Exercises for self-compassion

Listed below are a few simple exercises you can do by yourself in 30 minutes or less to help you gain a more positive view of yourself. 

All these exercises can be modified if you find a more helpful way of doing them. 

Try doing one or two this week and see if you begin to view yourself with more kindness.

Practice gratitude

Keep a daily gratitude journal. This is a great way to start or end your day and has been found to increase one’s optimism if done regularly. Find a notebook or journal and set aside 10 minutes or at night to write down a list of three things you are grateful for. They don’t have to be long, just a sentence would be enough. They also don’t have to be huge topics, you can be grateful for a nice day, a job done well at work, visiting friends, a TV show you enjoyed watching. Don’t worry if you miss a day or two, nothing has to be done perfectly.


Be your friend

Too often we send negative messages to ourselves – “I am a failure,” “I screwed this up,”  “I can’t do anything right.” 

When we give ourselves these messages, we are practicing negative self-talk. One way of dealing with this is to write down our negative thoughts about ourselves and then imagine a good friend responding to you with support and compassion.

You can also use anyone who represents kindness towards you, including a spiritual figure. For example, you might write, “I screwed up things at work, I always do this” to which X replies “you had a difficult time at work but it is just one day. Things were crazy in the office, so no wonder it was tough.”  Or “I can’t do anything right at home” to which X replies “you are a good husband and father and sometimes things are difficult, that’s ok.”

Another variation is to write a letter to yourself when you are having a hard time and do this as though you were a good friend.  The power of shining a supportive light on your suffering can’t be overestimated.

Talk with compassion

We can begin to shift our lens from self-criticism of self and others to an attitude of peace and understanding through a short exercise called “loving-kindness. The idea is that you repeat several positive phrases about yourself and others. There are several ways to do this but here is one version that might work for you. Find a quiet spot, think about some of the things that are troubling you about yourself, and say some sentences that offer hope or relief. Repeat these sentences several times a day if you can.  Here is one example, but find one that best fits you when you are suffering:

  • May I be compassionate towards myself
  • May I live a life of joy
  • May I accept myself
  • May I be patient
  • May I forgive myself
  • May I be at peace

Now, if you wish, you can do it for someone you like, or even a person you dislike.  Finally, say it in the third person, i.e., May John be compassionate towards himself etc. Using your own name can be particularly powerful.



Take a daily walk of 30 minutes (or more) in a peaceful and natural setting, and focus on some appreciations. For example you can say things like “I am healthy,” “I am working on self-compassion,” “I am happy in these beautiful woods,” etc.  If you make it short, you can match it to your stride so it becomes easier to do. This exercise accomplishes three things: it gives us at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, it gets us outside, and it helps install positive thoughts as we move our bodies.

Changing beliefs

This is a simple exercise you can do on your own just about anywhere and at any time. The aim of this exercise is to be able to acknowledge your negative beliefs while focusing on more compassionate ones. Repeat to yourself phrases like:

  • even though I am anxious all the time, I am working on being calmer,
  • even though I am unhappy with myself, I accept myself the way I am,
  • even though I am not a great student, I am a good student who is becoming better.



Translate »

The Transformational Power of Male Compassion

Wednesday 12th June | 9am PT / 12pm ET/ 5pm GMT