The Power of Self-Compassion Exercises: 15 Techniques + Worksheet




Person practicing Self-Compassion Exercises with their partner. Warm light around them.

Self-compassion exercises, as critical parts of one’s mental health regimen, involve showing a degree of kindness and understanding toward yourself when you, as a person, find yourself suffering, failing, or feeling inadequate in some way.

These exercises prompt each individual to consider the aspects of their lives wherein they may often overlook the importance of self-care. They involve treating yourself with the same compassion you would show to a good friend, offering a sense of comfort in the face of things that may challenge or dismay you.

Here is the free PDF worksheet I commonly use for Self-Compassion Exercises, and I put a check in each box after completion: Worksheet

Key Takeaways

  • Self-compassion provides emotional resilience by offering understanding and kindness when you suffer or feel inadequate.
  • Simple exercises like the self-compassion break, loving-kindness meditation, supportive self-talk, and body language cultivate self-compassion.
  • Look for the lesson when you make mistakes. See failures as learning opportunities instead of judgments on self-worth.
  • Validate feelings, practice self-forgiveness, and remember common humanity. The more you understand yourself and feel connected to others, the easier self-compassion becomes.
  • Make self-care and acts of kindness for others daily priorities. A caring mindset overflows into compassion for yourself and the whole world.

Self-compassion provides emotional strength and resilience, allowing you the space to admit your shortcomings, motivate yourself with kindness, forgive yourself when necessary, and involve yourself in aspects of the shared human experience. This can be especially important in moments of isolation, when the prospect of reaching out to others may seem daunting. Each piece of these practices serves a significant goal in improving mental well-being.

Why Self-Compassion Matters

Many of us are quick to show compassion to others when they are struggling. However, it is essential to remember that we are not separate from others in these experiences, and we often judge and criticize ourselves at the very times we need kindness the most.

Self-compassion is a powerful encounter, adjusting conversations we have with ourselves, and, in turn, playing an essential role in the improvement of emotional well-being and happiness. It can help you:

  • Avoid destructive habits like perfectionism and people-pleasing
  • Bounce back faster from challenges and disappointments
  • Improve motivation through self-kindness rather than criticism
  • Relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Have more compassion toward others

Self-compassion provides emotional strength, allowing you to admit your shortcomings and motivate yourself with kindness rather than criticism. It is a step in the journey of understanding that failure is a part of life’s situations that everyone experiences.

Research by leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff shows that self-compassion is strongly associated with emotional well-being. People who score high in self-compassion have greater life satisfaction and experience less anxiety, depression, rumination, and perfectionism. This shows how each person’s health can benefit from the positive aspects that self-compassion brings to our lives.

Greater Good Magazine suggests treating yourself as you would treat a dear friend who is struggling, as a simple way to start being kinder to yourself

If you’re new to self-compassion, learning exercises and practices can help you embody it more fully in your life. Here are 15 steps toward self-compassion to try. Remember, starting small and focusing on one piece at a time is the goal.

Tip: Start small. Focus on one self-compassion exercise at a time. With practice, self-compassion can become an integral part of your reality, easing isolation and fostering a healthier mental state.

15 Self-Compassion Exercises

1. The Self-Compassion Break

This exercise by Kristin Neff offers a simple and fast way to calm difficult emotions and soothe yourself with care. Use it whenever you notice you are feeling stress, emotional pain, or inadequacy. These steps call to initiate a conversation with yourself, acknowledging things that may be troubling you and using self-compassion as the goal to alleviate these concerns.

  • Step 1: When you notice mental or emotional suffering, place your hands over your heart, feeling the gentle touch of your hands and warmth from your heart. Say to yourself “This is a moment of suffering” or use other words acknowledging your pain.
  • Step 2: Say to yourself “Suffering is a part of life.” This connects your personal experience to the wider human experience.
  • Step 3: Say words of comfort to yourself, as you would to a friend in need, such as “May I be kind to myself right now.” Feel the intention and gentle tone behind your words.

This self-soothing break can quickly shift you from self-criticism to self-compassion. It activates your caregiving system, releasing oxytocin that alleviates stress; a small, yet mighty step towards better mental health.

2. Loving-Kindness Meditation

This meditation exercise develops goodwill and warm feelings toward yourself and others. It involves mentally sending positive intentions first to yourself, then to loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and finally all beings. In doing so, you recognize the shared aspects of the human experience, offering compassion across various parts of your life.

  • Get into a comfortable seated position and allow your eyes to gently close. Take a few deep breaths.
  • Bring your awareness to your heart center. Visualize someone or something you feel unconditional love toward. Feel the warm, tender, affectionate feeling.
  • Now bring this warm feeling to yourself, perhaps picturing yourself as a child. Mentally repeat loving phrases, such as “May I be safe, may I be peaceful, may I be kind to myself.” Feel the intention and warmth behind your words.
  • Next extend the warm feelings and intentions to loved ones, then acquaintances, people you have difficulty with, and finally all beings everywhere.
  • Gently open your eyes and reflect on any feelings of warmth, goodwill and connection. Carry this mindset into your day.

