Mindful Self-Compassion

Mindfulness has traditionally been described as the awareness that occurs when intentionally acknowledging, in a non-judgmental way, the flow of experience that is occurring in the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). In other words, staying focused on the here and now. Self-compassion is the state of “being open to and moved by one’s own suffering so that we can experience feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, take in understanding, exhibit a non-judgmental attitude toward our inadequacies and failures, and recognize that our experience is part of the common human experience” (Neff, 2003a). Like mindfulness, practicing self-compassion, can have profound health benefits and operate as a remedy to self-criticism.

According to Kristen Neff (2003a), a leading expert in the field, self-compassion is an adaptive reaction to problems whereby individuals are mindfully aware of their difficulties and challenges, recognize and accept that suffering is universal, and offer themselves kindness and care instead of judgment and criticism during times of hardship. As a result of such efforts, we can learn to accept our internal critique (sometimes called “the inner critic”), manage difficult emotions with greater ease, and cultivate kindness towards ourselves and others.

Evidence (Neff et al., 2007) suggests that practicing self-compassion can:
• protect against anxiety and depression
• facilitate greater coping mechanisms
• foster resilience
• positively correlate with life satisfaction
• improve feelings of social connectedness
• enhance various personal strengths including: happiness, optimism, wisdom, and personal initiative

However, like everything else, developing this skill takes energy and practice! Some practical ways to begin cultivating self-compassion to move towards more improved psychological health are:
• practicing gratitude daily to positively reframe our perception of self and others
• practice more positive self-talk so that we can offer ourselves more kindness and forgiveness when needed
• begin treating ourselves as we would a dear friend with more love, support, and understanding

If you are interested in learning more, contact one of our counsellors to discuss how to apply mindful self-compassion into your daily life. Or check out some of the references listed below.

Written by Lisa Marie Passarelli


Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Context: Past, Present, and Future. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice, 10, 144–156. doi: 10.1093/clipsy.bpg016

Neff, K. D. (2003a). The Development and Validation of a Scale to Measure Self-Compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223-250. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298860309027

Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. (2018). The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive. Guildford Press.

Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-Compassion and Adaptive Psychological Functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139-154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2006.03.004