Can You Train Yourself to be More Compassionate?

Written on 01/22/2023
Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

Have you ever met someone with so much compassion and wondered how you could be more like that? If so, you are not alone. Some people are born with the ability to be compassionate to humans, pets, wildlife, and even nature. While compassion is a trait that is both biological and learned from our environment in childhood, there are ways to train yourself to be more compassionate if you wish.

Compassion is a Practice

If being compassionate is a way of being which is unfamiliar to you, it will take some practice. Like any other new habit you wish to form, it will begin as foreign until you make it more familiar. The brain is a creature of habit and gravitates to what is expected – whether that is a positive trait or a negative pattern. 

Training your brain to be more compassionate is a practice like any new habit you wish to create. Compassion begins with self-compassion. Set an intention to be more self-compassionate, and you will be amazed at how much your everyday, ordinary life improves. Taking on self-compassion lightens the load, makes each day a little brighter and softens life's difficulties. 

Here are some ways to practice self-compassion:

  • Talk back to that negative voice in your head; when you have a thought, which is negative about yourself, challenge it. 
  • Counteract every negative thought with a positive one. For example, if you find yourself being hard on yourself, remind yourself how you have been through difficulties before and have come out simply fine.
  • Compliment yourself on a well-done job and let go of guilt for feeling proud and accomplished.
  • Give yourself a break now and again; you do not always have to aim for perfection. Doing your best is what counts.
  • Treat yourself to something nice; do something nice for yourself.
  • Speak to yourself and treat yourself like you would your best friend

Take the time to practice self-compassion. Once your cup is overflowing, you have so much more to give. Self-compassion is not selfish; it is necessary so you can give back to others. 



Compassion to Others

  • Take time to notice and journal throughout the day each time someone is compassionate to you. Take notes and learn how to apply those same principles to others. 
  • Join an accountability group to create the new habit of being compassionate to yourself and others
  • Take time throughout your busy day and pause – ask yourself, where and how can I show compassion in this situation?
  • Instead of reacting to someone else’s negative mood, take a moment to ask them if they are okay. Chances are their negative mindset is a cry for help, for someone to listen or to ask!

Compassion as a Habit

Knowing where, how, and when you can apply compassion to both self and others is the perfect way to create compassion as a habit. 

  • Practice self-compassion
  • Ask where, how, and when you can offer compassion to others
  • Notice compassion

Take on these practices; before you know it, compassion will become a natural part of your life.