Cultivating Self Compassion

Self-compassion has been theorised to comprise of three interrelated dimensions:

Self-kindness: being kind and understanding towards yourself, as opposed to being judgemental and critical. 

Mindfulness: being aware and balanced towards aversive thoughts and feelings, without over-identifying with them. 

Common humanity: viewing your experiences as a natural extension of those experienced by all humanity, understanding you are not alone or separate by experiencing them. 

A goal that research has shown may help is increasing your psychological flexibility: this is not a state of happiness or ease but the ability to flexibly navigate through life’s every changing demands, being present in the moment even when it may seem challenging. There are 3 constituents of psychological flexibility: 

  1. Allowing yourself to open up with acceptance and diffusion.

  2. Being present and in contact with the moment, bringing in self as context. 

  3. Doing what matters to you based on your values and committing to actions.

Allowing yourself to be present in this way has been associated with mindfulness: being in the moment in a compassionate and non-judgemental way. Studies have shown that psychological flexibility is associated with quality of life and mental well-being.

Being able to cultivate self-compassion as part of your journey has been associated with improved body image and eating behaviour:

Body image flexibility: tolerating and experiencing challenging body related experiences or cognitions, such as body dissatisfaction without letting this have a negative effect on your daily life. 

Body appreciation: appreciating all your body does for you on a daily basis, not assessing its’ quality based on perceived appearance.

Positive eating behaviours: self-compassion has been associated with intuitive and mindful eating practices.

Self-compassion is also a key principle of reputable therapeutic techniques, there is increasing evidence that focusing on and practicing compassion can have an influence on neurophysiological and immune systems. With caring behaviour found to soothe and remove the feeling of distress.

Beginning to commit to further small acts of self-care can aid in you in this process. Below are some suggestions for you to begin your practice:

  • Practice new or loved forms of movement.

  • Practice breath work – simple techniques such as box breathing are found to very effective. 

  • Read something for the pure enjoyment of it. 

  • Cook and enjoy your favourite meal, be gentle and kind with your thoughts throughout and following the meal. 

  • Set 10 minutes aside each day just for you. You could simply, go on a short walk, call a loved one, or just sit and be with your thoughts. 

Reflect on how you feel when you begin to add these in, do you find it easier to reframe your thoughts and not become overwhelmed? 

When you receive kindness, it does something special to your brain, it calms your threat response. When you are kind to yourself the same happens. So be the voice you need to hear.


Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Lykins, E., Button, D., Krietemeyer, J., Sauer, S., Williams, J. M. (2008). Construct validity of the five facet mindfulness questionnaire in meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment, 15 (3), 329 – 342.

Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, et al (2003) Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine; 65: 564–70.

Eilenberg, T., Hoffmann, D., Jensen, J. S., & Frostholm, L. (2017). Intervening variables in group-based acceptance & commitment therapy for severe health anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 92 , 24 – 31.

Forman, E. M., Chapman, J. E., Herbert, J. D., Goetter, E. M., Yuen, E. K., & Moitra, E. (2012). Using session-by-session measurement to compare mechanisms of action for acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive therapy. Behavior Therapy, 43 (2), 341 – 354.

Gilbert, P. 2009, Introducing compassion focused-therapy. Advances in psychiatric treatment, 15, 199-208. 

Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple: An easy-to-read primer on acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44 (1), 1 – 25.

Hoffmann, D., Rask,C.U., Frostholm,L. 2019. Chapter Seven – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Health Anxiety. In The clinicians guide to treating health anxiety -Diagnosis, Mechanisms, and Effective Treatment, 123-142. Academic Press.

Homan, K. J., & Tylka, T. L. (2015). Self-compassion moderates body comparison and appearance self-worth’s inverse relationships with body appreciation. Body Image, 15, 1–7.

Neff, K. D. (2003a). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–101. 

Lutz A, Brefczynski-Lewis J, Johnstone, T, et al (2008) Regulation of the theme neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: effects of the meditative expertise. Public Library of Science; 3: 1–5.

Pisitsungkagarn, K., Taephant, N., & Attasaranya, P. (2013). Body image satis- faction and self-esteem in Thai female adolescents: The moderating role of self-compassion. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 26, 333–338.

Porges SW (2007) The polyvagal perspective. Biological Psychology; 74: 116–43.

Sandoz, E. K., Wilson, K. G., Merwin, R. M., & Kellum, K. K. (2013). Assessment of body image flexibility: The Body Image Acceptance and Action Questionnaire. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 2, 39–48.

Schoenefeld, S. J., & Webb, J. B. (2013). Self-compassion and intuitive eating in col- lege women: Examining the contributions of distress tolerance and body image acceptance and action. Eating Behaviors, 14, 493–496.

Stapleton, P., & Nikalje, A. (2013). Constructing body image in university women: The relationship between self-esteem, self-compassion, and intuitive eating. International Journal of Healing and Caring, 13, 1–20.

Taylor, M. B., Daiss, S., & Krietsch, K. (2015). Associations among self-compassion, mindful eating, eating disorder symptomatology, and body mass index in college students. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 1, 229–238

Wasylkiw, L., MacKinnon, A. L., & MacLellan, A. M. (2012). Exploring the link between self-compassion and body image in university women. Body Image, 9, 236–245.

Wicksell, R. K., Olsson, G. L., & Hayes, S. C. (2011). Mediators of change in acceptance and commitment therapy for pediatric chronic pain. Pain, 152 (12), 2792 – 2801

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign In


Reset Password

Please enter your username or email address, you will receive a link to create a new password via email.