By Michael Kelberer
The self-compassion break was created by Kristen Neff, author of Self-Compassion, as a way of bringing self-compassion into our lives just when we need it. It’s a short practice, and can be done almost anywhere, anytime you’re in physical, emotional or mental pain.
Neff believes there are three essential components of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity, and kindness. The self-compassion break allows us to focus these three elements on the source of our immediate suffering or pain.
Here’s the practice:
1. Mindfulness: “This is a moment of suffering.”
First, we face into our suffering, this specific instance of suffering, and acknowledge it and name it. We might use phrases like “This is really hard right now.” “I’m really struggling.”
2. Common Humanity: “Suffering is a part of life.”
In this step, we broaden our awareness to appreciate that we are not alone in our suffering, that the suffering we are experiencing is a part of being human. We might say to ourselves phrases like: “It’s not abnormal to feel this way.” “Many other people are going through a similar situation.” As Neff says, “The degree of suffering may be different, the flavor of suffering may be different,” but suffering is a fact of life for all humans.
3. Kindness: “May I be kind to myself in this moment.”
For this part, it can help to put a hand on your heart or abdomen as a tangible reminder that you are bringing the same kindness toward yourself that you would offer a good friend who was suffering. You might speak to yourself with phrases like: “I’m here for you.” “It’s going to be okay.” “I care about you.” Choose any phrase that expresses your wish for your own wellbeing and happiness.
You can find a recording of Kristen Neff leading an exercise in the self-compassion break on our website (Practice/MSC – Self-Compassion scroll down).