self-compassion and well-being

Falling Asleep in the Arms of Gratitude

In my world, judgment and gratitude cannot, by their very nature, co-exist.

I cannot be grateful for my body and judge it at the same time. I cannot be grateful for my mind and simultaneously condemn it for being too busy.  I cannot be grateful for my eyesight and criticize my need for glasses. I cannot be grateful for being a woman and revile the hot flushes coursing through my body. I cannot be grateful for my friends and family and berate them for not getting in touch more often. I cannot be grateful for my work and complain I have too much to do.

I belabor the point because judgment, self-criticism, and self-condemnation once ruled my life. There was little space for inner peace, self-kindness and wholehearted gratitude. Now, with a self-compassionate lens, even in writing, there is warmth and understanding holding the contrast.  

I have enjoyed a gratitude writing practice for nearly twenty years. I remember in the early days I would collapse into bed after a challenging day with my young sons and drag my negativity bias (that would be raging with exhaustion) back to balance. I would scan my day for anything I could be grateful for, to drown out the noise of all the internal complaining and resentment that would have built up during the day.

Being a control freak of magnitude, having two little boys close in age who loved to bounce and explore, (read not sleep and make a mess) I found it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard I tried, I could not keep on top of things. Even getting the washing up done was nigh on impossible some days. I would berate myself and chastise my inability to keep my cool, when, for example, Oliver just wouldn’t eat his dinner after I’d taken a great deal of effort to prepare something nutritious (like a ‘good’ mum does). 

My gratitude practice was a life saver. I didn’t realize until I took the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course that I was offering myself a true gesture of self-kindness and self-compassion. I took myself out of judgment mode, gently into the moment and moved into my heart. I found things to be grateful for. I warmed myself up by remembering the sweet smile Oliver gave me as I made funny hair with the play dough.I remembered Dominic’s excitement as our elderly neighbor Ernie, invited him in to choose a choccy biscuit from his special tin. I breathed in a sigh of gratitude as I recalled the delight we all had feeding the squirrels in the park that day. The negativity and tension that had built up in my body – usually about my inability to be a good mum, (a perfect mum) would begin to dissolve as I returned to love through gratitude.

Fast forward a few decades and I still write a page of gratitudes before bed. I rebalance myself, come home to my heart and rest in the warmth of my appreciation for what is.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”  Marcus Tullius Cicero

When writing something on gratitude for the CMSC blog, I noticed the immediate pressure I began to impose on myself. Now, if I was writing to a friend, there’s no pressure, no self-inflicted burden to “get it right,” to meet expectations or, let’s be honest, try to exceed them! This is where the Mindful Self-Compassion course has taken my Gratitude Practice to a whole new level.

I now have the skill to “notice” what I call “Crusher” (my critical voice) bearing down on me. I now have the proficiency to catch myself at this old, habitual game.  Better still, I am blessed to have the ability to invite “Booster” (my compassionate voice) into my awareness. Do I still have the desire to create a praiseworthy piece of writing?  Yes, of course! However, I have the grace of self-compassion to hold my “need to prove” and thus soften around the edges of my tendency to strive.

“The root of joy is gratefulness.” David Steindl-Rast

Wow, how did I get to be so lucky? MSC has turned a rich and meaningful Gratitude Practice into a bountiful source of joy and appreciation for my life and myself. My far-reaching self-compassion lens offers me the opportunity to embody all three components of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness.

Mindfulness – I not only bring awareness to my moment-to-moment experience (rather than just reflecting), I bring a friendly awareness. Gratitude suffuses my everyday living. There is a friendliness, an allowance for what is, and a spaciousness for whatever is showing up (ease or difficulty) that I can embrace with compassionate gratitude.

Common Humanity – Who knew I wasn’t alone?! Who knew?! I thought I was the only one feeling like a fraud, pretending I had my s**t together, while struggling to get through the day. I could not have imagined that the compassionate act of validating and acknowledging that others struggled just like me, could liberate me from my “soap opera” as James Baraz calls it. This in itself brings a wellspring of gratitude as I write. 

Self-Kindness – I consider myself a kind person. It’s my core value. However, I was only living a half-life, as I was not providing this kindness to the warm-hearted woman in the mirror. To be able to receive kindness from my own precious heart, well that is truly miraculous. Gratitude is one of the best and most valuable gifts I could ever give myself. And with self-compassion as my companion, I can genuinely receive it now too.  

Most importantly, I am grateful for the tough stuff. After years of practice, I am blessed to be able to access the “gift” in the “brown stuff.” As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “No mud, no lotus…”  

Watching Dominic as a little boy finally fall to sleep in the hospital bed after hours of screaming in pain was heartbreaking. His eczema was so severe he was being treated for burns. It was gratitude I reached for in the middle of the night, as I curled up on the window seat by his bed and began listing everything and everyone I could be grateful for in that moment. I fell asleep in the arms of gratitude. A mother’s worst nightmare, witnessing her child suffer immeasurable pain without being able to soothe him, was comforted by gratitude. 

