One of my favorite Buddhist principles distinguishes pain versus suffering through a concept called the “second arrow.” The idea here is that anytime we experience a challenge or misfortune, two arrows come our way – the first being the actual painful experience, and the second being self-inflicted pain, which typically manifests in the form of rumination and being our own worst critic.

The good news is that suffering is not an inevitable experience. It’s the thoughts we create, rather than the experience itself, that encourages suffering. While it’s empowering to realize that you can dictate the degree to which you suffer simply by how you train your mind to respond versus react to certain events, the caveat is that it’s very hard work. 

Learning to break negative thought patterns and embrace discomfort is no easy feat, and is something that we must continuously bring our attention towards to build greater emotional resilience. We are often our own worst critic, and research shows that those who ruminate and are overly self-critical are more likely to experience depression. What if every time we experienced a painful event, we could minimize suffering just by redirecting our attention and training our consciousness to intervene with greater calmness? 

Exercising self-compassion is a critical strategy to combat the impact of the “second arrow.” Being kind to your mind, and approaching your thoughts with nonjudgmental awareness can help mitigate suffering, or at least, shorten the duration of any negative feelings that may arise so you can bounce back quicker.

One initiative that brings this to life is the Be Kind to Your Mind campaign to benefit NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, led by Lokai – the iconic bracelet brand that helped a generation find balance. I had the opportunity to interview Steven Izen, founder of Lokai, on my podcast Everyday Endorphins, on ways to navigate the inevitable highs and lows of life. In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, Lokai is launching a special bracelet to serve as a simple reminder to find balance through the universal ups and downs, and $1 from each bracelet purchase will be donated to NAMI

As we are already halfway through May, I challenge you all to find ways to be kinder to your mind this Mental Health Awareness month. Whether it’s through the purchase of a Lokai bracelet, or picking up a new habit to boost your well-being, let this be a reminder to take time to practice greater self-compassion. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Lokai and Steven’s story, check out our podcast here, and make sure to follow along Everyday Endorphins for more tips on seeking out joy in daily living.