Practicing loving-kindness meditation for just 10-15 minutes a day can help boost compassion toward yourself and others. It’s a significant step towards improving the conversation you have with yourself and the way you perceive the world around you.

3. Change Your Self-Talk

The way we talk to ourselves plays a significant role in self-compassion. Are you, as a person, encouraging and understanding toward yourself? Or overly critical? Changing negative self-talk to kinder language makes a difference and represents a crucial piece of the journey towards self-compassion.

  • Notice when self-criticism arises in your mind. The inner critic often uses the word “should” – “I should have done better.”
  • Catch yourself, then reframe the self-talk using kinder language, as if talking to a friend. For example: “I did the best I could in this situation. Everyone makes mistakes.”
  • Speak to yourself with the tone you would use with someone you care about. Hear the difference in emotional impact between critical and kind self-talk.

Paying attention to your inner voice and reworking negative self-talk into words of understanding and encouragement builds self-compassion over time. Recognizing that failures and setbacks are parts of the lives we all share can help alleviate feelings of isolation and foster a healthier perception of oneself.

4. Write a Letter to Yourself

This writing exercise offers a way to identify what you really need to hear, especially in difficult times. Writing self-compassionate letters helps identify what you need in challenging times. Keep the letter to read again whenever you need comfort and support.

  • Identify a situation where you feel inadequate or are struggling. Write about the situation and how it makes you feel.
  • Now write a letter to yourself expressing understanding, validation and kindness – like you would to a close friend feeling the same way. Offer comfort, encouragement, and whatever you need to hear.
  • Read the letter slowly, really letting the words land. Notice how this supportive message from your best self makes you feel.

Your body language impacts your self-talk, emotions and mindset. Open, relaxed posture and warm facial expressions help create self-compassion. These small things can make significant changes in how we perceive and converse with ourselves.

5. Change Your Body Language

Use supportive body language whenever you need to cultivate self-compassion. It sends signals to your brain to relax and release feel-good hormones, promoting a feeling of wellness throughout all aspects of your person.

  • Notice when you feel stress or emotional discomfort. How are you sitting or standing? Is your face tense or frowning?
  • Adjust your posture to be more open – stand or sit tall with shoulders back and head high. Relax your facial muscles.
  • Put your hands on your heart and feel the gentle warmth. Allow your face to soften into a slight smile.
  • Notice how these simple physical shifts help you feel more open, peaceful and kind toward yourself in that moment.

Self-compassion involves recognizing that failures and setbacks are parts of life for everyone. When you fall short or make a mistake, avoid getting lost in self-criticism by quickly pivoting to ask yourself: What is the lesson here?

6. Find the Lesson

Looking for the lesson helps you feel less alone and more motivated for positive change. This pivot from judgment to learning is central to self-compassion. Remembering the shared aspects of humanity can alleviate feelings of isolation and offer a new perspective towards the things that challenge you.

  • Think of a recent difficulty, shortcoming or situation you wish went better. Notice any self-criticism that arises.
  • Now ask yourself: What is one key lesson I can take from this experience? How can this help me grow or make better choices in the future?
  • Write down the lesson so you remember to reflect on it later. Know that everyone experiences failures and learning opportunities.

It’s easy to get stuck in self-criticism and forget different ways to view a situation. Getting a fresh perspective helps with self-compassion, allowing you to refocus your conversation with yourself towards more productive and compassionate ends.

7. Get a Fresh Perspective

Woman meditating around plants and getting a fresh perspective about life.

Seeing a situation through other lenses loosens the grip of self-criticism so you can respond to yourself more compassionately. This ability to reframe experiences is an essential step in the journey towards self-compassion.

  • Describe a difficulty or perceived shortcoming you are self-critical about. Write down how you view the situation.
  • Now, imagine the challenge from different angles. How would a trusted friend describe it? A neutral third party? Your future self in a year?
  • Write down these perspectives. Notice new learning, values, or choices you see. Let go of harsh self-judgments.

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with openness and curiosity. This allows you to fully experience life versus judging yourself. These mindful check-ins can provide a respite from negative thoughts and bring you into the richness of the current moment, fostering self-compassion.

8. Practice Mindfulness

Journaling offers space for reflection and self-understanding that fosters self-compassion. Try these journaling prompts that promote deeper conversation with oneself about the challenges and things occurring in our lives.