I feel it is a gift indeed, not only for myself, but for my clients and my MSC students, that I can access the “gift”, the silver lining, of a situation with such ease. When teaching Mindful Stress Management in a high security prison, I would challenge the men to find the gift in their situation. They would always protest: “Er no Miss! There are no gifts being locked up behind bars in this dump!”  “Look again”, I would urge, and with practice and a willingness to open their hearts, sure enough, they would discover the gifts. Prison was often a refuge, a safer place than on the out. Prison meant they could receive the help they needed for their drug addiction.Prison meant guaranteed meals. Prison ensured they had access to education and resources they otherwise would not have. Suddenly prison was a gift, and they were grateful.

The silver linings are ever present, but it is often very hard to see them without the lens of self-compassion. The warmth, the open heartedness, the peace that blossoms when self-compassion is your guiding light is limitless.

“Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.” Eileen Caddy

There is so much more I could say about gratitude, but I will close with this:  Gratitude is contagious. Gratitude feeds itself. The more we share, the more we have to share. Gratitude helps us open and embrace the present moment. It is the embodiment of loving, connected presence. And loving, connected presence is the quintessence of gratitude.

Let us celebrate our moments. Whether perceived as good or bad, each moment is an opportunity to be grateful. Gratitude is a wise and expansive teacher. Let gratitude guide your way.

P.S I’m so grateful for MSC!  To say it has changed my life is an understatement.  I’m grateful to CMSC for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.  I’m grateful for spell check (to soothe my perfectionist) and the incredible thesaurus that helps me find just the right word to express myself!  

I’m deeply grateful for all my teachers, especially my greatest teachers: my sons, physical pain, my father, and Crusher

Thank you for reading to the end! I am grateful for you.

I wonder, what are you grateful for?


Learn more or register for an upcoming Live Online Mindful Self-Compassion (LOMSC) course. 

Research: Self-Compassion Applied to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)

Does self-compassion buffer against the adverse effects of racial discrimination and is it protective among sexual-and gender-minority adolescents across racial groups? These are questions researchers have set out to answer in the articles below.


Self-compassion appears to be a resource for people experiencing racial discrimination or any other form of injustice due to their race, gender identity or sexual orientation to draw on to support their own wellbeing. Tender self-compassion can provide resilience when dealing with the emotional trauma caused by discrimination and fierce self-compassion can provide the sense of empowerment needed to fight discrimination. It should always be remembered that discrimination happens at a systemic level, and that compassion must be harnessed at the individual and societal to enact change. 

Self-compassion and Social Connectedness Buffering Racial Discrimination on Depression Among Asian Americans.
By Liu et al. (2020)

This study examined the role of three elements of self-compassion as measured by the Self-Compassion Scale (self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness)  as resources that can buffer against the impact of racial discrimination on depression. The study also examined the role of social connectedness as a buffer. Previous studies have shown racial discrimination to have negative mental health outcomes among racial/ethnic minorities in the US. The results of this study showed that when both self-kindness and social connectedness were present, they together buffered against the impact of racial discrimination on depression among Asian American college students. (Note that in prior research the primary link between self-compassion and depression has been found to be the reduced self-judgment, isolation and overidentification associated with this mindset, so this study was limited in its ability to assess the link between self-compassion, racial discrimination and depression.) Read the article here.

Is Self-compassion Protective Among Sexual-and Sender-minority Adolescents Across Racial Groups?
By Vigna, Poehlmann-Tynan, & Koenig, (2020)

This study examines the impact of self-compassion (as measured by a total score on the Self-Compassion Scale) on stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidality among sexual- and/or gender-minority youth. This group of youth often experience suicidality, depression, and anxiety that are two to three times greater than those of their sexual- and gender-majority peers. In prior research, the authors have shown that higher levels of self-compassion are linked to fewer adverse effects of victimization on mental health. In the current study the authors set out to examine if there were any differences in the effectiveness of self-compassion as a buffer across racial groups among sexual- and/or gender-minority youth. The study found that white youth reported higher rates of peer victimization and anxiety whereas black youth reported higher rates of bias-based bullying and structural discrimination. The study did, however, not find any difference in the effects of self-compassion as a buffer against victimization across racial groups. In the study, all identity groups experienced lower rates of mental health concerns when they reported higher levels of self-compassion. Read the article here.

Racial Discrimination, Self-compassion, and Mental Health: the Moderating Role of Self-judgment
By Browne et al. (2022)

This study attempted to examine whether the various elements of self-compassion as measured by the Self-Compassion Scale (self-kindness, mindfulness, common humanity, self-judgment, over-identification, and isolation) differentially buffered against, or exacerbated, negative mental health outcomes in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) college students experiencing racial discrimination. 100 college students from diverse ethnic backgrounds participated in this study. To measure mental health outcomes this study used The Brief Symptom Inventory, which consists of 18 self-reported items intended to screen for psychiatric disorders and psychological distress, consisting of three 6-item subscales: somatization, depression, and anxiety. The results showed that experience of discrimination with both somatic and anxiety symptoms was stronger for individuals who endorsed higher self-judgment. The study also showed that common humanity reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms and that self-kindness reduced symptoms of depression and somatic symptoms. Read the article here.


