Me: The Context
In this article, a definitive look at what philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and scientists throughout history have thought regarding self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness, and how it impacts one’s happiness and well-being.
Putting the "Me" in "Time"
In a busy, sometimes chaotic world, it can be tempting to focus on the well-being of others at the expense of focusing on yourself. Kids, partners, coworkers and daily responsibilities can absorb so much time and energy that making time for yourself may appear impossible.
By hanging onto this approach, we sacrifice sustained altruism over a lifetime in favor of short-term bursts of altruism. One primary outcome is burnout, which is why we’re focused on “me-time” this month.
Research has shown negative correlations between self-care and burnout, with a particular emphasis on self-care agency (the human’s ability or power to engage in self-care). The good news is that you’ve already shown your willingness and ability to engage in building a better you by participating in the Bodhi Band program! All that’s left to do is get to work.
Small Changes in How We Consume Can Impact Our Enjoyment
Imagine being able to improve the experience of consuming something while at the same time consuming less of it. Sounds impossible right? It’s not. There are some changes you can make right now that can increase your enjoyment of your favorite TV show, make the taste of your favorite flavor of ice cream even sweeter, and decrease the dissatisfaction of doing the dishes.
An economist would argue that maximizing the present value of an activity will drive the greatest amount of benefit for the consumer. Fortunately for humans, this isn’t always how the brain works. By adding delays to our consumption of things we enjoy (booking vacations in advance, planning a date with a loved one for next weekend, and limiting ourselves to one episode a week of our favorite show), we increase our overall satisfaction despite consuming the same amount (or sometimes even less) over time. This works because it reduces our hedonic adaptation (the natural adjustment of satisfaction to positive or negative changes in our life). Further support is the well-documented gradual decline in happiness growth once a certain level of income is reached. You likely also experienced this during the “Write Your Own Story” month because you were given more time to imagine how wonderful the future experience will be.
Conversely, this supports the notion that you should complete tasks that cause dissatisfaction right away. Don’t leave the dishes in the sink to pile up. Do them right away and enjoy the clean kitchen you’ll walk into every time!
When you’re thinking about bad habits (maybe it’s binge-watching shows, eating too much candy, or not cleaning your room), apply the learnings above to reduce how often you’re eating that chocolate and you’ll enjoy it even more when you do decide to indulge!
Focus on Inherent Preferences as Opposed to Learned Preferences
When you think about the habits you want to break and the behaviors you want to reinforce, take a moment to contemplate what type of behavior and preference this particular activity is. Professors Tu and Hsee have written on the distinction between what they refer to as inherent preferences vs. learned preferences. Inherent preferences are those that have evolved over long periods of time (preference for moderate temperatures as an example) as compared to learned preferences which are more recently developed and more dependent on social norms and local circumstances (home size and jewelry quality are some examples). Their findings indicate that learned preferences are more susceptible to hedonistic adaptation and inherent preferences are universal and more sustainable.
When putting your me-time action plan together, try to incorporate behaviors and changes that focus on inherent preferences such as improving your social relationships, knowledge growth, physical fitness & healthy eating to maximize the long-term satisfaction you’ll gain from those experiences.
Add a Barrier Between You and Your Bad Habits
Let’s face it, many of our bad habits are rooted in convenience. The perception that it saves time to pick up fast food, that watching TV helps you fall asleep, or that checking your mobile phone every 5 minutes helps you be more efficient. In moderation, these behaviors can help us live better lives, but when taken to the extremes can absorb enormous amounts of mental energy and time.
When working to break a bad habit, it’s helpful to add a barrier between you and the habit. For example, if you watch too much TV, either unsubscribe from that streaming service or unplug the TV. If you’re eating too many sweets, start by throwing out all the sweets in the house so it’s much less convenient to grab a candy bar from the pantry. If you find yourself spending time surfing the internet on your phone before bed, plug in the phone on the opposite side of the room when you go to bed at night.
Basic barriers can remove the convenience factor of the habits we want to break and allow us to take more control over our time, so take that first step right away and start living your best life!
Quality Over Quantity
When setting aside time for yourself, be sure to focus on quality as opposed to quantity. In a study by Dr Almuth McDowall, she determined that quality me-time led to better work-life balance and more engagement at work. Setting aside active recovery time (time spent doing things outside the normal daily behaviors including exercise and volunteering) best helps you to recharge.
Modern Philosophy, Psychology, & Science
Modern science and psychology have identified the benefits of self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness for one's well-being. Research has shown that developing self-compassion can lead to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, and can increase happiness and life satisfaction. Self-forgiveness has also been associated with increased psychological well-being and reduced negative emotions. These findings have influenced contemporary self-help literature and therapeutic interventions.
Modern philosophy emphasizes the importance of self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness as a means to cultivate a healthy relationship with oneself and others. It acknowledges the complex nature of human emotions and encourages individuals to be kind and forgiving towards themselves. Modern philosophy also highlights the importance of developing self-awareness and mindfulness as a means to understand one's own needs and emotions. These teachings have influenced contemporary psychology and self-help literature.
