What’s the last little mistake you made? Are you still beating yourself up about it? If you’re still holding onto guilt and shame, you’re not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with you. We all tend to ruminate on the bad. And actually, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Emotions like guilt, especially, are indicator emotions: letting us know something isn’t right, and reminding us what our true values are. But so often we punish ourselves, and that can hold us back from showing up for ourselves and others in the way we want to.
In the latest episode of Happiness Break—a podcast series from our partners at The Science of Happiness—Alex Elle guides us through a practice in forgiving ourselves. It’s something that more of us need to do than we may realize, and something that can be a lot harder to do than it sounds. Alex is a renowned poet, breathwork coach, restorative writing teacher, and author of the forthcoming book of poetry How We Heal.
We know from research that practicing self-compassion helps us grow from our regrets, that it can make us more accepting about whatever it is that happened, and that acceptance leads to a motivation to improve.
Self-forgiveness also supports our parasympathetic nervous system, including the vagus nerve, which regulates heart rates and is a key player in our social connections.
Alex’s meditation is soothing and powerful all at once, in no small part thanks to her talent as a poet. Take a listen, and if you’d like to learn more about self-forgiveness, poetry, and Alex, check out some of the resources we’ve pulled together below.
DK: “The guide of this week’s Happiness Break by The Science of Happiness podcast is Alex Elle. She’s a visionary in the realm of real, meaningful “self-care,” and an important voice in our time. Learn more from her in this episode of On Being.”
DK: “We might not realize it, but our relationship to any given emotion is always in flux, across time and across cultures. Like how nostalgia, for example, was once considered a deadly serious affliction; today, it’s often spoken of fondly. It’s a powerful idea to behold: How might we change the way we think about feelings like shame and guilt?”
DK: “Self-compassion is a crucial part of self-forgiveness. My friend and colleague Kristen Neff has pioneered the study of self-compassion, and she came on Happiness Break by The Science of Happiness to guide a short practice in cultivating self-compassion. I highly recommend you give it a try.”
DK: “‘There are days when you drop the ball completely. There are days when you are so good at giving yourself grace. My friend, you are learning. Let the days come, the good ones, and the bad ones, and the ones in between.’ This guided practice on self-love and gratitude by Alex Elle is one part meditation and one part poem.”
Letting go of our regrets can motivate us to improve and help us grow. Alex Elle, a certified breathwork and writing coach, guides us through a meditation to forgive and accept ourselves.
Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., is the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Keltner is also the host of the Greater Good Science Center’s award-winning podcast, The Science of Happiness as well as their new series, Happiness Break. In each episode, an expert guides you through a happiness practice you can do in real-time and Dr. Keltner shares the science behind it. All in under ten minutes.
In addition, he is the best-selling author of The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence and Born to Be Good, a co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct, and author of the forthcoming book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.