Shauna Shapiro, PhD is a best-selling author, clinical psychologist and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness and self-compassion. Shauna a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, co-founded by the Dalai Lama. Her TEDx Talk, The Power of Mindfulness, has been viewed over 2.5 million times.
371 Self-Compassion Master Class
Dr. Shauna Shapiro
The research is in. Shaming and judging ourselves does NOT help us become better parents. What do we need instead? Dr. Shauna Shapiro came back on the Mindful Mama Podcast to talk about self-compassion and her new guided, “Good Morning, I Love You” journal.
Self-Compassion Master Class - Dr. Shauna Shapiro 
*This is an auto-generated transcript*
[00:00:00] Hunter: All right, so Shawn, you are like a PhD. You're a psychologist, you're a bestselling author. You've got a lot going for you, but even you have struggled with feelings of Dow and unworthiness. Am I right? Is this where this book comes from? Absolutely. .
[00:00:24] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Yeah. No, it's something I've struggled with a long time.
And what was I. A breakthrough moment for me was realizing that I wasn't alone in that, That it's this sense of kind of self doubt or self judgment. Somewhat universal. And what was interesting is when I became a clinical psychologist and I started working with lots of different patients and clients and people from very different walks of life.
I worked at the Veterans hospital, I worked with women with breast cancer. I worked with stressed out college students and stressed out parents and high level executives. And everyone was talking about the same thing, right? This tremendous kinda self-doubt. And so I started studying, self-doubt and really shame is what I was interested.
does it help? Does it help you become a better mother? Does it help you lose weight? Does it help you exercise more? And what is so fascinating is that no, it doesn't. You know that when we shame and judge ourselves, it actually shuts down the learning centers of the brain. So it keeps us stuck in repeating the same, unhealthy habits or behaviors or patterns and that self-compassion.
Very surprising kind of antidote, or alternative that when we treat ourselves with kindness, it actually both soothes our kind of stressful, painful moment. And turns on the learning and motivation centers of the brain that kind of gives us the resources we need to change. And so it's almost like the opposite of what you would think.
Like instead of pushing yourself and trying harder, you actually need to take care of yourself and treat yourself like you treat a dear friend.
[00:02:11] Hunter: Yes. Yes. And if it's funny how it's difficult in our culture. Like I think that it's really, and I'm really curious about what it's like in other cultures too, because like at Lisa, like in the United States, right?
Like it's founded in this Juda Christian like judgment culture, right? There's like that, that it was a tool guilt and shame, but it, do you know if it's the same, universally for all humans,
[00:02:40] Dr Shauna Shapiro: It's been interesting. There have been cross cultural studies and it, there is this sense of kind of shame and guilt.
It looks different in different cultures, especially kind of individual cultures versus collectivist cultures but the sense of shame and guilt and not enoughness seems to be universal. And I wanna be really clear. Remorse, healthy shame, not toxic. Shame, I think is important.
It's important for us to recognize when we've made mistakes, to feel the pain of it that motivates us to change. But what happens is we tend to get stuck in the pain. And then it takes all our energy away from healing or changing and sucks it into the shame. And, I'll give you an example that, that happened recently is my son is at boarding school right now, which for me is really hard cuz I miss him a ton.
And he was home visiting and I was so excited and I wanted everything to be perfect and I was trying to do everything right and. I, something happened, I don't remember. I was in the kitchen when I was cooking and that's always a stressful place for me, . And I snapped at him or I did something wrong and he was like, Whatever.
And he walked into his room and I remember sitting there and just feeling Oh my God, this is like my one chance to reconnect with my son and I've missed him so much and I've waited for this moment and God, I'm a terrible mom. And like, Why did you know? And I was just the all this shame and all this self judgment.
And then, luckily I've been studying this stuff for 25 years, so I was like, Wait a minute. This isn't helping him or me, right? Just keeping me stuck here. I'd rather use my energy to reconnect with him. But before I could do that, I had to take a moment and be like, Oh, sweetheart, you feel really sad and disappointed.
This wasn't how you wanted your first dinner to go. And that moment of compassion kind of woke me up and allowed me then to go into his room and breathe a little more slowly and deeply and connect in the way that I'd wanted. .
