How To Practice Self-Compassion & Nurture Yourself (PDF)

Do you want a stronger sense of self-empathy? Learn how to practice self-compassion and self-care, and nurture yourself in an empowering and meaningful way.

You constantly hear messages that you need to be thinner, prettier, or richer to be happy.

This can make you doubt and condemn yourself. You start feeling irritated and harshly judging and criticizing yourself.

The good news is that there is a science-backed way to overcome that self-negativity: self-compassion.

Self-compassion is showing yourself the same kindness, empathy, and love as you would show your best friend. Without self-compassion,

Some people are naturally self-compassionate, but those who aren’t can learn this skill.

[Find the downloadable PDF link in the Final Words section below.]

how to practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is when you greet and treat yourself as your best friend, with attention, acceptance, warmth, and kindness.

How to practice self-compassion and nurture yourself?

Practicing self-compassion is the door to self-love and self-empathy. It helps you feel moved by your pain and want to relieve it.

You learn to be kind to yourself while dealing with life’s challenges. It lets you realize that we’re all flawed and need to forgive ourselves.

Here is how you can practice self-compassion:

1. Take A Self-Compassion Break.

A self-compassion break is a simple exercise to help you cope with stress and difficult situations. It can be done in just five minutes.

In this, you recognize and acknowledge the stress or emotional discomfort in your body, and tell yourself phrases like “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts.” This brings mindfulness to the situation.

The goal is to be aware of your emotions and be kind to yourself, and foster a sense of connection and belonging with others facing hardships in life.

Dr. Kristin Neff says self-compassion is made up of three parts: mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness (2003a; 2003b). A self-compassion break involves increasing all three.

3 elements of Self-compassion
3 Parts of Self-compassion

Self-Compassion Break Part 1: Practice Mindfulness

In self-compassion theory, mindfulness is acknowledging and naming your emotions, instead of avoiding or over-identifying them (Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Neff, 2010).

Researchers O’Mahony & Gerhart (2017) studied 13 medical providers who worked with terminally ill or bereaved children. They had symptoms of burnout and stress because of constantly dealing with the ill and dying.

They were given group-based mindfulness training for 9 weeks. Results showed they had significant reductions in their depression and post-traumatic stress (PTSD).

Mindfulness Exercise:

Acknowledge your sad or stressful situation by telling yourself, “(Your name), this is a moment of suffering. It’s hurting you.”

Self-Compassion Break Part 2: Practice Common Humanity

A common theme in positive psychology literature is “being a part of something bigger.” The human urge to connect with others is an essential human characteristic (Maslow, 1943).

When you interpret a painful experience as a part of the larger human experience, rather than as an isolated event given to only you to suffer, you feel like a part of common humanity (Neff, 2003a).


Then, tell yourself, “Suffering is a natural part of human life. You’re not alone. Everyone goes through this at some point.” This part is common humanity.

Self-compassion is about recognizing your own common humanity and giving yourself the grace of being imperfect.

Self-Compassion Break Part 3: Practice Self-kindness

Self-kindness is showing empathy and kindness to yourself when you falter or get hurt.

When you acknowledge the negative influence of self-judgment, you can treat yourself with kindness and patience instead of criticizing or judging yourself harshly (Gilbert & Irons, 2005).


Finally, hug yourself, and say, “May I be kind to myself. May I begin to accept myself. May I be strong.” This part is self-kindness.

Remember that you are human and that you’re doing the best you can. Give yourself a little more kindness and empathy.

2. Give Yourself Supportive Touch.

Close your eyes and give yourself a warm hug.

Every time you do something to comfort your physical body, you also soothe your inner being with a dose of self-compassion.

When you give yourself a supportive touch, like a loving hug, your vagus nerve gets activated. As a result, your heart rate decreases, your cortisol (“stress hormone”) levels drop, and you relax.

Physical touch also causes the release of oxytocin, popularly known as the “love hormone.” This gives you a sense of security and care.

Other than hugging yourself, try these:

  • Lie down to relax your body.
  • Take a stroll through a natural park.
  • Treat yourself to some nutritious food.
  • Gently rub your shoulders and lower back.

3. Write Yourself A Self-compassion Letter.

Find an issue that is troubling you, and sit down to write about it. Remember to include your feelings.

Next, picture an imaginary friend who is aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and who loves you unconditionally. Write a letter to yourself from that friend, emphasizing his loving acceptance of you.

Put the letter away, somewhere secure, after you’ve finished writing it. Then read it again a few days later. It will make you feel compassionate toward yourself.

Another way to do this is to recall a painful situation, like a breakup with a friend or a lover, the loss of a job, or criticism at work.

then write a self-compassion letter to yourself describing the situation exactly as it happened, without blaming anyone, including yourself. This will calm down your frazzled mind.

Here’s a sample self-compassion letter:

Dear [Your Name],

I want to remind you of the incredible strength and resilience you possess. Life can be challenging, and you’ve faced numerous obstacles with courage and determination. Please acknowledge your successes and be kind to yourself if you’re experiencing setbacks.

