This week, my journey of the Science of happiness takes me to Self-Compassion and its role in happiness.

In this incredibly competitive society of ours, how many of us truly feel good about ourselves? As Kristin Neff, Uni of Texas writes in her book “Self-compassion”: “I’m not good enough. I’m worthless,” – especially when the goalposts for what counts as “good enough” seem always to remain out of reach. No matter how well we do, someone else always seems to be doing it better. The result of this line of thinking is sobering: Millions of people need to take meds every day just to cope with daily life. Insecurity, anxiety, and depression are incredibly common in our society, and much of this is due to self-judgment, to beating ourselves up when we feel we aren’t winning in the game of life.

So what’s the answer? To stop trying to label ourselves as “good” or “bad” and simply accept ourselves with an open heart. To treat ourselves with the same kindness, caring, and compassion we would show to a good friend—or even a stranger, for that matter. Let us give ourselves a hug and take a few breaths.

When things go wrong, we immediately want to fix it. Instead can we give ourselves a hug and take a few breaths. We can say to ourselves, this is really hard. This is really difficult. I need a little care and compassion to get thru this. Instead of trying to fix that problem, when we really aren’t at our best, at our most psychologically stable. Just acknowledge and validate how difficult the situation is before fixing problems.

We are told that Self-compassion is good for happiness, and it’s a skill that you can build over time, and introduce into your life as a mental habit of happiness. However it does take work to break the self-criticizing habits of a lifetime, but at the end of the day, you are only being asked to relax, allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself. It’s easier than you might think, and it could change your life.

“Self-compassion is the practice of quieting the inner-critic replacing it with a voice of support, understanding and care for oneself.” Kristin Neff. Carl Rogers put this very beautifully: “You know the curious paradox – and it is a paradox – is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.”

18 March 2015