[00:04:45] Hunter: Yeah. I mean to me it makes so much sense. If you are gonna be harsh and mean to ourselves when we're not going to be able to pick ourselves up and move on and try new things and learn new things more easily.
Cuz we're gonna be afraid of that inner voice. But if we are kind to ourselves, then it. Okay. Soothing ourselves. Then we're like able to just pick up and start again. And that's, it's like a series of beginning and new again and again. That's what life is.
That's what mindfulness is. That's what that, that's how we grow and learn is just we start again and we start again and start again is it gives us that ability to do that.
[00:05:25] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Yeah. I love that you just said that about beginning again, because for me that's one of the greatest gifts of mindfulness and self-compassion is this capacity to begin again, to recognize that this is a new moment that we can start fresh and I think for a lot of people, they feel stuck.
They feel like it's too late, or I've made too many mistakes, or I can't change. And I think for me, one of the most hopeful messages is neuroplasticity this. . Discovery really that, that our brain is always changing, that it's never too late, that you're never stuck, no matter how old you are, no matter what mistakes you've made.
All of us have the capacity to literally re-architect the very structure of our brain.
[00:06:11] Hunter: So this is beautiful and so hopeful, and I love it. And so well, let's talk about how we do that. And you, your latest book Good Morning. I Love you. There was a person in your life who made this suggestion right to to greet yourself in the morning like this.
Can you tell us a story about that?
[00:06:31] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Yeah, so this was many years ago. It was actually when I was going through a very difficult divorce and I would wake up every morning with this pit of shame in my stomach. I was, I felt, really literally sick from the divorce and terrified it was gonna ruin our son's life.
And my meditation teacher suggested I start practicing more self-compassion. And she said, I want you to try saying, I love you, Shauna, every. and I was like, No way . It just felt so contrived and inauthentic and I'm like, I'm sitting here hating myself. I'm not gonna say I love you. She saw my hesitation and she said, How about if you just say, Good morning, Shauna, just greet yourself with kindness instead of slapping yourself down first thing in the morning. And so the next morning I woke up, I put my hand on my heart, which is what she had suggested, because it releases oxytocin, which is the soothing love hormone. So I put my hand on my heart, took a breath, said Good morning, Shauna.
And it was nice, right? Instead of the avalanche of fear. Shame and judgment. I just, there was this flash of kindness, so I kept doing it and I practiced for a couple. It was actually a couple months went by and it was my birthday and my son was with his father at a long planned family trip. And so I was alone and it was probably my first birthday and my whole life I've ever been completely alone.
And I remember waking up and I put my hand on my heart to do my good morning. and this image of my grandmother came to me and she had passed a few years before and she was really my person. So this image of Nana comes to me and I just felt her love. And before I knew it, I said, Good morning. I love you Shauna.
And I felt it. It was as if the dam around my heart burst and this like flood of love came pouring in. , and I wish I could say every day since then has been this bubble of self love, and that's not true. But what is true is that pathway of self-kindness, of self-compassion was established and it continues to grow.
Every day that I do the practice, some days I do it and it feels awkward, and some days I do it and I don't feel anything but. Some days I do it and I feel this profound sense of love of actually being on my own team, which is radical, right? Normally we're our own worst enemy instead of actually supporting ourselves, which is what makes sense.
[00:09:06] Hunter: And did you see this? Obviously you're going through an incredibly difficult time, you're going through a divorce and all this change, but did you see, I guess I, I had a similar practice that I was suggested to me by somebody that was just may I love and accept myself exactly as.
and look in the mirror and say, May I love and accept myself exactly as I am. And I practiced that. I said it to myself five times every day, in the mirror. And to me, for me, this practice along with, my meditation practice and things like it, it became something that, Transform the way I was in the world, and trans allowed me to be in the world in a way where I could just be more relaxed, be clearer with others, step into some thi roles and things that were a little scarier, that I would've held myself back from before.
So I'm just wondering if something similar happened for you as far as what? How did this practice affect you?
[00:10:15] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Yeah, I love that question and gosh, in so many different ways. And I think the first thing you said that's really important is it does give you a little bit more courage to take risks or to be in difficult situations because you know that you have your own back.
