Self-Compassion Break

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 5 mins
(14 member ratings)

Time Required

5 minutes. While it may be challenging to do this practice every time you face a stressful situation, an initial goal could be to try it at least once per week.

How to Do It

1. Think of a situation in your life that is difficult and is causing you stress.

2. Call the situation to mind and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.

3. Now say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering.” This acknowledgment is a form of mindfulness—of simply noticing what is going on for you emotionally in the present moment, without judging that experience as good or bad. You can also say to yourself, “This hurts,” or, “This is stress.” Use whatever statement feels most natural to you.

4. Next, say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life.” This is a recognition of your common humanity with others—that all people have trying experiences, and these experiences give you something in common with the rest of humanity rather than mark you as abnormal or deficient. Other options for this statement include “Other people feel this way,” “I’m not alone,” or “We all struggle in our lives.”

5. Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch on your chest, and say, “May I be kind to myself.” This is a way to express self-kindness. You can also consider whether there is another specific phrase that would speak to you in that particular situation. Some examples: “May I give myself the compassion that I need,” “May I accept myself as I am,” “May I learn to accept myself as I am,” “May I forgive myself,” “May I be strong,” and “May I be patient.”

This practice can be used any time of day or night. If you practice it in moments of relative calm, it might become easier for you to experience the three parts of self-compassion—mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness—when you need them most.

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 5 mins
(14 member ratings)

Why You Should Try It

Difficult situations become even harder when we beat ourselves up over them, interpreting them as a sign that we’re less capable or worthy than other people. In fact, we often judge ourselves more harshly than we judge others, especially when we make a mistake or feel stressed out. That makes us feel isolated, unhappy, and even more stressed; it may even make us try to feel better about ourselves by denigrating other people.

Rather than harsh self-criticism, a healthier response is to treat yourself with compassion and understanding. According to psychologist Kristin Neff, this “self-compassion” has three main components: mindfulness, a feeling of common humanity, and self-kindness. This exercise walks you through all three of those components when you’re going through a stressful experience. Research suggests that people who treat themselves with compassion rather than criticism in difficult times experience greater physical and mental health. 

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 5 mins
(14 member ratings)

Evidence That It Works

Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28-44.

Participants in an eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program, which included practicing the self-compassion break, among other exercises, reported feeling greater self-compassion at the end of the program than they had at the beginning. Their self-compassion at the end of the eight weeks was also greater than that of a comparison group that didn’t participate in the program. The MSC participants also reported greater mindfulness and life satisfaction, and lower depression, anxiety, and stress, than the comparison group.   

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 5 mins
(14 member ratings)

Why It Works

The three elements in this practice—mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness—all play important roles in increasing self-compassion. Mindfulness allows people to step back and recognize that they are experiencing suffering, without judging that suffering as something bad that they should try to avoid; sometimes people fail to notice when they are in pain, or deny that they are suffering because it brings up feelings of weakness or defeat. Common humanity reminds people of their connection with other people—all of whom suffer at some point in their lives—and eases feelings of loneliness and isolation. Self-kindness is an active expression of caring toward the self that can help people clarify their intentions for how they want to treat themselves.

Going through these steps in response to a stressful experiences can help people replace their self-critical voice with a more compassionate one, one that comforts and reassures rather than berating them for shortcomings. That makes it easier to work through stress and reach a place of calm, acceptance, and happiness.

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 5 mins
(14 member ratings)


Kristin Neff, Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin
​Center for Mindful Self-Compassion

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 5 mins
(14 member ratings)

For More

Difficulty: Casual | Frequency: 1x/day | Duration: 5 mins
(14 member ratings)

Completion Status

Comments & Reviews

  1. Jacqui
    September 7, 2018

    very useful!!

  2. Zivio!
    June 5, 2018

    So simple it may not seem that profound, but I'm finding that practicing it fairly frequently has been effective for derailing inchoate feelings of bleakness for me.

  3. Robin
    March 12, 2018

    Is there a link where I can PLAY this? I'm confused if it's a guided practice I can play, or if I just print out the directions and do it myself? It looks like I should be able to play it

  4. ana m reachi
    ana m reachi
    February 21, 2018

    Two words......Pema Chodron

  5. RhondaRenee
    November 29, 2017


  6. Ruth Murillo
    Ruth Murillo
    February 11, 2017

    I am going to start practicing this exercise. Thank you!

  7. Loretta S Blevins
    Loretta S Blevins
    February 6, 2017

    I liked the ability to exercise my mind through my feelings and also my body through relaxation. I was able to take a different perspective in just a few minutes, all while on a break from my daily routines. The thoughtful guidance through this process is very helpful.

  8. Camila Mello
    Camila Mello
    January 16, 2017

    A very casual practice that worked pretty well for me. I used it to deal with binge eating, something I've been struggling with for a long time. I focused on one episode of mindless, excessive snacking, and what I've noticed was that the feeling of guilt slowly faded away, that I became I bit more mindful when making snack choices, and that the inner conflict has been toned down, allowing me to be calmer and less disappointed at myself. But I only started to feel those benefits after day 4 of the practice, so if you decide to try this, go all the way.

  9. Lauri Miranda
    Lauri Miranda
    January 11, 2017

    I've been using this (when I remember) since a class I took on self-compassion with Brene Brown and Kristen Neff. It stops negative self-talk in it's tracks. I find it very helpful. Works well in a bathroom stall if you need to step away from a stressful situation too!

  10. Tasha Greenwood
    Tasha Greenwood
    January 10, 2017

    I like this a lot. Although for me, when I thought about the commonality of suffering, it made me feel more sad and alone. I feel like we're all suffering and there isn't anything we can do about. That may because of the nature of my specific stress (poverty/job insecurity), which seems insurmountable and the cause of much more suffering for others.

  11. Saranya Manoharan
    Saranya Manoharan
    November 13, 2016

    I love this. Brought about a new perspective for me. The only thing is, the statements for "self-kindness" feel very foreign to me. Instead I tried these: "I'm going to go easy on myself. I am going to be okay with the fact that I have procrastinated on this important project for months now. I'm going to be kind to myself as I complete this project bit by bit". Sharing this in hopes that it may help someone.

  12. Fide De Viáncha
    Fide De Viáncha
    February 13, 2016

    Es relajante sentir comsión por uno mismo

  13. Fide De Viáncha
    Fide De Viáncha
    February 13, 2016

    Es relajante sentir comsión por uno mismo

  14. Fide De Viáncha
    Fide De Viáncha
    February 13, 2016

    La compasión por mi misma refuerza mis sentimientos de humildad y seguridad

  15. Unic
    May 27, 2015

    A short break, but really effective for me! Fast action exercice! Try it and see what happens!

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