What’s the best way to live a long and happy life? According to recent research, there may be a simple answer: think positive thoughts about yourself.
It only makes good sense: who we are is determined by the messages we send ourselves. Before we become it, we have to think that we are it. So if we begin to send ourselves positive messages about who we are and, in a sense, become our own greatest supporter, we are liable to create happier and healthier lives for ourselves—so says the growing new field of research into what’s being referred to as self-compassion:
The New York Times reports:
Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?
That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.
The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.
This idea does seem at odds with the advice dispensed by many doctors and self-help books, which suggest that willpower and self-discipline are the keys to better health. But Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field, says self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards.
What do you think—could this just be the key to opening up to a happy, healthy life?