There's this sense of support. So I think that definitely it gave me a bit more confidence the other kind of unexpected but really profound change for me. I started to feel more at home in myself, like I was building a home within myself, this safe place from which to explore the world.
And I think developing this self love is really what allowed me to meet my current husband that I remember when I met him. And it was many, eight, nine years after my divorce, but, , it was like this recognition of that safe place of that sense of, oh, that's what love feels like is the sense of safety.
Which I think up until that point love had felt a little bit more tumultuous or a little bit and it was probably, cuz that's also how I treated myself. And so for me, one of the most profound shifts was just learning how to love myself somehow allowed me to find true love in partnership and.
It's unexpected and it I've been thinking about it a lot recently because I remember when I got divorced, I went to visit my grandparents. They were so alive. Right when I got divorced. I asked my nan, I said, How do you do it? Cuz she and my grandpa were married 70 years, like in the most deep, true, passionate love you've ever seen.
And she said, self love. And I remember looking at her like, What are you talking about? Cause I saw how generous they were with each other. It didn't look like. Self love. It looked like lots of other love. But she really, I think she really embodied the sense that they both came from a wellspring of love for theirselves, and that's how they created this love, between each other.
[00:12:19] Hunter: That's really interesting. For me, and that taps into something like I the idea of, so I, I remember when I, my, the first person I really fell in love with when I. At 18 years old and the having this recognition that. When I'm with you because you love me so much, I love me so much. Like it, there was like this self love aspect of Oh, I, and I hadn't felt that, before.
It was just this remarkable feeling. So I think that really makes a lot of sense somehow, and I'm not quite sure I'm connecting the full dots in my head yet with this, but I'm gonna be thinking about it. It's really fascinating. Yeah. Beautiful. I love that. And so self-love is the wisdom of Nona, right?
It's like the self-love is like part of that ability to give lasting love and to be that. It's interesting when I think about this, like in some ways, like we talked about neuroplasticity and. We know, we, that we have the negativity bias. We know that, our brains are prime for negativity.
And so in a way, the practices of self-compassion, the practices of self acceptance and all those things they're like that whole idea of like good habits crowding out the bad, right? Like when you're trying to eat better, you're just supposed to eat a lot more vegetables and not worry about so much about not eating the bad things.
Quote unquote bad things. , But you're supposed to use those good habits to crowd out the bad. Would you say like a self-compassion practice is a similar way?
[00:14:01] Dr Shauna Shapiro: It's a really good point you're making. So the, what people don't really understand about neuroplasticity is it's not like a one time thing that instantly lights up the good and shuts out the bad.
It's over time practicing different pathways. And as you practice these new, healthy pathways of self love or self-compassion, or even of gratitude and focusing on the beauty and the good in the. , it starts to prune away the old unhealthy pathways. And so you're exactly right that there's this kind of, you almost get double for every time you're practicing self love.
You're also pruning self-judgment. Every time you focus on gratitude, you're pruning away, anxiety. And so I think for what people don't understand about neuroplasticity, It's really more of a direction than a destination. It's about carving out these new pathways and it begins with intention.
So between age zero and 25, neuroplasticity is happening all the time. You don't even have to try. You're just like a sponge and you're learning. For the good or for the bad. We, early childhood experiences, unfortunately for those who have had really difficult ones, they shape you.
But also for the good. And we can learn many languages. We can do many different things that are extraordinary around age 25. Not right on your birthday, , but around then it really slows down. and you have to be more intentional. And that neuroplasticity actually has to be it can't be passive anymore.
It has to be active. And so the only way to engage neuroplasticity, what we're talking about is positive neuroplasticity, changing the brain for the good. You can still, have trauma later in life and immediately have neuroplasticity for the bad. But changing the brain for the good requires intention.
It requires making a conscious choice. For example, I wanna cultivate more self-love. When you set an intention and it's authentic, you can't be fake. When it's authentic, what happens? A lot of people think intentions are like these spiritual, psychological things. They're neurochemical. So when you set an intention, you release dopamine.
