Developing Effective Methods: How To Practice Self Compassion Daily

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Self-compassion may encompass positive feelings toward the self, such as warmth, understanding, and kindness, especially when faced with challenging situations or stressful life events. 

This type of compassion often comprises three components of self compassion: self-kindness, mindfulness, and humanity. You may develop self-compassion by treating yourself like you would a good friend, engaging in positive self talk, taking time to practice mindfulness, journaling, or prioritizing self-care to enhance your well being and self-esteem. 

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is often considered a sense of kindness, understanding, and warmth toward oneself when faced with difficult emotions, failures, or impaired judgment. Individuals with healthy levels of self-compassion often recognize and make a conscious effort to honor their self-kindness.

They might acknowledge that everyone can experience painful emotions and loss, and that, at times, our actions can control outcomes. Instead of criticizing themselves, self-compassionate people may honor their imperfections and move forward with grace for themselves.

When people see their family and friends feel pain because of mistakes or failures, they might offer comfort, concern, or forgiveness. For example, if someone is going through the loss of a job, a caring friend may respond by giving them a shoulder to cry on instead of telling the person they're a bad person or a lazy worker. 

Compassion can lead a caring person to react by offering encouragement, a listening ear, and positive affirmations. However, individuals with poor self-compassion may not offer the same levels of understanding to themselves as they would to someone else. They might look at their situation harshly and without allowance for inevitable human imperfection.

Developing self-compassion may improve your life

Why doesn’t everyone practice self-compassion?

Many believe that compassion is a commendable quality typically associated with an amalgam of attributes, including mercy, tenderness, benevolence, understanding, empathy, sympathy, and the impulse to help others. However, there may be less understanding or knowledge of self-compassion and practicing self-compassion.

There may be a tendency to associate self-compassion with negative attributes, including self-pity, self-indulgence, or selfishness. Some individuals may believe self-compassion is related to moral complacency or false pride.

Healthy self-compassion could require an element of wisdom to recognize our humanity and self-awareness. People may need to acknowledge that they are imperfect and may experience misfortune or difficulties in life.

People may feel shamed and isolated when they experience problems related to a mistake. For many who score low on Dr. Neff’s self-compassion assessment scale, the willingness to accept this shame may feel so ingrained that the support of a mental health professional may be necessary to work through it. In the meantime, they can work on developing positive emotions, self kindness common humanity, and staying in the present moment to foster more self compassion.

The three elements of self-compassion

Dr. Neff identified three elements of self-compassion that may impact how well individuals utilize personal action to alleviate their pain. The three elements are as follows.


Self-kindness can refer to the conscious decision to turn toward yourself with love and kindness against your inner critics instead of ignoring your internal pain. 

People who practice self-kindness may understand that when expectations are not met, grief may occur in the form of stress, frustration, or self-criticism. They may allow themselves to feel the pain and approach it healthily and with more compassion.

Studies show that suppressing or judging your emotions can be detrimental to your health, so learning to embrace self-kindness may be beneficial. 

In her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Kristin Neff discusses the fact that sometimes we just have to allow negative emotions to be part of life. Neff writes, “Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves from debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.”


Mindfulness often refers to pausing and being self aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment or condemnation. Mindfulness can require one to be fully present in the moment.

Recent studies show that practicing mindfulness meditation increases self-compassion. Short self compassion practice each day may be enough to help you meet your goals for self-actualization and self-love while reducing your self doubt.

Common humanity

The final element of self-compassion is often cited as “common humanity.” Common humanity can involve acknowledging that humans are bound and separated by external factors, including cultural, genetic, environmental, and familial differences. 

Additionally, all humans may have vulnerabilities that can bind us together. We may all experience loss, encounter frustrations, fail, endure disappointments, and fall short of our goals. Suffering is a common human experience. Recognizing that struggles in life are a common human experience can help you feel less frustrated and more inclined to practice self compassion when you’re going through a difficult time.

What are the benefits of self-compassion?

It can be common for individuals to reject the need to practice self-compassion. Some people may believe that being hard on themselves can make them better people. 

However, people with self-compassion often procrastinate less. They may understand that, although every action carries the potential of failure, mistakes won’t irrevocably damage their human worth. They will still retain their self confidence and self esteem even if something doesn’t go exactly as planned.

Try being patient and understanding to yourself the next time you need to complete a task that makes you feel pressured or stressed. You may find that leaning into self-compassion and allowing yourself the option to take a break is enough to make you do the task you were stressed about in the first place. When you stay positive, you can reframe the situation into something less intimidating.

How can you develop self-compassion?

Three distinct elements can be associated with the development of self-compassion. An individual might focus on self-kindness instead of self-judgment, work to achieve common humanity versus isolation, and develop mindfulness versus over-identification. As clarity is developed in these areas, it may be easier to maintain strategies to create meaningful change.

The following exercises developed by Dr. Neff may provide a starting point for developing healthy self-compassion.

