Five Mindful Self-Compassion Practices You Can Do Anywhere and Anytime

Published by Annie Barrett: 
October 17, 2022

Mindful self-compassion is a skill combining mindfulness, or present moment awareness, with the emotional aptitude of self-compassion. Studies link mindful self-compassion to many health and wellbeing benefits including lower stress levels, lower levels of anxiety and depression, protection against burnout and compassion fatigue, improved relationships, and positive health habits. Mindful self-compassion promotes positive neuroplasticity and leads to greater wellbeing.

Self compassion has many benefits

  • Less depression, anxiety, stress, and shame
  • More happiness, life satisfaction, self-confidence and physical health
  • Self-compassion has been shown to protect caregivers from burnout and compassion fatigue, and to increase satisfaction with one’s caregiving role.

3 Elements of Mindful Self-Compassion

According to Kristen Neff, a researcher on self-compassion, mindful self-compassion has three elements:

1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment.

2. Common humanity vs. Isolation.

3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification.


If you make a mistake or fail at something, do you berate yourself? Self-kindness counters this tendency and encourages us to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. Rather than being self-critical, we are supportive. Instead of reprimanding ourselves, we are accepting. When life circumstances are challenging, we soothe and comfort ourselves.

Common humanity

Everyone is imperfect. Everyone has challenges. Everyone suffers. It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes and have hard days. While the circumstances may be different, the human experience of suffering is universal. Common humanity is the realization that you are not alone in what you are experiencing.


Mindfulness is moment to moment awareness of experience with clarity and balance. Mindfulness helps us “be” with what is. Mindfulness also helps us avoid being swept away by negativity. With mindfulness, we can stay with our experiences and respond in more skillful ways.

“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others.

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

  • Kristen Neff 

Five Mindful Self-Compassion Practices You Can Do Anywhere and Anytime

Purposeful Pause: STOP

Stopping and pausing periodically during your day is an opportunity to build your mindfulness muscles.

How to do it:

S: Stop, pause, set it down, disengage.

T: Take a breath, feel the full cycle of breathing in the body.

O: Observe bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions. Be curious.

P: Proceed with your day.

Noticing and Naming Emotions 

Mindfulness gives you the space and capacity to notice emotions as they arise and skillfully respond to them. 

How to do it:

  • When you feel a reactive emotion such as anger or irritation arising, practice pausing
  • Notice the body’s reactive response and name the emotion as you experience it. You may notice tension, stiffening, contraction, breathing change or postural change. 
  • You can then say to yourself, “Uggh, I’m really upset.” “Wow, I’m so pissed off.” “Yikes, I feel really anxious.” 
  • Labeling the emotion can provide you  just enough space to respond skillfully rather than reacting in a not so skillful way. 

Supportive Touch 

Giving yourself supportive touch activates your care response, decreases stress hormones, helps your body release oxytocin and endorphins and offers your body comfort through kind, gentle, supportive touch.

There are different ways to do this:

  • Place a hand on your heart and your other hand on top of it.
  • Place a hand on your heart and a hand on your belly.
  • Place a hand on your cheek and cup your cheek in your palm.
  • Softly stroke your skin with your fingers.
  • Cross your arms over your torso to give yourself a hug.

Which way works for you?

Belly Breathing 

Benefits of this practice include: regulating the nervous system, shifting your mindset, decreasing stress, increasing alertness, and allowing your body to release toxins.

How to do it:

Notice breath as it is right now. Place your hand on your belly. Take a deep breath into your belly, letting the air expand. Fill your chest cavity with breath as well. Feel movement first in the belly and then in the chest. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Exhale slowly. First exhaling breath out of the chest. Then slowly exhale breath out of the belly. Wait 4 seconds and then take another breath. Repeat as many times as you like.

Compassion Break

In the midst of challenges, we can pause, step away from activity, and turn toward ourselves and offer support and loving kindness.

How to do it:

  • With compassion, pause and become aware of the challenge you’re experiencing? What feels tender? What feels hard?
  • What does being on your own side look like for you?
  • What words of kindness might you offer yourself right now?