And what dopamine does is it stamped down. It says to your brain and your nervous system, this is important. And then what happens is the dopamine transforms into a whole cascade of events, including no epinephrine and adrenaline, which focus, you get your attention focused. And so all of a sudden you have all your resources working on whatever project it is.
In this case self love. And so what I tell people when they say where do I start? Is really just even. Setting that intention, setting that kind of compass of your heart in the direction of self-kindness and self-love of just practicing even 5% more being on your own team.
[00:16:57] Hunter: Yeah. Maybe something like may I have more self-compassion, like some that might be like a baby step to say, May I have more self-compassion, just to set that intention. I love that idea. That intention is neurochemical. That's so cool. We've got that. Science behind it
[00:17:14] Dr Shauna Shapiro: to service. And I love that you said, may I, because, Yeah. No. And it's not like we're lying to ourselves.
It's not like we're like, I love myself. It's like that, Saturday Night Live fit it's just May I may I move in that direction? That's my deepest intention or prayer or, this is my hope, my aspiration. And just by setting that, they did a research study just by setting the intention to be happier.
Eight weeks later, people were happier. You're setting in motion this whole cascade of neurochemistry to support you. Wow. And what's also interesting, if you think about it, is what this means is, You can't, once someone's over 25, you can't change them unless they want to change. Sorry.
But for all these spouses out there that are like, Oh, I'm gonna make him do this or make him do that, unless someone sets that intention, makes, brings it into conscious awareness, they're not going to change.
[00:18:17] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make a drink. Proves to be a very lasting and truthful statement.
Okay, cool. So this is, it's interesting cause seeing that marker of zero to 25, the brain developing and that absorption. It shows us also as parents, like how much. Impact and influence we have, there's always the question of nature versus nurture, but there's a lot of impact and influence that we can have as our kids are sponges, like absorbing all of these things and they absorb the unhealthy things too.
And we have to recognize that, as far as sort of those things that come through. One of the things. Comes through, I think in a lot of ways that we can't really help is that inner voice, even though we don't realize it, right? Like it's gonna come out. Our kids absorb it at some point along those 18 or 25 years, right?
They're gonna absorb that. That voice.
[00:19:22] Dr Shauna Shapiro: And can you imagine if instead what you modeled for them was like, let's say you make a mistake instead of being like, you idiot that you said, Oh sweetheart, darn. That was really upsetting. If you modeled treating yourself with kindness, that would just naturally, that's oh, that's what you do when you make a mistake.
Instead of berating yourself, you support yourself. That makes. It actually does. And so then your children have this model that, I remember when my dad used to get upset, he would close his eyes and take a deep breath. And I remember going out in the world, and that's what I would do. And like I would get teased, and I didn't realize that wasn't everyone's response when they were stressed, . So I think that as parents, we have to be really intentional about. What we model, how we live, and also what we teach our children. And, I've been thinking a lot about it. I wish that I had specialized in childhood development instead of adults because, after learning about the zero to 25 window, I'm like, God, I'm working so hard to help people change after age 25.
I wish I had just gotten in there early and if there was one thing that I would want parents to teach their children. And one thing that I'm really working on teaching our children, Is this ability to pause, in between whatever the stimulus is and whatever the reaction or response is. This ability to pause and have this Mindful moment where we're able to choose our response.
And I think that pause in that pause could come a lot of compassion where normally, something difficult happens and we just immediately react. If we could create this space, I think it would heal so much in our. .
[00:21:13] Hunter: Yeah. Then we could choose a tool, right? Like we could choose a tool like self-compassion.
We could choose to put a hand to the heart. We could choose to step out of the way and take a break, right? Like we could choose a lot of different things. It's that, it's essential for that choice. And it's interesting, right? Cuz. We have to be intentional, right? 25 and up. We're generally, as parents of, most of us are 25 and up.
So a lot of us are anyway. A lot of the listeners are, I assume, and we've gotta make that choice to say, okay, I want to pause. Just as if we wanna. This self-compassion thing is I think of it as like a muscle. I love the metaphor of a muscle, right? That we're building. It's a pathway that you're building that you're you're bush whacking and then you're making the path smooth and then you're doing all those things and. The pause can be the same way, right? Like it can be something that, maybe, dear listener, for the next two weeks, you say, I'm gonna just practice pausing before I respond.
