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Book Review: The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook

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The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook
Authors: Kristin Neff, PhD, Christopher Germer, PhD

Have you ever wanted the tools to comfort yourself with compassion and kindness? Do you resist experiencing emotions? Do you find yourself getting stuck in patterns of worry? If so, this book is for you.

I picked this book up one desperate day in the self-help section of Barnes and Noble. I was hoping to find a book that would take away the feelings of intense anxiety I was experiencing. Also, to make all my mental health issues go away.

The book did not magic away all of my mental health problems. Disappointing but not entirely surprising. While this book is not a cure-all (unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to exist despite my intense searching), it helped me have more self-compassion and be a more healthy me.

The book begins by addressing what self-compassion is: essentially, treating ourselves as we would a good friend. It involves elements of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. I’ve discovered that these do not come naturally to me, but the book helps immensely in developing these skills. It is set up as a workbook where you read about an angle of self-compassion and then complete reflective questions and an exercise to help cultivate that quality in yourself.

The lessons I’ve learned from this book include finding common humanity, experiencing emotions, self-soothing, and appreciating my body. I highly recommend the book. You may discover you learn similar lessons to mine or that other chapters stand out to you.

Finding common humanity is an important skill that I learned from the book and am getting better at implementing. How do you find this? The book will ask you to think of a situation you’re judging yourself about and then find the common humanity in it by asking yourself some simple questions: Do others in the world experience this? Have many others probably made a similar mistake? Likely, yes. It’s worth asking yourself these questions when you are self-judging because it reminds us that one mistake isn’t the end of the world.

Another takeaway related to emotions is found in Chapter 7, called Letting Go of Resistance. It turns out that me wanting to make my anxiety go away and buying books to find out how to make that happen was not quite the right approach. Emotions go away quicker if we feel them. This does not come naturally to me and, I would hazard a guess I’m not the only one (common humanity, see?).

The book coaches that “what we resist persists” but “what we feel we can heal.”

I hate feeling negative emotions, so this chapter hit really hard for me. But it was also really eye-opening. When I push negative emotions away, I’m also pushing away the ability to heal. The puzzle pieces click together slowly, and I wonder if perhaps I have found part of my elusive answer to why I’m always stressed.

The book offers hope, as well: “…within you lies the ability to feel safe through your own care” (p. 53). That’s something I’ve never really found. But this book helps me do that. I love the workbook style because it engages me rather than simply talking at me. It helps me learn self-soothing words in a kind, nonjudgmental way while I’m by myself. It costs less than counseling (I’m still in counseling and think it is great, but it’s nice to have an additional resource).

One of the more difficult chapters for me was on self-compassion and our bodies. I think many women today would find it hard. The authors remind us to “appreciate the amazing gift of life our body provides us” and then get to the workbook part of the chapter. First, it asked me to make an honest assessment of my body. I listed the features I liked and then the features I didn’t like. There was coaching to be okay with the discomfort that might arise while assessing my body and accepting the imperfections without exaggerating them.

Neff and Germer really get to the core of self-compassion in a kind and helpful way. The book is one of the better books I’ve found on mental health through the years and offers me a way to grow and heal without having to sit still for 20 minutes (mindfulness is not my thing…yet). I highly recommend it for all who have ever judged themselves or want a way to heal from some difficult emotions.

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with the authors, nor am I receiving compensation for the review. All opinions are my own.

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About the Author: Trixie Hall writes about managing OCD, depression, and anxiety with the hope it will help you feel heard, understood, and not alone. Hall lives in Minnesota with her hubby and mischievous cat named Canon. When she isn’t writing, Hall loves to read historical fiction, watch The Late Late Show with James Corden and take naps.

Photo by Alexandra Fuller on Unsplash

Resources to Recover and Our Sponsor Laurel House, Inc. Celebrate Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time for celebrating the outstanding achievements of Blacks and African Americans and their central role in US history. It is also a time to recognize the struggles Black people have faced throughout the history of this nation and give tribute to the strength and resilience of generations of Black Americans who have risen above adversity.

Black History Month originated from an idea by Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson, who wrote the Journal of Negro History in 1916 to herald the achievements of overlooked African Americans in US history and culture. In 1926 he led an effort by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) to officially declare the second week of February as “Negro History Week.” These dates align with the birthdays of two crucial figures in Black American history: Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), who signed the Emancipation Proclamation officially ending slavery in the United States, and the Black American abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass (February 14, 1818), an escaped slave who is widely considered the most influential civil and human rights advocate of the 19th century. In 1976, President Gerald Ford gave official governmental recognition to the observance by declaring February “Black History Month.”

Without the contributions of Blacks and African Americans to more than 500 years of US history, culture, entertainment and the arts, science, athletics, industry and the economy, public service, and the Armed Forces, we would not be the country we are today.

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