How Self-Compassion Helps College Students Thrive

College can be a stressful time, and with all that stress, it’s sometimes hard to show Self-Compassion. Students may be homesick as they adjust to a different environment. They’re constantly being evaluated by letters, and are often under pressure to make career path decisions. It’s important for students to realize they’re not defined by their GPAs.

Self-Compassion helps students treat themselves with acceptance and kindness. It fosters a growth mindset, which allows them to flourish and remain optimistic through challenges.

First-year students especially benefit from developing a growth mindset early on, as they’ll lean on it throughout their college careers. And even though grades aren’t everything, a growth mindset can even support academic success. Studies have shown that a growth mindset leads to better outcomes in all subjects, including up to 60-point higher scores in reading. And it’s not just better outcomes that result from Self-Compassion. Students who practice Self-Compassion have less stress about academics overall. Let’s uncover more about Self-Compassion and the positive benefits it can have on the college student experience.

What is Self-Compassion exactly?

We often think of compassion as being kind, considerate, caring, and non-judgmental toward others. Self-Compassion is exactly that but instead turns that compassion inwards. It’s thinking kind thoughts about yourself, and cultivating positive emotions about who you are.

For college students, Self-Compassion can give the needed space to work through challenges and not be discouraged when they don’t quite live up to their definition of success. They may have had expectations about what their college experience would be like, only to realize that making friends and succeeding in class is harder than they thought. Self-Compassion can help them release their expectations of perfection, mitigating the anxiety and social isolation they may be experiencing.

There’s a wealth of research on Self-Compassion, and it’s clearly a necessary ingredient not only for self-awareness but in overall success and well-being.

There are three key components to Self-Compassion. Let’s review all three components to deepen our understanding of how Self-Compassion works.

  1. Mindfulness: The ability to recognize what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it is essential to Self-Compassion. Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down, identifying your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and connecting to the present moment. It helps build an understanding of oneself.
  2. Common Humanity: Sometimes you may feel like you’re the only one in the world going through something, or that others are doing things that make it hard for you to succeed. Connecting to common humanity can help remind you that others have the same struggles, needs, and wants as you. It helps you stay connected to others rather than seeing them as separate from yourself.
  3. Self-Kindness: The ability to be kind to yourself, even when you fall short of your own expectations, is a powerful way to remain resilient. It affirms that you’re just as worthy of the kindness you show others. Being patient with yourself and reframing negative thoughts are two ways to show yourself kindness.

So, how do you inspire the three components of Self-Compassion in students?

How You Can Help Students Develop Positive Emotions in College

Showing Self-Compassion is sometimes easier said than done. College students, given all the pressures they’re under, may struggle with finding the time or focus to remain mindful. Having support from leaders who can role model strategies for Self-Compassion makes a tremendous difference when things get tough.

Here are a few ways you can help students practice Self-Compassion:

Process over perfection.
Embrace and celebrate the mistakes that will inevitably occur along the way. Ask students what they’ve learned from their experiences and what they might do differently now that they know what doesn’t work. Avoid putting pressure on students to achieve perfect grades and instead celebrate small improvements. With Self-Compassion, students are more likely to respond positively to these setbacks and see them as growth opportunities. They’ll be more non-judgmental, and will see there are multiple pathways and definitions of success.

Build Mindfulness practices into your work.
Consider taking a few moments for deep, conscious breathing at the beginning or end of class. Ask students in one-on-one meetings to identify how they’re feeling. Send motivational quotes, study resources, or wellness tips via email for them to practice on their own. This helps them find what works for them to reduce stress and take small steps toward a more mindful, fulfilling college experience.

Tell students you believe in them and are confident in their ability to succeed.
Hearing positive words of encouragement and gratitude when your inner monologue is anything but positive can make a world of difference. Professors, academic advisors, and other faculty are often the front lines of student interactions. Communicate specifically what you see students doing well and your observations on their strengths. This helps them not only know what to continue doing, but it also gives them kind words to repeat back to themselves.
Academic burnout is real, but Self-Compassion can help students overcome it. Know that your actions can inspire a student’s ability to practice Self-Compassion and have an even more positive college experience.

Support College Students’ Self-Awareness with U-Thrive Educational Services

It’s encouraging to know that Self-Compassion and a growth mindset can impact all areas of wellness for college students, including mentally, academically, and socially. By including wellness and mental health skills in the curriculum, leaders at higher education institutions can ensure students are practicing all three elements of Self-Compassion (Mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness).

Now more than ever, understanding of oneself and healthy mental patterns are critical components for a successful academic experience. Equip your students with the Self-Compassion and self-awareness needed to thrive in college and beyond with U-Thrive Educational Services’ intentionally designed programs. Students will learn more about their emotions and how they impact all areas of their life during college and beyond. They’ll walk away feeling more empowered, more confident, and ready to face the challenges of higher education with a positive outlook.

To learn more about U-Thrive Educational Services programs:

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