Axial Philosophies Overall
The Axial Philosophies, which emerged between 800 BCE and 200 BCE, proposed that self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness are crucial for one's well-being. They believed that by developing a compassionate attitude towards oneself, individuals can lead a fulfilling life. Confucianism, for example, emphasized self-love as a foundation for moral development, while Buddhism encouraged self-compassion as a way to cultivate inner peace. Similarly, Jainism and Hinduism suggested self-forgiveness as a means to release oneself from negative emotions. These philosophies continue to influence contemporary self-help literature and psychology.
Confucianism & Daoism
Confucianism and Daoism, two prominent Axial Philosophies, both emphasized self-cultivation and self-improvement. Confucianism emphasized the importance of self-love and self-respect, while Daoism emphasized the need for self-compassion and detachment from material desires. Both philosophies believed that cultivating a healthy relationship with oneself is essential for cultivating healthy relationships with others and the world. These teachings have had a lasting impact on Eastern philosophy, spirituality, and self-help literature.
Hinduism & Buddhism
Hinduism, an Axial Philosophy, teaches that self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness are necessary for spiritual growth and well-being. It emphasizes the concept of self-realization, or understanding one's true nature, as a means to cultivate self-love and compassion. Hinduism also suggests that forgiveness of oneself is necessary for releasing negative emotions and developing inner peace. These teachings have influenced contemporary self-help literature and psychology.
Buddhism, another Axial Philosophy, places great emphasis on self-compassion and self-forgiveness as a means to alleviate suffering and cultivate inner peace. It teaches that self-love arises naturally when one develops a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings. By practicing self-compassion, individuals can develop greater empathy and kindness towards themselves and others. Self-forgiveness is also encouraged as a means to release oneself from negative emotions and cultivate inner peace. These teachings have had a lasting impact on Eastern philosophy, spirituality, and self-help literature.
Traditional Western Philosophy & Stoics
Traditional Western philosophy, particularly the Stoics, believed that self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness are necessary for one's well-being. They believed that developing a healthy relationship with oneself is essential for developing resilience and a sense of purpose. The Stoics emphasized the importance of self-control and self-discipline as a means to cultivate inner peace and overcome negative emotions. These teachings have influenced contemporary self-help literature and psychology.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam
Christianity emphasizes the importance of self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness as a means to cultivate a healthy relationship with God and others. The Bible encourages individuals to love their neighbors as themselves and to forgive others as they have been forgiven by God. Christianity teaches that self-love and compassion arise naturally when one develops a deep understanding of God's love and compassion. Forgiveness of oneself is also encouraged as a means to release oneself from guilt and negative emotions. These teachings have influenced contemporary Christian spirituality and self-help literature.
Judaism encourages individuals to take care of their physical and mental health as a means to serve God. These teachings have influenced contemporary Jewish spirituality and self-help literature.
The Quran teaches individuals to be kind to themselves and others and to seek forgiveness for their sins. Islam also encourages individuals to take care of their physical and mental health as a means to serve God. These teachings have influenced contemporary Islamic spirituality and self-help literature.
In order to have a constructive relationship with others, you must first have one with yourself. Here are some tips to help you realize this goal(5).
For more information on unlocking your creativity by unplugging yourself from the hustle and bustle of technology, listen to this fascinating TED talk from Manoush Zomorodi(6).
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- British Psychological Society (BPS). "Good quality me-time vital for home and work wellbeing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150107204555.htm>.
- Dalai Lama. (1995). The path to tranquility: Daily wisdom. Penguin.
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- Hallam, K.T., Leigh, D., Davis, C., Castle, N., Sharples, J. and Collett, J.D. (2021), Self-care agency and self-care practice in youth workers reduces burnout risk and improves compassion satisfaction. Drug Alcohol Rev., 40: 847-855. https://doi.org/10.1111/dar.13209
- Irvine, W. B. (2009). A guide to the good life: The ancient art of Stoic joy. Oxford University Press.
- Ivanhoe, P. J., & Van Norden, B. W. (Eds.). (2018). Readings in classical Chinese philosophy. Hackett Publishing.
- Kirkland, R. (2019). The Axial Age and Its Consequences. Princeton University Press.
- Khoshaba, D., "A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love." Psychology Today. 27, March 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201203/seven-step-prescription-self-love.
- Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28-44.
- Nussbaum, M. (2018). The monarchical republic of childhood. In The cosmopolitan tradition: A noble but flawed ideal (pp. 17-36). Harvard University Press.
- Telushkin, J. (2010). Jewish literacy: The most important things to know about the Jewish religion, its people, and its history. HarperCollins.
- The Holy Bible, New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.
- Tu, Y., & Hsee, C. K. (2018). Hedonomics: On subtle yet significant determinants of happiness. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers. DOI:nobascholar.com
- Yanping Tu, Christopher K Hsee,Consumer happiness derived from inherent preferences versus learned preferences,Current Opinion in Psychology,Volume 10,2016,Pages 83-88,ISSN 2352-250X,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.12.013.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X15003206)
- Zomorodi, M. (2017, April). How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/manoush_zomorodi_how_boredom_can_lead_to_your_most_brilliant_ideas