Tag Archives: Kristin Neff

Putting good out, Getting good in?

By Blair Buckman

michelleBecker

Michelle Becker, MA, LMFT, Director of Compassion Programs, Senior Teacher

Join Michelle Becker, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for one of our Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) programs this fall. Michelle believes, “when we meet suffering with awareness and kindness it is often life-changing.”

We’ve all heard the expression that if “you put good in, you get good out,” but what about the opposite? What about putting “good” out by spreading kindness to oneself and others and seeing the benefits on your health and well-being? More and more research is pointing to the health benefits of exhibitingself-compassion-sm compassion towards oneself and others. Compassion, as defined as an affective state and subjective feeling, distinct from empathy or sympathy, it can be said to encompass three main components, which are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness (Neff, 2003; Schzntz, 2007; Goetz, Keltner, & Simon-Thomas, 2010). Moreover pioneering compassion researcher, Kristin Neff (2003) supplements that compassion involves being understanding of oneself and one’s struggles, viewing one’s suffering in the context of the shared human condition, and being aware and nonjudgmental without over-identification, with a desire to alleviate suffering. Recent compassion research is demonstrating the positive benefits of compassion on one’s health and well-being, including less self-judgment, less isolation, lower levels of pain, anger and psychological distress (Pinto-Gouveia & Costa, 2011; Carson et al., 2005). Other studies refer to the implications of compassion on the neuroendocrine, innate immune, and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress (Pace et al, 2009).

With more research continually demonstrating compassion’s potential, perhaps it is time for you to consider taking one of our upcoming Self-Compassion Programs.

At the UCSD Center for Mindfulness we offer
two great ways to explore Mindful-Self Compassion

The first is by participating in our 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Program. The next 8-week MSC program begins in September 11, 2013. The second is by participating in our Two Weekend Intensive November 1-3, 2013 & November 9-10,2013.

We are proud to be the  first center teaching the 8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion program as originated by Drs. Neff and Germer.

 

Take This Job and….

By Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D.
Education Director, Greater Good Science Center

Wait! Here are some research-based ways teachers and
principals can rejuvenate their passion for their jobs in the new
year.

I’ve always thought that educators are some of the luckiest people in
the world. No really, just hear me out: Yes, the work is harder than
many people understand and so many of them are underpaid, but it’s
also one of the most inherently meaningful jobs a person can do.
And that’s no small thing.

Reflecting_over_the_ocean_1

(Photo Credit Isaac L Koval)

Researchers have found that people who see their work as meaningful, or having some special significance, experience lower levels of job
stress and higher levels of job satisfaction, motivation, and performance. Finding meaning in our work also protects us against burnout—a serious issue for teachers.

Yet, in all the crazy busyness of managing a classroom and leading
schools (this applies to administrators as well!), it’s very easy to forget
why you’re doing this job in the first place; the meaning might have
slowly leaked out over the years. But it’s possible to get it back. As you move forward with your work in the new year, I encourage you to take some time and reflect on the meaningful aspects of your work. To help, I suggest writing down your reflections, as scientists have found that journaling about positive
experiences can improve our health. Revisiting what you’ve written can also help sustain you during times of intense pressure and challenges.

To guide you in this process, I’ve assembled a list of research-based
thought-prompts—ideas to get you thinking about how you derive a
sense of meaning from your important work. You can use them either
on your own or with your colleagues. Administrators might also
consider sending these exercises home with teachers to share collectively at the next staff meeting—a great way to promote a
positive school culture!

1) Remember why you became a teacher in the first place. Was
it to make a difference in children’s lives or society in general? Or
maybe because you wanted the variety, the creative outlet, or the
daily challenges that teaching offers? Perhaps you were greatly
inspired by a teacher and wanted to give other children the same
experience.
For some people, teaching is a calling, which researchers believe
involves a transcendent summons beyond oneself and a desire to
serve humanity. When people feel “called” to do their jobs or if they
see that their work has a definite purpose that reflects who they are,
the work naturally feels deeply meaningful because it connects them
to their personal values.

