Self-compassion can help you overcome depression

Suffering from depression can be so hard. How can you still be kind and loving to yourself during this time? And can self-compassion actually help you to overcome depression?
Overcoming depression with self-compassion

Depression – the cruel black dog that tells you that something’s wrong with you, that everything is pointless and that the world is a dark place. It can be so hard to feel good about yourself and about your life when you can’t stop thinking these types of thoughts. And it can be extremely hard to be kind to yourself and to look after yourself when you’re feeling low. But I’d like you to try the following:

Think of someone who means a lot to you. Somebody you really care about -whether this is somebody who’s in your life right now or perhaps once was. A friend, a parent, your child, your partner, perhaps a former teacher or family friend. Somebody you wish well. 

And now imagine you find out that this person is silently suffering from depression herself/himself. Really struggling, and thinking that life will not get better again. Thinking that she/he is just not as good as other people, not worth as much. This person is really stuck in negative thinking and is truly suffering. 

And now think about how you’d feel towards this significant person in your life. How would you talk to him or her? What would you say? Would you offer a hug and your support? Would you listen to her pain and try to give her hope and new strength? 

I imagine that you’d probably feel sad for this person, that you’d support her in whichever way you can, give her your comfort and support. You’d wish this person well, wouldn’t you?

Self-compassion to help you overcome depression

You wouldn’t be harsh to your good friend who’s suffering, so do the same for yourself. I know it’s hard when you’re feeling low but you need self-compassion now more than ever. You’re going through a tough time. Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.

Depression is not an easy thing to suffer from. It even makes you believe that you have truly become the face of depression: That you and “it” are one and the same. But you’re not. At the core, you are still the same person who wants to feel loved and give love, who knows that there’s more to life, who knows that you’ve got something worth sharing. You might struggle to see that person within yourself at the moment, but she’s still there.

And right now, you’re suffering from depression -whether this is something you’ve experienced for a long time, on and off, or whether this is completely new. So be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way a wise and caring friend would do.  

Positive Psychology research has actually shown that self compassion can not only help us to cope with depression, but it can help lift us out of it, too. So I’d suggest giving some of these following techniques a go.

5 self-compassion techniques to try

Give yourself a hug

This may seem silly but quite frankly, it can really work on an emotional and physical level. You need loving tender care, and most of all from yourself. So give yourself a hug, or place your hands on your heart. 

Remember that you're human and not alone

Self-compassion isn’t about looking at the bright side and avoiding negative feelings. It’s about recognising the suffering and turning towards understanding and kindness towards yourself. So remember that you’re one of many people that are currently suffering from depression. It really is incredibly common, just often not talked about very much! And always try to remember that you are not defective or weak in any way. You wouldn’t say this to your friend, would you? So don’t say it to yourself. 

Practise unhooking from your thoughts

Whenever you manage to spot those self-critical and harsh thoughts towards yourself and your life, ask yourself this: “How much evidence is there for this?” Or, “Is this really the whole story?”. Spotting these harsh thoughts before they grip you can take some time and gets a lot easier with practice. The result can be profound!

Write self-compassionate statements

In a similar way, you can write down those negative thoughts and contrast them with more understanding and kinder statements, the ones that a wise and caring friend would say to you instead. So have a table with two columns, list the negative beliefs on the left side and then oppose them with more forgiving and kinder statements on the right. 

Try a metta meditation

Also called loving-kindness meditations, and I cannot tell you just how much I benefited from doing them back when I was suffering from depression. It is a meditation that focuses on loving and kind thoughts towards yourself and others. Don’t worry if you’ve never meditated before or if you don’t feel like sitting still and focusing on your breath or body. This meditation works quite differently – I really recommend giving it a try, even if you’re feeling hesitant or resistant to the idea. 

Self-compassion was a powerful tool when I was overcoming depression, and I still use it all the time. It is something that I wish was taught in schools – just imagine what sort of world we’d live in if everyone treated themselves with kindness and tender care, and totally accepted themselves for who they are? Just imagine the kind of life that is possible if you treat yourself in this way. 

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Claudia Smith

Claudia Smith

Online nutritionist and health coach specialising in natural solutions for depression.

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