Even in good moments, right? Even in like chill moments, even if you know nothing's crazy is happening. Just to give myself. That ability, right? So I'm not always in reactive mode. So it's like a thing that we can practice to then give ourselves the ability to do a bunch of other things.
[00:22:40] Dr Shauna Shapiro: I love, and I love how you just said that So first of all, my favorite phrase in the whole world is, What you practice grows stronger.
. So you need to practice the pause. That's been one of my mottos for a long time. Practice the pause. That's incredible. And then what I love is , you said this kind of bush whacking like you're cultivating this new pathway. So in my book I talk about how we have these super highways of habit, right?
Our reactivity, our judgment, our imp. And what we're doing is we're carving out these little country roads, of compassion, and we're literally having to bush whack like through, it, it's not as fast, it's not as comfortable, it's not as natural perhaps, but just like you said, over time you can prune away the super highway and you can carve out this new pathway of pausing or compassion or g.
[00:23:35] Hunter: Okay. So we wanna want those good habits, right? We wanna start some of these good habits to crowd out the bad. But you talked about like that pruning away, like we are pruning away the unhealthy pathways, but as we, we're human, right? And we have negativity bias, and all of those things are like natural, right?
Like we're more naturally anxious and on the lookout for threats, then we are relaxed, right? So these things pop up. Do. When do you suggest people start to maybe or how do people start to prune away some of those unhealthy thoughts or deal with some of those unhealthy things that are like eating away at the self love and self-compassion?
[00:24:18] Dr Shauna Shapiro: so I love, first of all in what you said is so important. It is natural to be anxious and on the lookout for danger. That is how you evolved The negativity Bias is evolutionarily, it's essential, right? We evolved from people who were scanning their environment for danger. They weren't the ones when they heard the Russell and the Bushes that were like, Oh, let me see if I can pet that.
Pretty kitty, right? They were like, Whoa, Ryan, I'm outta. Okay, so that's who we evolved from
But the first step is when you feel anxious, instead of saying God, what's wrong with you? Why are you anxious? Or You're the only one who feels scared to actually just name it, just. Oh sweetheart, you feel scared when we name an emotion.
What's so fascinating, this was a study from ucla. They found that it actually puts the breaks on our physiology and starts to calm us down. So just naming an emotion is the first step. The second step is really practice over and over again. You can't. Hear us say this, you can't just read about it.
You actually have to practice. This is literally how you carve out these new pathways. And so the reason why I wrote my most recent book that just came out last week is that it's a guided journal and it takes people every day on these science based practices and just five minutes a day because I realize, especially parents are busy.
I now have four teenagers, so I understand what it means to be busy. What I realized as a scientist is if you wanna change, you have to practice. You can't just read about it. And so my first book, Good Morning, I Love You, was a wonderful introduction and I think it started a lot of people on a path. But this next book is really the practice.
This is how you actually re-architect your brain and there's no real shortcuts, but the goal isn't perfection either, right? The goal is just practice so that we can keep grow.
[00:26:21] Hunter: So what are some share, Can you share some of the practices that you have in the guided journal that are, that help people practice this?
[00:26:29] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Absolutely. So it's actually a three month journey and I've been so excited about it because it's really, I took kind of everything I've learned in the last 20 years, both, in the laboratory and as a professor, but also in the monasteries of Thailand and Nepal and in all the meditation retreats I've done and just took the best science-based practices.
And so they include things like a gratitude practice, which is incredibly important. Self-compassion practice. Which we've been talking a lot about, and to give an example of self-compassion practice. One, one practice is to imagine something you're struggling with, to think about, maybe you're struggling with finances or maybe you're having trouble sleeping, or maybe with your children or whatever it is, and then to write yourself a letter.
as if it was your best friend who was struggling, not you. So if your very best friend who you love so much, if you saw her struggling with her daughter , what would you say to her? How would you support her? How would you comfort her? What would you guide her? And it sounds simple, but when you do it, it's like this radical rotation of consciousness.
