Every since March of 2020, the start of the pandemic, I have listened to hours of podcasts and trainings about self-compassion. Self-compassion appears to be the new trend for health and wellness. So what is self-compassion? Why is it important? How does it work? How can self-compassion help you?

According to research posted in the Mental Health, Religion & Culture medical journal, self-compassion means being kind and friendly to your inner self without too much criticism and guilt. Additionally, it means accepting that you are just human and that mistakes happen. Self-compassion means empowering yourself to learn and grow. And self-compassion is an integral part of mindfulness.

Taking the time to be accepting, supportive, and compassionate to yourself has shown to be an effective way of improving health behaviors. Seven different studies conducted by the Journal of Health Psychology in 2019 demonstrated that self-compassion is key to wellness. These studies used self-compassion interventions to determine how effective they are at improving eating habits, exercise routines, and smoking cessations. The research studies showed a reduction in binge eating episodes. People with other eating disorders that participated in these studies learned important skills for establishing a positive relationship with food. Other people showed improvements on their quality of sleep and increased physical activity levels.

Self-compassion opens the door to improved self-efficacy, a positive self-esteem, improved self-understanding, ability to forgive, high resilience, improved optimism, positive well-being, increased productivity, more happiness, and decreased stress. Basically, when you show compassion for yourself, you feel better and make healthier decisions. It’s a perpetual cycle of positive health and wellness.

Self-compassion is not self-indulgence. Sometimes we need to indulge a little. You need downtime, a massage, a treat to feed your soul, but self-compassion is not about indulging – it is about listening to your needs and acting upon them. Then not feeling guilty or critical if life just doesn’t happen the way you planned. Sometimes your body might need nourishment, exercise, or sleep. But it could also need a break like a movie, massage, or going out for dinner. Self-compassion is creating a balance in life, being kind to your body, and being mindful of what you need.

You do hard things every day so you can do “this”. I tell my students this every single day. They live in a world with very unique challenges (remote learning, screen addiction, anxiety disorders, social inequalities, etc. etc.). Although I highlighted my students here, this statement is true for everyone. This pandemic has shown us that we are all vulnerable. Sometimes it can be difficult to see past the failures or mistakes that we make. It is important to tell your self that you do hard things every single day. Focus on the positive and use mistakes as an opportunity learn and grow.

Food is fuel and it is meant to provide my body with nourishment for thinking, exercise, growth, and day-to-day living. This is a loaded statement that might be hard to swallow. Have you ever eaten something that you felt guilty about? Have you regretted eating something because it made you feel bad? I strongly believe that creating a list of foods that should be avoided only creates more stress, guilt, regret, and binging. Instead of labeling foods as good and bad, try to focus on that “food is fuel.” Sometimes you will need or want to eat that chocolate cake. It will be good for your soul and that is part of life. But is eating two servings being kind and compassionate to your body? Probably not. I like to tell myself “I can have it, but I don’t want it.” The last time I ate two servings of dessert my stomach felt yucky. I didn’t sleep well. I felt angry at myself for allowing me to eat that extra serving. Thinking about self-compassion, I want to eat what my body needs without the regret, upset stomach, and anger. If you change your perspective to food is fuel, you will want to fill your body with the best type of nourishment. You will want to provide the best care for your body. When you’re eating, think about how this food is making you feel. Is another bite necessary? Are you enjoying the taste and texture? Are you satisfied? Do you feel guilt or happiness?

Self-compassion is not about indulging in ourselves. It is about taking care of our bodies, mind, and soul. It is about remembering we are only human. When you work on being more compassionate to yourself, you can improve your overall health and wellness.


Biber, D., & Ellis, R. (2019). The effect of self-compassion on the self-regulation of health behaviors: A systematic review. Journal of Health Psychology 2019, Vol. 24(14) 2060–2071

Tiwari, G. K., Pandey, R., Rai, P. K., Pandey, R., Verma, Y., Parihar, P., Ahirwar, G., Tiwari, A. S., & Mandal, S. P. (2020). Self-compassion as an intrapersonal resource of perceived positive mental health outcomes: a thematic analysis. Mental Health, Religion & Culture23(7), 550–569.