Rewire Your Brain for Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Mulling around the self-discovery section at Miraval, Tucson (my ultimate happy place), a book jumped out at me. “Good Morning I Love You” – Mindfulness + Self-Compassion Practices to Rewire your Brain for Calm, Clarity, and Joy.  I have always been intrigued by the brain and knowing that something greater is helping us interact with the world, so I immediately purchased it. I was ready to learn more about rewiring the brain for a positive mindset, clarity, self-compassion and mindfulness.

After spending the last several months reading this book and listening to every podcast I could find on the author, Dr. Shauna Shapiro, I am now hooked.  Dr. Shapiro is a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness and self-compassion. I am crushing on Dr. Shapiro and everything she is saying. Not only does it make absolute sense, but. . . it is confirmed by science! 


Here’s the simple fact, you aren’t changing because you keep doing the same things. You most likely are having the same thought patterns, emotions, and feelings. Change comes from doing something different. You are actually “practicing” something at all times.  

Here is the million-dollar question … What are YOU practicing? Love, kindness, and acceptance of yourself OR judgment, guilt, and shame?

NEUROPLASTICITY Can Help – But What Is It?

If we can change our brain we can change our self-compassion and positive mindset.


Science tells us that from birth to age 25, it is much easier to learn new things like a new language, to ride a bike or ski. When I was first learning to ski, I was so perplexed watching adorable 3-year-olds whiz down a slope while I was struggling on the bunny hill as an adult. Learning at a younger age can be done without trying too hard. However, after 25 years, the brain becomes a little more fixed and a little harder to re-wire. Neuroplasticity after the age of 25 must be activated because it is no longer passive. This is all bad news.  Hold tight, the good news is coming next!

The beauty of the brain is it can actually change no matter how old you are or what mistakes you made. It is NEVER TOO LATE to rewire your brain and transform your life. Your brain has the capacity to rewire and change throughout your life.

So Is it Too Late for You to Change?

Change happens over time and in small increments. It requires practice. This practice is actually creating new neuropathways in your brain. Dr. Shauna Shapiro, says “The foundation of neuroplasticity is “WHAT YOU PRACTICE, GROWS STRONGER.” This means until you engage in practicing a new skill, trait, or thought process, you won’t be able to change.  The only way to change is through practice. 

So you want to change? Well, you have to do something different.  If you have had pain or trauma and you keep engaging the same pathways – you are just reinforcing that. The only way that you heal, and change is to do something different. Relating to your pain in a different way will help you make a shift.


Mindfulness is a way of being present and aware. It is paying attention with kindness, openness, and curiosity. Mindfulness helps you see clearly so you can make wise choices and respond to life effectively. Instead of pushing away an emotion, like fear, you welcome it. It allows you to be in the moment with whatever is happening – positive or negative.

Mindfulness gives you a choice. You have a choice over what you think, how you are feeling, your actions, and your behaviors. But. . . you can only have a choice if you are aware. Staying connected to your body, your mind, and your heart is important. When you bring “all of yourself” to the present moment, you are available to meet each moment.

Mindfulness provides the space between the stimulus – whatever is happening to you – and the response.  In that space lies your choice and your freedom.  Mindfulness allows you to see your self-judgment and notice it. The essence of mindfulness is to love yourself, be self-compassionate, and accept yourself. Remember you are doing the best you can with what you know.

Mindfulness practice is good for you! It increases happiness, empathy, and compassion. It also improves attention, memory, and the ability to perform on tests. If that wasn’t enough, it also cultivates innovation and creativity, grows areas of the brain related to well-being, and can even slow the aging process by altering your DNA. Sign me up 🙂 Mindfulness helps you see clearly and clarify your values so you can get back on course. With practice, you can learn to accept your emotions instead of fight them. Mindfulness helps you to become more compassionate with yourself.

There are 3 pillars of mindfulness.


Intentions are values and what you care about. They help guide you to what is most important in your life. Intentions set the compass of your heart.

Life is busy and full of distractions. You are receiving so much input all of the time. At times you may lose touch with what is most important to you.  You may have to really think about what your priorities are in life and what you care about the most. Reflect on your deepest hopes and values. How do you want to grow? What is important to you?  What are your core values?

When you set an intention, it releases dopamine which motivates you and tells your brain to “pay attention”.  It is like a compass directing you in the right direction. Dopamine is incredibly important because it gives you the energy to do what is important.  It moves you forward and helps you be present, focused, and alert.