And I wanna be clear, you can't imagine what your friend would say to. That does not work. Cuz then you're like yeah, of course she's being nice. Like it doesn't change your consciousness. What change? Let's say I think of my very best friend, Annie, and I imagine that Annie is struggling with, in the same way I'm struggling with my son and I imagine, what would I say to Ann?
And I know how much Ann loves her children and loves being a mother. So I would tell her all those things and I, I literally just immediately feel compassion, immediately feel love. But when I try to do it to myself, it's not . And so this little kind of, I don't like the word hack, but this little tool really helps people shift.
So that's one example. Another,
[00:28:24] Hunter: I just wanna point out here that's also, what Sean is sharing is backed up by science. We recently had the author of Chatter. Oh, I'm gonna forget his name. Oh, yeah. Ethan Cross who talked about this idea about the studies that have backed the idea of talking to yourself in the third person and how that really shifts us our attention and shifts our perspective and helps us to see more clearly.
And I just wanna. Point that out there for the listener that there's a lot behind that. Go ahead, Sean.
[00:28:57] Dr Shauna Shapiro: That's great. Thank you, Hunter. Yes and I will say, I mean I became a professor and got my PhD because I believe in the science and so every single practice in the book is based in science.
If there wasn't science behind it, then I didn't include included. We also have practices for cultivating joy because, you and I have spoken a lot about the negativity. And it's real. It's, we're hardwired to look for the negative. And so learning how to cultivate joy is incredibly important.
And one of the things that I find so fascinating is that we tend to gloss over pleasant experiences cuz we're scanning for the danger and. It takes about 20 to 30 seconds to encode something into your long-term memory. And so one of the practices is to really practice, let's say you're eating a piece of chocolate or something delicious to pause for the 20 to 30 seconds and actually let that positive ex.
Be encoded into your long-term memory, which becomes part of your chemical soup. You don't want all your memories to be negative, so you actually have to encode in some beautiful ones. And when you start to savor the chocolate and you smell it, and you taste it, and you feel the way it begins to melt.
Each one of those sensory, experiences, it serves as like a tiny hook into memory. So it helps anchor it in. And so in the journal, I teach people kind of very simple practices that don't take a lot of time, but help to shift them into a state of greater joy and greater gratitude. That will continue not just in that moment, but continue to carve out the pathway.
[00:30:42] Hunter: beautiful. So what I'm hearing in these practices is attention. And it's so interesting cuz I think about our world and I think about that like little computer in my pocket that takes way too much of my attention. It really drives me crazy how much I have. Grab it or look at it or touch it and, and other people expect me to see these message, whatever it is.
And then I get sucked into something else. And like this the way our world is with our smartphones today. Taking our attention and fragmenting it and fragmenting it and it, what you're describing is about mindfulness, right? Is about attention, is about really being present with what is right.
If we're going to be able to really enjoy that moment, we have to be able to slow down and give it attention, right? So it can encode in, but. I feel like a lot of us are just getting lo our attention is being fragmented and lost and distracted like exponentially these days. It's, I don't know, Are you seeing that feeling that, and with your clients or yourself?
[00:32:02] Dr Shauna Shapiro: And I already gave you my favorite phrase, which is what you practice grow stronger. But my second favorite phrase is that attention. is our most valuable resource. It's not time, it's not money. It's your attention. Where you put your attention becomes your life, and as you're pointing out, so beautiful.
We tend to have very reactive attention, like our smartphone rings and we react. We don't choose intentionally where we put our attention, and that's really the goal of this journal is to put people back in choice and to say, How do you wanna spend your time? And more importantly, Where do you wanna put your attention and to teach you to focus your attention because it's a muscle and you can develop it.
And one of the practices in the book is developing your mindfulness, your ability to see clearly and pay attention instead of going through life on automatic pilot where you're just, you're reacting, you're like a ping pong ball instead of being in. Yeah. Beautiful.
[00:33:04] Hunter: So how do you practice that personally Like retaining your attention?
How do you had said you have teenagers, you have a busy life, you have a practice. I know what it's like to be an author and to write the book. There's a lot of demands on your time. How do you pr, how do you practice that personally today?