Everyone faces challenges, and it’s a natural part of the human experience. What you need is to treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding that you extend to others. You are not alone in your struggles, and it’s okay to seek support when you require it.

It’s crucial to take breaks and practice self-care. Allow yourself the space to feel your emotions and process your experiences. Find activities that bring you joy and help you recharge. Try spending time in nature, enjoying a hobby, or connecting with loved ones.

Take a moment to appreciate your journey so far and recognize your growth. You are unique and valued, and your contributions make a difference. You deserve your kindness and care, just as much as anyone else.

With love and support,

[Your Name]

4. Treat Yourself As You Would Treat Your Friend.

When you decide to be self-compassionate, you value and treat yourself with the same tender-hearted kindness that you show to your best friend and your most loved person.

Recall what place you took your friend to that made them ecstatic. Take yourself to the same place.

Take a sheet of paper and write out what you would say and do for a close friend who is in distress. Then, write out everything you said and did to yourself when you committed your most recent mistake.

And take note of how different you were in each situation. Next, write down how things would be better if you treated yourself the same way you would treat a close friend.

Allow yourself to be human and make a few little deliberate mistakes occasionally. It is a great way to embrace your imperfections and remind yourself that you are not alone in being imperfect.

Be mindful of your self-talk. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.

Here’s a simple self-compassionate letter to remind yourself that you are your best friend:

Dear [Your Name],

You are my first best friend, and I love you and care a lot about you.

I have watched you’ve been there for others, giving them support and understanding. Now, be there for yourself, with kindness and tenderness.

Nobody is perfect, and you too are not. So, it’s okay that you made some mistakes. You can stop being critical of your blunders and flaws. You have my patience and empathy.

I promise I’ll be gentle with you as you try your best to overcome these challenging times.

I know you have many strengths and accomplishments to be proud of. I also know you have done a lot of nice things for people without worrying about yourself. Those are things to be happy for.

I celebrated your successes. Now, as you struggle, I’ll encourage you to keep moving forward one step at a time. Just look at your next step, not your whole future.

Go for a movie, take yourself out on a solo-date, go for that exotic diner you’ve been meaning to go to forever. Gift yourself a spa experience. Go on a little holiday trip.

Let yourself relax and be happy. You are allowed to take a break, to explore new people and places, and to reconnect with yourself.

I will always have compassion and empathy for you in your moments of self-doubt and difficulty.

You have so much to offer yourself, and your journey is a testament to your strength and character.

For one, I am your greatest fan and your most ardent follower. You’ll always have my love and support, even if no one else would.

With love and encouragement,

– [Your Name]

What are the benefits of self-compassion?

Neff, Rude, and Kirkpatrick (2006) found that self-compassion has positive associations with happiness, optimism, positive affect (mood), wisdom, personal initiative, curiosity and exploration, agreeableness, extroversion, and conscientiousness.

  • Self-compassionate people are mindful of their actions, are highly conscientious, intrinsically motivated, and less fearful of failures.
  • They are more resilient, cheerful, and curious. People are happier and more optimistic when they practice self-compassion.
  • Self-compassion practice helps you learn how to stop being so hard on yourself, and how to handle difficult emotions with greater ease.
  • It also tells you how to encourage yourself, how to transform difficult relationships, both old and new, and how to include mindfulness meditation in your daily life.


  1. What is self-compassion?

    Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with kindness and compassion, rather than with judgment, criticism, or punishment. In practicing self-compassion, you understand and accept your feelings. It means you let yourself experience negative emotions without judging or trying to change them. One of the easiest self-compassion practices is to write yourself a self-compassion letter.

  2. What is mindful self-compassion?

    Mindful self-compassion (MSC) is a new mental health development approach based on Buddhist philosophy to dealing with anxiety, stress, and depression. According to the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, MSC is “an evidence-based approach to cultivating self-kindness and compassion for oneself in difficult situations.” Practicing MSC can help you overcome stress and anxiety by cultivating a loving-kindness attitude toward yourself, and it can lead to improved happiness even in the face of adversity.

Further reading:

  • Wood, J. V., Elaine Perunovic, W. Q., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive self-statements: Power for some, peril for others. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860-866.
  • Barnard, L. K., & Curry, J. F. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15(4), 289-303.
  • Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 333-371.
  • Howell, A. J. (2016). Self-Affirmation Theory and the Science of Well-Being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(1), 293–311.

Final Words

Download: How To Practice Self-Compassion PDF

Self-forgiveness is a crucial part of self-compassion. We all make mistakes. But when we learn from them, forgive ourselves, and move on, we become much better people.

Let’s close this with a beautiful insight from the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion:

Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, not good feelings. If we use self-compassion practice to make our pain go away by suppressing it or fighting against it, things will likely just worsen.

With self-compassion, we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.

This allows us to hold ourselves in love and connection, giving ourselves the support and comfort needed to bear the pain, while providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation.

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, mindfulness, and Stoicism.

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