  • Set a reminder to pause several times a day. When it goes off, pause and spend 1-2 minutes tuning into the moment.
  • Notice sights, sounds, and physical sensations around you. If thoughts or emotions arise, avoid judging them as good or bad. Just label them and return focus to the senses.
  • End with a few deep breaths. Feel any greater sense of calm, clarity, or connection to the world around you.

Journaling helps give perspective on failures and shortcomings that often trigger self-criticism. It develops greater self-understanding and compassion, proving to be a vital piece in the puzzle of achieving better mental health.

9. Keep a Self-Compassion Journal

Being caring toward yourself in daily life is the foundation of self-compassion. Make self-care a priority through focused steps that promote healthier habits and nurture a more compassionate self-conversation.

  • Write about a difficult situation, then list the emotions and unmet needs behind it. Respond with understanding and validation.
  • Make a two column list – negative self-talk on one side, more compassionate responses on the other. Vent hurtful self-talk, then reframe it.
  • Write a letter to yourself expressing complete understanding for a failure or inadequacy you feel bad about. Offer kindness and encouragement.
  • List past challenges you have overcome. Reflect on the learning and strength gained. Appreciate how far you’ve come.

Consistent self-care helps you internalize that you matter. It prevents stress that often triggers judgment and self-criticism, thereby improving the overall health of your person.

10. Practice Self-Care

Seeing that imperfections and struggles are shared by all takes the sting out of self-criticism. You are not alone. We all have aspects of our lives that challenge us and times when we fall short of our expectations. Self-compassion encourages us to embrace these parts of our shared human experience with kindness.

  • Healthy habits – nutritious eating, restful sleep, exercise, relaxing activities. Make your basic needs a top concern.
  • Comfort and care – warm baths, soothing music, cozy clothes. Give yourself what makes you feel nurtured.
  • Appreciation – keep a gratitude journal for daily blessings large and small. It builds positive mindset.
  • Saying no – decline commitments that compromise self-care. Protect your energy and wellbeing.
  • Supportive people – invest time with uplifting family/friends who help you feel cared for.

Remembering common humanity helps you respond less harshly to perceived flaws and keep perspective. We all struggle and feel inadequate sometimes. This recognition offers an essential conversation with ourselves about the shared parts of our lives and reminds us that we are, indeed, not alone in our struggles.

11. Find Common Humanity

The most compassionate people tend to view failure less as a verdict on self-worth and more as feedback to learn from. This perspective forms the foundation of self-compassion, providing steps towards a more understanding and compassionate relationship with oneself.This mentality, like an unyielding type of resilience, arms you with the resources to vigorously bounce back in even the most testing moments.

  • Think of a perceived flaw, failure, or inadequacy you feel bad about. Name the emotion – resentment, disappointment, shame?
  • Now consider that this is an experience shared by every single human being at some point. We all encounter the same core emotions.
  • Let this perspective soften your judgment and help you feel connected. We are all in this together.

Allowing failure to cultivate wisdom makes it easier to respond with self-compassion. You find the courage to face the version of yourself that struggles, and you realize failure is not who you are. It is the event that happened and what you learn from it that matters.

12. Turn Failure Into Wisdom

Woman in field practicing kinhin. Sunlight in a green field

In the midst of understanding difficult feelings rather than repressing them, self-compassion begins to bloom. This honest introspection can raise unsettling questions, but it also assists in the process of healing.

  • Think of a recent failure or mistake on your part. Notice any shame or negative labels about yourself that arise.
  • Now ask yourself: if someone I cared about made this same mistake, what would I say to them? Generate words of understanding, validation and encouragement.
  • Look for the lesson. How can this experience help you grow in positive ways? Failure is feedback for the wise among us.

By treating your emotions with kindness, you are validating your feelings, which then keeps you connected to your subjective experience. This process helps you to acknowledge and manage your emotions, moving forward instead of ignoring them until they inevitably resurface.

13. Validate Your Feelings

Forgiving yourself and letting go of resentment at past mistakes is an act of self-compassion that facilitates emotional healing. This act of generosity towards oneself can offer innumerable benefits.

  • When you notice emotional pain, name the feelings – “I feel sad right now” or “I am frustrated.” Avoid judging the emotions.
  • Tell yourself “My feelings make sense right now given this challenging situation.” Validate rather than berate yourself for normal reactions.
  • Put a hand on your heart, take some deep breaths. Provide any comfort you need in that moment – a hug, cup of tea, walk outside.

When practicing self-forgiveness, you awaken self-compassion, allowing you to stagger lighter into each moment, free from the shackles of past mistakes. After all, no one is immune to erring. We have all made mistakes.

14. Practice Forgiveness

Volunteering or serving others diverts your attention away from your own imperfections. It not only boosts feel-good hormones but also promotes a change in perspective, nurturing healthier relationships with others and ourselves.