[00:33:23] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Yeah, so a couple different ways. One, I, for me, my morning practice is very important and so unless it's an emergency, that's my anchor and I'll explain why morning is such an important time.
So first of all, when we wake up, we're in, our brain is in a theta state, which is very trainable. It's very suggestible, and so it's an really important time. Instead of reaching for your smartphone or looking at the news or all the things you have to do that day, it's a really important time to protect the mind and kind of train your attention, train your clarity, and also set your intention for the day to.
orient yourself. Okay, So that's the first thing. The the very first thing I do while I'm still lying in bed is I do the good morning. I love you practice, and I really encourage people to try it. , even if you can just put your hand on your heart first thing in the morning and just bring that love and attention to yourself, it sets the trajectory of the day in a different way.
So that's first. And then I'll sit for a period of time to to gather. And I think for me it's really important to bookend my day. So I'll start with that. . And then at the end of the day, in the night is when I'll do my loving kindness practice. And that again, is very short and I'll just go through all the people that I love that kind of pop into my mind and all the kids and my parents and my in-laws and also just, patients I'm working with, students I'm working with.
Whoever's just touched me that day. And I'll just send. My love and kindness. May you be peaceful, may you be happy, may you be healthy. And especially during pandemic, I found this practice incredibly helpful, that for so much of the time I couldn't see a lot of my friends and family and was really missing them.
And this was a way instead of missing them where I could just connect with them and feel my love for them. And I think that, Is really important. I think a lot of times when we miss people or we're worried about them, and I think especially for parents, this is very relevant. We tend to feel the pain of the miss or the pain of the fear.
So if my son is struggling, I almost have this like empathic, resonance where I'm in pain too, right? And any parent knows that when you see your kid, even if they hurt themselves, it's the, you're the pain, you feels real. But what research shows is that when we empathize with someone's pain, it lights up the pain centers of our brain.
You can imagine over time that would burn you out, . Yeah. So the key is not to distance or separate. You still wanna feel what someone else is feeling, but the key is to drop down to compassion, which is your care and your desire to help. And what's so fascinating, and this was done at University of Switzerland, is that when you put people on brain scanners and they feel compassion, the neural circuits of joy and positivity light up in the.
When they feel empathy, the pain centers light up. So what the love and kindness practice helped me do so much is even for family members or friends who were struggling, I could focus on my love for them and on my deep and pure desire to help and send love and kindness. And that kind of one helped me feel stay connected, but two, help me not burn out and get overwhelmed by the amount of suffering in the.
[00:36:55] Hunter: That's so fascinating, that difference between empathy and compassion. It's so interesting to, to think about and it, and of course like both are useful, but it reminds me of then Lisa Feldman Barrett talking about sort of the emotions and how they, track between positive and negative and then high intensity affect versus, slow, calm intensity affect.
And that kind of makes me imagine that empathy and compassion are like in that sim they're just in that. Versus that positive negative divide, right? Like there, there's a very similar vibe to both of them, but that's crazy that the empathy triggers our pain centers where, that's fascinating,
[00:37:43] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Empathy. Empathy is it's a gateway to compassion, right? You have to know someone's in pain before you can. Can, feel the compassion. Yeah. So empathy's not bad, which I appreciate that it's not, we're not saying bad or good, we're just saying this is what happens when you feel it. And you don't wanna get stuck in empathy.
You wanna use it as a doorway into compassion. And I think for parents, this is so important because when we get all riled up, when our kids in pain and then we're like, Oh my God, oh my, It doesn't soothe them, nor doesn't ourselves. That's not . When we feel compassion for them though, it actually calms us down and we're able to give our best selves.
So for me as a professor training therapist, this is one of the most important things I teach them is the difference between empathy and compassion. And really that compassion is like this protective suit, right? I say you never wanna distance, we were taught so much in the medical profession, just keep distant from your patients.
You never wanna care too much. I understand where they were going with it, but it wasn't the right direction. That really, you wanna actually lean in deeper and feel your love and your care for them, and that's what's protective.
[00:38:49] Hunter: Yeah. It's interesting and it's Yeah, going through empathy into compassion.
