Here's How To Make Your Happy Moments Last Longer
Psychologist Benjamin Schellenberg says that the salve of self-compassion helps with more than just coping.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | August 11, 2022
A new study published in Personality and Individual Differences informs us about the dual benefits of self-compassion. Not only does self-compassion help us conquer tough times, it also aids in our savoring of the good things life has to offer.
I recently spoke to psychologist Benjamin Schellenberg to understand this unusual benefit of self-compassion. Here's a summary of our conversation.
Could you walk us through the concept of self-compassion?
Self-compassion is a way of treating yourself when you are facing any form of difficulty.
It involves three components:
- Self-kindness (being nice to yourself)
- Mindfulness (keeping a balanced perspective)
- And, feeling a sense of common humanity (remembering that everybody faces tough times in their lives)
These three components work together to create a self-compassionate mindset. The concept of self-compassion has been popularized in psychological research by Kristin Neff (University of Texas at Austin) who published the first articles on the topic in 2003.
The research that has since been conducted on self-compassion shows that it is associated with many beneficial outcomes including greater well-being, motivation to improve, and even physical health.
It appears that the best way to react to difficulties or any form of adversity is to treat yourself with compassion.
What inspired you to take up savoring and self-compassion as the topic for your research?
Self-compassion helps people during difficult life experiences. We wondered if self-compassion could also affect how people respond to positive life experiences.
One way people can respond to good times is to savor them. Savoring involves attempting to maintain or augment positive feelings when something good happens.
There are many different ways people can savor – you can share an experience with a friend, try to stay in the moment, loudly shout and jump for joy, or quietly reflect on the happiness you are experiencing.
We wondered if people who tended to act with self-compassion during bad times also tended to savor during good times.
What was the methodology of your study? What would you say was your most important finding?
We conducted two studies. In the first, we analyzed data from a longitudinal study with almost 300 student-athletes. We found that self-compassion predicted increases in savoring two months later.
In the second study, we distributed a survey to fans of a specific soccer team (Chelsea F.C.) immediately after their team had won the UEFA Champions league, one of the most prestigious soccer competitions in the world. We found that fans who were generally highly self-compassionate were more likely to savor the big win.
These findings show that the benefits of self-compassion are not limited to difficult times; they extend to the positive side of the human experience.
What is it about self-compassion that leads to savoring? What do you think links the two behaviors?
People who tend to be self-compassionate may have a better ability to be mindful and present during good times and recognize that they deserve to experience positive experiences to their fullest.
This means that they may be most likely to savor. But this is speculation at this point – more research is needed to understand why self-compassion predicts greater savoring.
What words of wisdom would you have for someone who wants to increase both their levels of self-compassion and savouring?
Both self-compassion and savoring predict many adaptive outcomes. So it seems like it's really important to be nice to yourself.
Being nice to yourself during bad times involves treating yourself with compassion, and being nice to yourself during good times involves savoring and maximizing your positive feelings.