate towards you self
There is a lot of pain in your life and so you need soothing. This is the step where you have to be self-compassionate with yourself. This is a burdensome step, as you would be redirecting your entire life’s energy from taking you in a negative direction to a direction of life which is comforting, tender and enriching.
In this step, you put your palm on your heart area or in a sign of self-compassion and you slowly but firmly affirm to yourself:
“I shall be kind to myself”
This step reinforces the inherent power of compassion in your life and lets you draw it whenever you require. This is like s self-healing doctor to your mind.
4. How Can I put Self-compassion into action?
It doesn’t end at just having self-compassion for yourself. You have to concretise it in some form and give it a proper shape. Without acting on the last step, you won’t be able to complete the entire cycle of self-compassion.
So in this step, you probe a little bit further and ask yourself what you need to do to be kind to yourself.
“Do I have to be more accommodating of others’ views?” “Do I need to take stock of things before taking the next step?”, “Do I need to slow down my pace?” or “Should I stop over thinking?” etc.
This will help you probe deeper.
Alternatively, you can take some action to make it more meaningful, like going for a jog, taking a sauna or going by the beach etc.
5. The final step - mindfulness
Meditate daily using Aware. Meditation will give you more clarity on how your mind behaves and the corrective steps you need to take. It will immensely help you to release all the tension in your mind and give you the space to be compassionate towards yourself.
Dr Shanthi Lakshmi Duraimani