I love that. So it's not it's not like we're robots, we're not unfeeling, we're feeling, and then we're moving to the, that open space of compassion and may you be well, may you be peaceful, may you be healthy, et cetera. That's so beautiful. Wow. So I. Love all this. I love, I think it's so important that we talk about this all the time because there's so many who struggle with harsh inner critic, harsh self voice.
I think that's really real and I know a lot of people feel that is their, That is, they're really stuck with that. And what you're offering is that is not true. That you are not stuck with that. That you have some choices, you have some ways to grow. You have some that neuroplasticity to change this, which is beautiful.
So I just would like to end with like, how for parents, We're like, I wanna give everything to my child. I just, maybe we can underline how is this practice, how is this self-compassion practice helping parents with their relationship with their child?
[00:40:13] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Yes. That's such a great question because I think as parents we do, we feel like we wanna give everything to our children and we almost feel selfish when we practice self-compassion or or I don't deserve it, or I don't need it, or I shouldn't take this time, I'll start with the research as I always.
What the research shows is that parents who identify as more compassionate with themselves are rated as more compassionate by their children, by their spouses, and by their. So when you're compassionate with yourself, it actually is and makes sense. You're strengthening that compassion muscle, you're able to give it out.
So the first thing I would say is you're never just practicing for yourself. That everything you do ripples out into the world. And so when you practice self-compassion, it's actually cultivating greater compassion in this world. So that's the first thing. The second thing in terms of how to begin, There are three key steps to self-compassion, and they're quite simple, and we've talked about the first two a lot.
So the first one's mindfulness. The first thing is you just have to name your emotion. I'm scared, I'm angry. It's just being present with your own pain. And a lot of parents, we step right over that, so , that's the first step. You slow down and you name, I'm overwhelmed, whatever it is. The second step, you bring kindness to yourself.
And again, that's radical. It's just so unusual for us to be on our own team. So that's number two. The third step, which for me has been the most transformational, is what's called common humanity. So the third step is in that moment of pain or frustration or anger, we remind ourselves we're not alone.
We remind ourselves, I'm not the only mom that just yelled at. And then you think about all the other parents in the world who are struggling and you send your compassion out to them. and then you breathe it back in for yourself. And there's this widening, right? Because normally when we're suffering, we think I'm the only one.
We isolate in our pain. And this last part of self-compassion, it just expands to include everyone. And I remember when I was working with this beautiful young mother with breast cancer, and we were doing a lot of self-compassion. But it wasn't really like landing for her, and it wasn't until we got to that third step where she thought of all the other women facing chemotherapy and facing surgery, and she started sending compassion out to them and then breathing it back in for herself, where all of a sudden she was like, I'm not alone, and I still have this power and strength to be able to give compassion, not just feel like the victim, for anyone who's wanting to start. And this practice, of course, is in my book as well, but I think for me, that's one of the most powerful practices is, and it's, you can do it in 30 seconds. You name your emotion with mindfulness, you bring kindness and then you send it back out into the world and you're like, Okay, yeah.
[00:43:07] Hunter: to what I was doing, . Yeah. Yeah. I can begin a noon now. I love that. I love that. Shauna, thank you so much for sharing this for the journal putting this out in a way that, is easy and accessible for people. It's really a wonderful thing to do. And thank you for your time and coming back on the Mindful Mama podcast.
If I didn't mention it before, Shanna was on episode 100 way back in 2018. You can go ahead and listen to that episode as well. But thank you so much for coming on and where can people. Find up out more about you if they wanna continue learning.
[00:43:44] Dr Shauna Shapiro: Yeah. So if you have any follow up questions or you wanna reach out, I always respond on my website, dr shauna shapiro.com where you can reach me on Instagram.
It's at Dr. Shauna Shapiro.
[00:43:55] Hunter: Awesome. Thank you so much. Catch new episodes of the Mindful Mama podcast and other free resources, including the Mindful Mom Guide at Mindful Mama mentor dot. You can listen to every back catalog episode, including interviews with Dr. Dan Siegel, Yala Vanzant, Sharon Salberg, and get meditations.
Join our private Facebook group and more. Go to Mindful Mama mentor.com Now, I'll see you there.