2) Recall those moments when teaching made you feel ALIVE—
as if you were “running on all cylinders.” Meaning can be derived
from those times when you are personally immersed and intrinsically
motivated by your work. Most likely, this happened because you were
expressing your “authentic self”—the matching of your actions to your
perception of your true self.
When I was teaching, I experienced these moments with project-based
learning. No pedagogical method excited me more than helping
students apply their learning through self-created projects. Here was
an opportunity for students to develop their creativity and innovation
and teamwork skills—things that I highly valued in my work and in
myself. (A childhood spent creating haunted houses and elaborate
plays with friends had to lead somewhere…)

3) Think of a time when you made a difference in a student’s
life. Work becomes meaningful when you believe you have the power
and ability to make a difference. Teachers impact students’ lives all the
time—sometimes to a greater degree then they realize.
I’ll never forget the note I received from the mother of one of my
students who had a serious speech impediment. She thanked me
profusely for helping her son to believe in himself and to once again
love school. I had no idea the difference I had made in her child’s life,
but it deepened my appreciation for the tremendous responsibility that
comes with teaching—and hence, enhanced the meaning of my work.

4) Appreciate your colleagues. Our relationships with others often
create the most meaning in our lives—both at work and at home—
especially if they’re comforting and supportive. Teaching can be very
isolating, so it’s a big deal when teachers come together to share their
knowledge, accomplish a project, or just to ask, “How’s it going?”
As a new educator, I particularly appreciated the teachers who offered
their support and told me that the first year is always the hardest.
When I became an administrator, I worked hard to create caring
relationships among the staff because of the special significance these
relationships held for me as a teacher.

5) Reflect on the contribution you are making to the world.
Work becomes meaningful when we feel connected to something
larger than ourselves. On those days, when it seems like all your
efforts are infinitesimal in their impact, remember that they’re not:
When teachers consider how they can make a profound difference in
each of their students’ lives (see #3 above), it doesn’t take much to
realize how each of these lives adds up to a bigger whole, exerting
tremendous influence over the world in which we live.
In my workshops for teachers and administrators, I like to end with a
quote from Williams James: “Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.” If I could post this in every classroom in the world, I would—
just as a gentle reminder to you and everyone around you how
important and meaningful your job is.

Wishing you a very peaceful—and meaningful—new year.

Teachers and administrators who would like to learn more methods for
renewing their passion for their work might be interested in attending
these two upcoming conferences:

bridging2013badgeBridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical
Practice, Education and Research
February 1-3, 2013 Catamaran Hotel, San Diego, CA
Presented by the UCSD School of Medicine and the UCSD Center for
Mindfulness, this conference is for people who want to develop the
skills and competencies to teach mindfulness to today’s youth and
learn what science has to say about this kind of work.

GGSC_Logo-NoText-ForWebsite_99_97Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion
March 8, 2013 Craneway Pavilion Conference Center OR Live Webcast
This day-long conference presented by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and featuring a keynote by Jon Kabat-Zinn, will illuminate the connections between mindfulness and compassion, focusing on how mindfulness can deepen relationships, enhance
caregiving, and build compassion.

Building Skills of Self-Compassion

Our Dear friend & colleague Dr. Kristin Neff will be holding a Self-Compassion Workshop Dec. 7-9 at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA. This is a unique opportunity to be with Kristin and learn first-hand, by participating in this experiential weekend workshop, about her research and work in the field of Mindful-Self Compassion.

“This workshop uses exercises taken from the Mindful Self-Compassion program, an empirically supported 8-week training course Neff co-created with colleague Chris Germer. The course is relevant to the general public as well as to practicing mental health professionals, and has the power to radically transform the way you relate to yourself and your life.”

IONS will also be screening The Horse Boy for the larger community on Sat. Dec. 8th from 7:30-9:30 pm. Kristin will be there for Q & A afterward!  The Horse Boy is an award-winning documentary her family made about our trip to Mongolia on horseback to find healing for their autistic son.

If the December workshop is not convenient and you would like to train in  Mindful-Self Compassion there is an opportunity to participate in our  UCSD CFM Professional Training Institute’s  5-Day MSC Professional Training Retreat, being held at Earthrise May 12-17, 2013.  Kristin will be joined by her colleague and MSC co-developer Christopher Germer, Ph.D. in leading this training.

