Self-Compassion Strategies

Promoting Self-Compassion to Athletes

  • Self-Compassion and Setbacks

    Explain to athletes that self-compassion has been linked to faster recovery from setbacks in sport, which can lead to improved performance.

  • Talk to Yourself Like You Would Your Best Friend

    When you see an athlete facing a setback, encourage them to think about what they would say to a friend experiencing a similar situation.

  • Relate to Other Athletes

    Have athletes tell you about other athletes who might have experienced similar events.

  • Keep Track of Behaviours

    For a period of 10 days, have your athletes keep track of “beads” electronically. When they engage in positive self-talk or affirmation, they add a green bead. When they engage in negative self-talk or self-criticism, they add a red bead.

  • Use a Guided Meditation Exercise

    Have athletes try a guided self-compassion meditation, such as the Compassionate Body Scan, which is available for free on Kristin Neff’s website.

Increasing Self-Compassion in Athletes

Mosewich et al. (2013) conducted a study with women athletes aiming to increase levels of self-compassion. The intervention group participated in a one-week self-compassion intervention. Details of the intervention are broken down below.

Intervention Part One

Ten-minute self-compassion education session and a self-compassion writing exercise. 


Athletes were asked to think about and write a description of a recalled negative event in sport that had happened to them within the past 10 days. They were then given prompts to write about how they could respond to that scenario, centered on the three core elements of self-compassion (i.e., self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness). 

Intervention Part Two

Five online self-compassion writing tasks completed over seven days, centered around responding to a negative event in sport with self-compassion.

  • Lower levels of self-criticism, state rumination, and concern over mistakes in a group of varsity women athletes when compared to the control.
  • Higher levels of self-compassion.
  • Levels at 1-month post-test suggest maintenance of change and use of self-compassion skills learned.

For more self-compassion exercises and resources from Dr. Kristin Neff.


Mosewich, A. D., Crocker, P. R. E., Kowalski, K. C., & DeLongis, A. (2013). Applying self-compassion in sport: An intervention with women athletes. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 35, 514-524. doi:10.1123/jsep.35.5.514


Self-Compassion in Sport 101: SIRCuit: SIRC. (2021). Retrieved from


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