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Cultivating Compassion, Navigating Crisis

Professor Kristin Neff of the University of Texas is considered a leading researcher in the field of self-compassion.  Her research is showing that those who cultivate self-compassion by exercising gentle and non-judgmental self-talk bounce back more quickly during crisis.  The growing evidence is indicating that you can “you can cultivate your self-compassion through meditation and even simpler techniques.  For example, pressing your hand against your heart or….a surreptitious hug can give your self-compassion a momentary boost.” (Krakovsky, Scientific American Mind).  Recent neuroscientific thought based on fMRI studies of brain activity show that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) activates during moments of compassion.  As the PFC activates, the limbic brain–our fight or flight center–downregulates, becoming more quiet.  When we exercise non-judgmental thought, words and action, are we exercising the neural pathways of the PFC that naturally know how to quiet our fear response?  In what new ways will you speak kindly to yourself today?  How many self-deprecating thoughts can you replace with gentle observation?

Self Compassion Study

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