How Do You Meet Your Suffering? Opportunities Abound to Learn Self-Compassion in San Diego

Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer have dedicated years to studying, researching, and teaching self-compassion. All of this dedicated effort and passion have resulted in the Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) program, a research- and skill-based eight week training similar in format to Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) but focused on this key component of how we meet our own suffering. Outside of Dr. Neff and Dr. Germer’s own courses, the The UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness is currently the only place offering MSC courses. (Note: Dr. Neff will present a one-day workshop on the topic in San Diego on September 22, 2013. See below for more details.)

Drs. Neff and Germer trained Michelle Becker, a San Diego Marriage and Family Therapist and MBSR teacher, as the first teacher of the program. She, along with Dr. Steve Hickman, the second teacher trained by Neff and Germer, will lead their second MSC program at the UCSD Center For Mindfulness this September.

In describing how thoughts arise from actions, Michelle noted that “when something bad happens, it is like being hit by an arrow, difficult and painful. Unfortunately, a second arrow, our thoughts and reactions, follows the first. Many times, it is these thoughts and reactions (i.e. “this shouldn’t be happening,” “you failed,” “you’re so lazy,” “maybe you’re stupid”) that cause the bulk of the suffering. The event, the first arrow, is painful, but how different would it be if instead of that second arrow, we just attend to the fact that the first arrow hurt?

Compassion is a response to witnessing suffering. Becker notes that “showing kindness and compassion to ourselves makes such a difference in our lives. Even simply responding by acknowledging ‘Oh wow, that hurt,’ radically changes our experience”.

Through mindfulness and self-compassion training, a space is formed between event and reaction, and within that space, Becker explains, we are able to choose how to react. “When we create the space, it’s the difference between reacting and responding. So when we choose to respond, can we be kind to our own selves?”

Kristin Neff

Kindness and compassion are skills that can be developed. Rather than continually judging and evaluating ourselves, self-compassion involves generating kindness toward ourselves as imperfect humans, and learning to be present with the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease. It motivates us to make needed changes in our lives not from a place of motivating ourselves with punishment, but because we care about ourselves and want to lessen our suffering.  But becoming more compassionate requires breaking down old habits and building new mindful skills and habits.

Step one in developing self-compassion is mindfulness. In order to change a habit, we must become aware of its existence. We need to become aware of whatever sensation, thought, or emotion is causing suffering. Once we identify our suffering, the second step is to remember that we are not alone in our suffering.  Pain and suffering are part of any life, and therefore our suffering is a simply a normal part of belonging to the human race.

The third step is to choose to respond with kindness toward our own selves.  Much like we would respond with kindness for a friend who is suffering in the same way. In Michelle’s words, “It’s really that simple. Not easy. But really that simple.” Awareness and compassion are learnable through education and practice.

MSC is based on research. Early clinical studies indicate that MSC practice will increase happiness and lessen anxiety and depression, as well as supporting and improving mindfulness overall.

Even people who have taken MBSR will benefit from MSC.  Michelle commented, “Both programs have the core elements of mindfulness and compassion. Compassion is not trained explicitly in MBSR, but it is important. We do these practices that help us become aware of where we are, and to the extent that where we are is painful. It would be a little bit cruel to become aware of pain and just meet it with harshness instead of offering ourselves the compassion each of us deserves.”

In addressing which program to take, she remarked, “People will benefit from both. There’s a lot of overlap between MBSR and MSC and it’s about which door you choose to take first. For some people, starting with MBSR would be preferable, and for others, starting with MSC would be preferable. If there is a lot of harshness, a lot of self-judgment and self-criticism, probably your experience with MBSR will be deeper and you’ll get more out of it, and it won’t be quite as painful, if you start with MSC.”

For more information on MSC and to register for the 8-week course starting September 20, please visit the Center for Mindfulness website.

To learn more about Dr. Neff’s pioneering research into self-compassion, check out her homepage, her book “Self-Compassion.”

One-DAY WORKSHOP in SAN DIEGO, September 22

You are invited to attend Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion & Emotional Resilience one-day workshop on September 22, 2012 from 9 am to 4 pm, on the campus of UC San Diego. The workshop will provide simple tools for responding in a kind, compassionate way whenever we are experiencing painful emotions.