Developing our self-compassionate muscles…

Kristin Neff, a seminal researcher on Self-Compassion, developed a short and affirming exercise called the self-compassion break (2019) and it is a favourite of mine. For this adapted exercise, you begin by closing your eyes and recalling a person or event that is triggering a stress response. Focus on the situation, engaging your heart and mind so that you experience the stress of that moment. From this space, you will talk to yourself just like you would talk to a dear friend. You will begin by mindfully reminding yourself that:

1. “This right now is a moment of stress” (or hurt, pain, suffering, whatever sounds most natural for you).

2. “You aren’t alone, these feelings (pain, suffering) is a normal (natural) part of life.” “Other’s struggle in this way too.”

3. Think of a phrase that you most need to hear right now, something that expresses empathy and kindness. For this, you can speak in the I, or continue to speak to yourself as you would a dear friend, whichever enables you to receive it best. For example, you might say:

“you deserve compassion in this moment”

“I fully love and accept you as you are right now”

“May you forgive yourself for not knowing then what you know now. Making mistakes and learning and growing as we go is part of life.”

“May you have the courage to be imperfect.”

“Even though I feel…. I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”

This self-compassionate exercise reminds us that difficult emotions are a part of life, that we are not alone, and that we are deserving of unconditonally positive regard.

Neff, K. (2019). The Self-Compassion Break. Retrieved from