  • Bring to mind a past situation where you made a regrettable choice or wish you had acted differently. Notice any lingering resentment.
  • Write a letter to yourself expressing complete forgiveness and understanding for your past self in that situation. Offer the forgiveness you deserve.
  • Going forward, remind yourself that you acted based on the awareness and maturity you had at that time. Let it go with love.

When self-compassion overflows, it takes the form of compassion for others. Extending goodwill beyond yourself provides a massive shift in perspective, providing reassurance that you can survive anything life throws your way.

15. Do Something Kind

Self-compassion exercises provide a wellspring of emotional strength and resilience. They help you navigate through tough times with greater ease, leading you towards a happier, more fulfilling life.

  • Make a list of acts of kindness you can easily incorporate into your routine – holding the door for someone, waving people ahead of you in line, smiling and saying hi to strangers.
  • Schedule one or two 20-30 minute blocks in your week for volunteering – at an animal shelter, food bank, or helping a neighbor.
  • Let go of your own troubles for this brief time and get fully immersed in the act of service. Feel the shared humanity.

Learning self-compassion isn’t an immediate transformation; it takes practice through exercises, meditation, journaling, and developing new habits of mind that consciously counter the tendency to self-criticize. You can start small. Build momentum with the self-compassion break whenever you notice harsh self-judgment arise. Gradually incorporate other exercises into your life and experience your compassion and understanding grow.


Various powerful self-compassion exercises are available that you can incorporate into your daily routines. This may include simple self-compassion practices like taking a mental break, practicing mindful self-compassion, or guided meditation. When you’re having trouble in a particular situation, a self-compassion break, a small act of generosity towards yourself, can significantly benefit you.

Practicing self-compassion exercises regularly not only helps you express gentleness to yourself, but these exercises also aid in developing more empathy and compassion towards others. When we learn to be kind to ourselves, our relationships with others naturally grow softer and more supportive.

FAQ on Self-Compassion Exercises

Q: What are some powerful self-compassion exercises one can practice daily?

A: The main components of self-compassion, often referenced in self-compassion research, include self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. These elements form the very heart of self-compassion, shaping the type of healthy relationship we can form with ourselves.

Q: Can a self-compassion exercise help me to show more compassion to others?

A: Yes, several studies have indicated that regular practice of self-compassion exercises provides significant benefits to mental health. These exercises can help reduce anxiety, depression, and stress while increasing resilience and overall life satisfaction, in moments both good and bad.

Q: What are the main components of self-compassion?

A: A self-compassion worksheet is essentially designed to guide you through a series of exercises. These processes aim to foster understanding, learning, and practice of self-compassion, focusing on key elements like self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. The worksheet also shares techniques on how these components can be incorporated into your daily life events.

Q: Can self-compassion exercises improve mental health?

A: Practicing self-compassion means lavishing yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a good friend who’s navigating through rough seas. It involves acknowledging your own suffering, recognizing that suffering is a shared human experience, then offering yourself warmth and non-judgmental understanding.

Q: What will I find in a self-compassion worksheet?

A: If you’re a beginner in the praxis of self-compassion, you might want to initiate with straightforward exercises. Starting with guided meditations focusing on self-love and empathy can be beneficial. Another helpful exercise would be a quick self-compassion break. This involves acknowledging the stain of hardship, and then treating yourself with kindness and empathy.

Q: What does practicing self-compassion mean?

A: Absolutely, self-compassion exercises are firmly rooted in science. Research persistently demonstrates that these exercises can improve mental health, emotional resilience, and overall well-being. The benefits accrued justify why these exercises are often implemented in psychotherapy and counseling practices.

Q: I’m new to the concept of self-compassion. What exercises should I try first?

A: Practicing self-compassion is a vital aspect of self-love. When you practice self-compassion, you accept and love your true version. You acknowledge your shortcomings devoid of judgment, punish yourself less. This way, you nurture a grander sense of personal worth, promoting self-love and self-acceptance.

Q: Are self-compassion exercises backed by science?

A: While therapists and counselors can offer valuable guidance when practicing self-compassion exercises, they are not always necessary. Many of these exercises like simple self-compassion, guided meditation, and quick self-compassion breaks can be done independently. However, if you’re facing challenges, professional guidance can be of great help.

Q: How does practicing self-compassion correlate with self-love?

A: Practicing self-compassion is a significant aspect of self-love. When you practice self-compassion, you accept and love yourself as is, acknowledging your shortcomings without judgment and punishing yourself less. This leads to a greater sense of personal worth, promoting self-love and self-acceptance.

Q: Does practicing self-compassion exercises require professional guidance?

A: While therapists and counselors can provide helpful guidance when practicing self-compassion exercises, they are not always necessary. Many of these exercises, such as simple self-compassion, guided meditation, and taking a quick self-compassion break, can be performed by oneself. However, if you’re having trouble, professional guidance is recommended.

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