Browne, R. K., Duarte, B. A., Miller, A. N., Schwartz, S. E., & LoPresti, J. (2022). Racial Discrimination, Self-compassion, and Mental Health: the Moderating Role of Self-judgment. Mindfulness, 13(8), 1994-2006.

Liu, S., Li, C. I., Wang, C., Wei, M., & Ko, S. (2020). Self-compassion and social connectedness buffering racial discrimination on depression among Asian Americans. Mindfulness, 11(3), 672-682.

Vigna, A. J., Poehlmann-Tynan, J., & Koenig, B. W. (2020). Is self-compassion protective among sexual-and gender-minority adolescents across racial groups?. Mindfulness, 11(3), 800-815.


Cultivation a Multicultural Lens in the Compassion Classroom​
8-Week Course on DEIB in the Classroom

Mondays October 31st – December 19th, 2022, 9 AM – 11 AM PT

This is a Live Online Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) course for mindfulness and compassion teachers. Come develop your anti-oppressive lens, learn ways to help co-create a more welcoming and inclusive experience for your participants, and advance more skillful responses when cross-cultural issues, challenges, microaggressions, and communication ruptures arise in teaching mindfulness and compassion.

Led by CMSC Director of DEIB and certified MSC Teacher Sydney Spears and Tracy Ochester, Coordinator of Midwest Alliance of Mindfulness and Certified MBCT Teacher, with guest presenters Mel Wraight, Michael Yellow Bird, Kristin Neff, Chris Germer, and Mushim Patricia Ikeda. Optional 15-20 minute post-session discussion and/or Q&A after each class.

Self-Compassion And Quality Of Life Research

Self-compassion has been scientifically proven to improve our quality of life in so many ways. Below you will find the latest research showing how self-compassion supports wellbeing and sleep quality, and how it decreases anxiety, depression, self-criticism, and the feeling of loneliness. 

Self-Compassion As A Predictor Of Wellbeing (Pyszkowska & Rönnlund, 2021)
This study shows self-compassion to be strongly related to wellbeing measured as quality of life and satisfaction with life. To better understand the relationship between self-compassion and wellbeing, the researchers examined how self-compassion influenced participants’ relationship with the past and the present. From previous research we know that a person’s mood, behavior and morale depends on their current psychological view of the past, present and future. In this study the researchers were able to show self-compassion to support a positive view of the past and lessen a negative view of the present. These findings in turn predicted an increase in wellbeing. Read more…

The Impact Of Self-Compassion On Anxiety And Depression (Pérez-Aranda et al 2021)
In a study with 860 participants from Spain, Pérez-Aranda and his team found self-compassion to significantly reduce both anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the researchers found that the relationship between self-compassion and depression was mediated by resilience. This means that persons higher in self-compassion were also more resilient, which in turn explained the lower levels of depression. Read more…

Self-Compassion And Quality Of Sleep (Semenchuk, Onchulenko & Strachan, 2021)
We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for our overall wellbeing.To confirm the importance of sleep, research shows sleep to influence our mental, emotional and physical health, as well as our quality of life (Mukherjee et al., 2015). In this study, Semenchuk, Onchulenko and Strachan (2021) studied 193 university students and showed self-compassion to support the quality of sleep. The researchers were also able to show that self-compassion reduces self-blame, which in turn improves the quality of sleep. This finding suggests that the more self-compassionate students are, the less they rely on self-blame regulation strategies, which support a better quality of sleep. Read more…

Effectiveness Of Self-Compassion For Reducing Self-Criticism (Wakelin, Perman, Simonds, 2022)
In this review article the researchers evaluated the combined results of 19 self-compassion studies on self-criticism. Self-criticism is the process of negative self-evaluation. The results of this review show that practicing self-compassion significantly reduces self-criticism. The results also show that the longer the self-compassion practice time is, the more self-criticism will be reduced. Read more..

Self-Compassion Buffers Against The Feeling Of Loneliness (Borawski & Nowak, 2022)
Research shows that one of the key predictors of loneliness is the attitude we have towards ourselves. In this study the researchers found self-compassion to significantly reduce feelings of loneliness. This study also shows that individuals high in self-compassion are less sensitive to rejection. Rejection sensitivity is the anxious expectation of and increased readiness to respond to social rejection. Borawski and Nowak (2022) explain that it is partly through decreasing rejection sensitivity that individuals high in self-compassion experience less loneliness. Read more…

All these studies show how self-compassion can help us improve our day-to-day quality of life. To learn these skills, join Kristen Neff and Chris Germer in the upcoming Self-Compassion Core Skills Workshop.

Live Online MSC Core Skills Workshop with Chris Germer, Ph.D. & Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
August 10, 12, 17, and 19, 2022 from 8 – 11 am PT 

In this MSC Core Skills Workshop, you’ll learn techniques and practices to bring self-compassion into your daily life. Presented by Chris Germer and Kristin Neff, this 4-session workshop is open to everyone, whether you’re new to MSC or have some experience. Registration closes on August 9th. Learn more or sign up here.