Self-Compassion Break

The self-compassion break involves using a set of memorized phrases that are repeated silently whenever you want to give yourself compassion. They are most useful in the heat of the moment, whenever strong feelings of distress arise. Perhaps when you are caught in a traffic jam, when you are arguing with a loved one, when you are worrying about your health, when you feel like you’ve failed in some way or perhaps when you are feeling physical pain. The point is to validate your own pain and soothe and comfort yourself with compassion.

  1. Put both hands on your heart, pause, and feel their warmth. You can also put your hand on any other place on your body that feels soothing and comforting like your belly or your face. If you’re in public you can even fold your arms and squeeze them gently – no one needs to know what you’re doing!
  2. Breathe deeply in and out
  3. Speak these words to yourself (out loud or silently) in a warm tone:

This is a moment of suffering
Suffering in a part of life
May I be kind to myself
May I give myself the compassion I need

The first phrase, This is a moment of suffering is designed to bring mindfulness to the fact that you’re in pain. Other possible wordings for this phrase are I’m having a really hard time right now, It’s painful for me to feel this now, etc.

The second phrase, Suffering is part of life is designed to remind you that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. Other possible wordings are Everyone feels this way sometimes, This is part of being human, etc.

The third phrase May I be kind to myself in this moment is designed to help bring a sense of caring concern to your present moment experience. Other possible wordings are May I support myself like a good friend, May I be gentle and understanding with myself, etc.

The final phrase, May I give myself the compassion I need, firmly sets your intention to be self-compassionate. Other possible wordings are I am worthy of receiving self-compassion, I will try to be as compassionate as possible, etc.

Find the four phrases that seem most comfortable for you, and repeat until they’re memorized. Then, the next time you judge yourself or have a difficult experience you can use your self-compassion mantra as a way of reminding yourself to be self-compassionate. It’s a handy tool to help soothe and calm troubled states of mind.

from Mindful Magazine, December 2014

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