Treat yourself like a friend

Treating yourself as a friend can involve considering how you would treat someone you love struggling with failure or disappointment. You might offer yourself words of assurance, actions of comfort, or an empathetic attitude. 

Compare these actions to how you typically respond to your struggles or failures. You might also reframe your opinion of yourself by considering how a friend would react to your situation.

Take a self-compassion break 

Take a self-compassion break by recalling a difficult time in your life and the emotional discomfort the situation caused in your body. Show compassion by placing your hands over your heart, gently touching your chest, and thinking loving thoughts toward yourself. 

It may help to allow yourself to accept shortcomings, forgive failures, and be patient with your humanity. It could also be beneficial to focus on how self-acceptance changes the level of physical discomfort you experience as you go through the self-compassion break. 

Write a letter from a friend

Consider writing a letter addressed to you from a friend. You might begin by writing about events from your past that made you feel bad about yourself. You could revisit times when you felt unattractive, unwanted, or inadequate. 

Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of an imaginary friend who offers only unconditional love and support. It can be helpful to allow this friend to look at your imperfections in the context of your life history. You can feel the warmth of this acceptance and allow it to soothe and comfort you.

If you want to utilize this self compassion practice in the future, consider writing a letter to your future self full of compassion and encouragement to open at a later date.

Complete “the chair exercise”

To try “the chair exercise,” use three empty chairs as you think about an issue that troubles you. Designate one chair as your inner self-critic, one as you being criticized, and one as a compassionate observer. Then, facilitate an imaginary discussion between the three. 

It may be helpful to roleplay all three parts and reflect on how you treat yourself in each. As a compassionate observer, you might pay careful attention to the words used by the self-critic. Then, you can compare those words to your feelings. Acknowledging the human condition and understanding that everyone can experience failure can be beneficial.

Change your negative self-talk

Research shows that positive self-talk has a positive impact on your self compassion. To work on changing your negative self-talk, create a blueprint for adjusting how you relate to yourself long-term. Some people may choose to work on their inner critic by writing in a journal; others might prefer internal dialogue. 

The first step may be to notice when you are self-critical and note the words you use. You might then attempt to soften the self-critical voice with compassion rather than self-judgment. 

It could be helpful to use physical gestures to tap into your caregiving system to release oxytocin that may help change your biochemistry. If you start acting kindly, feelings of warmth and caring may eventually follow. 

You might try to help yourself understand that change is a process and there may be lapses. Acknowledge those lapses and move forward with positive intentions.


Another strategy to develop self-compassion can be to maintain a self-compassion journal for a week or longer and record occurrences you felt negatively about, anything you judged yourself for, and challenging experiences that caused pain. 

Revisit each event with mindfulness, common humanity, and kindness. It might help to write about the emotions that occurred because of those difficult circumstances and reframe those experiences in a judgment-free way.

Think about what you want

With this strategy, you may identify ways you use self-criticism as a motivator and think of kinder, more positive ways to encourage yourself. You might think about goals you want to achieve and connect them to your desires or passions. 

It could help to find tangible incentives for action and focus on replacing criticism with affirming motivators to encourage the act of practicing self compassion. For example, instead of being self-critical when you make a mistake on an assignment, you could reward yourself with a bubble bath when you get an A on a future one. 

Prioritize self-care

Finally, you might give yourself permission to meet your own needs to enhance your quality of life, physical health, and your ability to be at your best for those who rely on you. Reading self-help books such as The Positively Present Guide can offer valuable tips and techniques to help individuals cultivate self-compassion and maintain a positive mindset during challenging times.

It may be beneficial to consider regular massages, yoga, meditation, or other interventions as necessary self-care measures, not indulgent practices.

Developing self-compassion may improve your life

Embrace greater self-love with therapy 

Therapy can be effective for those who wish to increase their self-compassion. However, those who lack self-compassion may have difficulty prioritizing themselves and scheduling appointments with a traditional face-to-face therapist. 

Online therapy may prove to be more convenient and easier to start with, as you may be matched with a compassionate therapist that meets your needs and can speak with them from the comfort of your home, as long as you have an internet connection. 

According to a recent study, online therapy can effectively cultivate self-compassion. The research showed that participants reported increases in happiness and self-compassion, as well as decreases in difficulties with stress, depression, and emotion.

If you’re looking to partake in professional counseling online, online platforms such as BetterHelp for individuals and Regain for couples can be beneficial. 


Self-compassion often refers to feelings of kindness, understanding, and warmth toward the self. Self-compassion is typically composed of three components, including common humanity, mindfulness, and self-kindness. 

It may be possible to cultivate self-compassion by completing self compassion exercises such as prioritizing self-care, changing your self-talk, journaling, or treating yourself the same way you’d treat a friend. Mindful self compassion may also be useful in helping you enjoy the present without constantly passing judgment on yourself. In addition, you may find that therapy can be an effective method of increasing your compassion and love for yourself.

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