If you’ve been working on the Self-Compassion habit this month (imperfectly, perhaps), you should be noticing some interesting changes: sometimes I notice myself calmer than usual, with mental space to figure out my reactions, I’m more forgiving of myself and others, I find myself generally happier after practicing this for awhile.

These are huge changes — your mileage will vary, of course, but you should be seeing some fascinating new things.

The question, as we near the end of the month, is how do you continue exploring this habit?

I have an unusual suggestion (a first for this program, at least): for many of you who don’t feel the urgent need to work on the next challenge, I suggest you continue to work on the Self-Compassion habit.

Why? Well, not everyone cares about working on the next habit, first of all … and second, Self-Compassion is a great habit that can only be deepened by further practice.

Either way, you should make a point to expand your practice next month, whether or not you take on the next challenge.

Here are some suggestions for ways you could expand:

  1. Continue to practice with awareness in the moment. The awareness of when we’re suffering in little ways (stress, comparing ourselves to others, feeling guilt, fearing failure, worrying about something, etc.) only grows with practice. I’ve been practicing it for a few years and am still noticing things all the time that I didn’t notice just last year. So continue to develop your awareness of your suffering, noticing things throughout the day. Remembering to be aware is the biggest challenge, which just comes with practice. Setting little visual reminders for yourself around your house or workspace is a good idea.
  2. Continue practicing self-compassion in the moment. When you notice the small ways in which you suffer, practice dropping down into yourself, and giving yourself compassion, wishing yourself happiness, feeling the pain and accepting it, letting go of your ideal that’s causing the suffering. Becoming aware of the ideal is a big key, but this dropping down into yourself and practicing compassion can just take a few seconds, and will make a lot of difference in how you deal with others and feel about yourself.
  3. Practice self-compassion as you work. Fear is what causes us to procrastinate — fear of discomfort, of not being good at something, of failing, of being confused or overwhelmed. Self-compassion can help ease that fear, so when you notice yourself procrastinating, practice dropping down into yourself and giving yourself some compassion. Then practice doing the work, now that the fear is eased a bit. Accept the fear, be compassionate with yourself, and just do. Just be in the moment with the task, not worrying about the outcome but being curious what it’s like to work and think of nothing but the present moment.
  4. Expand your compassion to others. You’ve probably already noticed that your compassion for others is expanding naturally, as you practice compassion with yourself. Seeing your own suffering allows you to better see the suffering of others. But consciously practice this compassion, seeing when others are suffering (when they are angry at you, or taking out their stress on you, or rude, this is because they’re suffering). When they suffer, realize you do this too. Wish them happiness, even if you’re mad at them. Practice self-compassion if you are angry, and extend your compassion to the person making you angry. This is advanced practice, and I urge you to practice the first few items above before this. But once you’re getting good at the first three practices, try this. It’s life-changing.