7 reasons why practicing self-caring, self-love and self-compassion matters

Self-caring, self-love and self-compassion can sound a bit fluffy or indulgent, but the science behind them and the power of these practices – and they do take practice – is clear and becoming increasingly spoken about.

And when we take time to think about it, it makes sense that these practices can only benefit us.  We all know how we feel when someone takes a moment to be caring, kind or compassionate towards us.  It feels good, right?  Yet how often do we do this for ourselves?

In fact, often we treat ourselves the very opposite of compassionately or kindly.  How many times have you caught yourself saying something to, or about, yourself that you would never say in relation to a friend?  If you’re like me, too many times!  One can know how hurtful it would be to verbalise such sentiments to another, yet still seem to have no issues with treating oneself less than kindly.

As Owen O’Kane says in his book Ten Times Happier, this beating yourself up has to stop, because ‘when you are tough on yourself, you create a tough life.’  Whereas ‘when you learn to self-soothe and respond to yourself with some degree of compassion and kindness, everything changes.’

If you’d like to know more about the potential power of responding to yourself in this way, then read on for seven further reasons why practicing self-caring, self-love and self-compassion matters.

  1. People who demonstrate more self-compassion in daily life have improved mental and physical health

As Dr Julie Smith explains, there are now in excess of a thousand research studies on the benefits of self-compassion.  These include increased happiness, life-satisfaction and confidence, improved physical health and decreased stress and anxiety.

  1. Self-compassion is a ‘triple anti-inflammatory’

Studies have shown that self-compassion reduces biological inflammation, inflammation towards the self and inflammation in relationships.  As explained by David R. Hamilton in his book I Heart Me: The Science of Self-love, those that practice self-compassion have:

  • Lower levels of stress-induced inflammation in their bodies; this means self-compassion is now understood to protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes and dementia. This anti-inflammatory effect is also thought to be why practicing loving-kindness meditation has been shown to slow the rate of aging at a genetic level.
  • Reduced self-inflammation, aka self-criticism, which in turn has been linked to more life satisfaction, a greater sense of optimism and improved overall health.
  • Improved personal relationships, especially with those we may have difficult relations with. This reduction in hostility towards others also has physical benefits, as consistent aggression and hostility has been shown to have strong links to arterial hardening and damage.
  1. When we tend and befriend ourselves, we increase levels of the anti-stress hormone, oxytocin

Oxytocin, which lowers cortisol, blood pressure and other stress responses, is increased when we move into what Cyndi Lee calls tending and befriending.  As Cyndi writes, ‘By attending to yourself with kindness and being willing to take responsibility for your own caring, you are tending and befriending yourself.’  One way we can do this, she suggests, is engaging in mindful practices which encourage feelings of nurturance, safety and calm.

  1. It can reduce emotional exhaustion and overwhelm

Back to David R. Hamilton again, who in his book Why Woo-Woo Works, describes how research found that practicing loving-kindness meditation allowed people to feel love and compassion for the suffering of others, without experiencing emotionally overwhelmed.

  1. ‘Feeling love and compassion towards ourselves and others is deeply healing and soothing, and helps us face the many challenges that will come our way.’

Words from Paul Gilbert’s book, The Compassionate Self, which puts forwards the abundant evidence that supports this assertion.  According to Paul, as well as helping us feel happier, self-compassion helps you to deal with failure and cope with setbacks.

  1. When we are loving towards ourselves, we are more able to live our dreams and embody our fullest potential

In her book Manifest, Roxie Nafousi describes how unconditional self-love is the greatest gift you can give yourself and is essential in enabling you to manifest your dream life: ‘Self-love empowers you to step into your light, to step into your greatness and to open up space for abundance to enter your life. Self-love tells the universe, ‘I am worthy of love, I deserve success, I am ready to live my dreams,’ and then, this is what you shall receive.’

  1. ‘Learning to be compassionate to oneself not only changes your world but that of those around you.’

So says Owen O’Kane in his book Ten to Zen, and writers Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips use this analogy to help explain why: ‘Learning self-care is like building your own lifeboat, plank by plank; once you’ve got your boat, you’ll still be rocked by the same waves but you’ll have a feeling of safety, and a stability that means you can pick up other people on the way.’

I hope this blog has shown you some of the potential transformative powers of consistently showing up for yourself with kindness, compassion and care.  As Cyndi Lee puts forward, ‘Self-care might be a one-off event, but self-caring is a living practice that allows our innate capacity for caring to emerge and, even more, to ripen and increase.’

These living practices are essentially behaviours, and as psychotherapist Philippa Perry says, ‘feelings follow behaviours.’  As she also reminds us, ‘love is not something passive that you fall into, it is something active that you do.’  When you take a vow to act in caring, loving and compassionate ways towards yourself, you can feel more caring, loving and compassionate towards yourself too.

If you’d like to learn more about nurturing the practice of self-caring on and off the mat in your own life, you can join me on the first Friday of every month from 6.30 to 8.30pm at The Self Centre, for the Yoga Self-Care Sangha.  You can also join me for intimate evening retreats on bi-monthly Thursday evenings at Woolpit Clinics, or book a discovery call for a bespoke private 1-2-1 session by contacting me here.

© Catherine Rolfe 2023