Here are some examples of intentions you can set: “I want to be a more present mother.” “I want to be a more patient teacher.” “I will live this day with kindness.” Intentions like these set the compass of your heart in the direction of love and kindness. 


Attention is the ability to focus on the present moment. It trains and stabilizes your mind in the present.  Where you put your attention becomes your life.  Humans tend to have very reactionary attention. Their attention tends to go back and forth like a ping pong ball instead of being focused on something of our choosing.  Science studies show that the mind wanders on average about 47% of the time.  Attention is learning how to bring it back and refocus on the present moment. 


Attitude is HOW you pay attention.  Are you paying attention with kindness, compassion, openness, and curiosity? Or is your attention filled with shame and judgment of yourself and others? Are you listening with an open mind?  Often you may be thinking, “I like this. I don’t like this.”  You are actually judging things, other people, and yourself.  When you judge and shame yourself, it actually shuts down the learning centers of the brain and keeps you stuck in the very behaviors you are trying to change.  Treating yourself with kindness, turns on the learning centers of the brain and gives you the resources you need to change.  Treating yourself with compassion does not let you off the hook, rather it helps you see clearly what you did so next time so you do it differently.

Change is Just Around the Corner

To engage neuroplasticity, you must FIRST set an intention. Identify why you are practicing.  The intention you set will give you motivation. You’ll say something like, “I want to change.”  “I want to learn…” Your intention releases dopamine which turns on the learning and motivation centers of the brain and engages neuroplasticity. 

Second, you must be actively engaged and focused (cue up the attention).

Lastly, motivate yourself through positive self-talk, encouragement, and having a positive attitude. Learning is a process.                                  


Practices are a roadmap to change. It is important to have tools and practices to support you in your self-discovery journey.  Dr. Shapiro says these simple powerful scientific practices will help bring about lasting change.

Self-Compassion and Mindfulness Morning Practices

What you do first thing in the morning is incredibly important for your health. First, it is important to know that the morning is a very powerful time. When you wake up, your brain is in a theta state – meaning it is a very trainable and suggestible time.

The morning is the time to protect the mind and train your attention and clarity. Science also shows that your mood in the morning predicts your overall health. Instead of grabbing your phone in the morning and going on social media or thinking about your to-do list, try something new. 

Try these powerful morning practices towards self-compassion and a positive mindset.

Morning Practice 1 – The Magical Morning Question

Start your day by waking up and saying, “I wonder what surprising and beautiful things will happen today”. This practice will help your brain look for the good and counterbalance your negativity bias. Negativity bias is the tendency of the human brain to scan for danger and negativity in order to protect you. But you don’t have to live in this state.  Instead, start your day with this morning practice to prime your mind to look for the beauty and wonder in the day.

Morning Practice 2 – Set a Morning Intention

Begin your day by setting a daily intention. Where do you want to focus your attention? What are your personal values, goals, and aspirations? Ask yourself, “What do I want to grow?” This will guide you. It is important to do this practice with kindness and curiosity rather than shame, which shuts down the learning centers of the brain. Intensions release dopamine which turns on the learning and motivation centers of the brain and engages neuroplasticity. Intentions direct the compass of the heart and reflect your deepest hopes and values.

Morning Practice 3 – Good Morning I Love You

Begin your morning by putting your hand on your heart  – which is a connection to your body. Then say  “Good Morning (Tricia), I love You.” Putting your hand on your heart releases oxytocin, the hormone of love and safety. This practice can change your life, moving you out of shame and sadness and into love. This simple but powerful practice teaches you to greet yourself with kindness.

Self-Compassion and Mindfulness Evening Practices

Protecting your mood in the evening is also very important so you want to shape your brain in positive ways. 

These evening practices will help increase your self-compassion and positive mindset.

Evening Practice 1 – 3 Good Things

End your day by strengthening your gratitude which increases happiness and positive moods. Reflect on 3 things, large or small, that went well during the day. Sensory details help memories stick – so visualizing sounds, smells and feelings is an important part of this practice.

Evening Practice 2 – Love and Kindness Practice

End your day by strengthening your kindness, happiness, and well-being. Place one hand on your heart and call to mind a loved one. As you bring this person to mind, feel your love for them. Go through all the people in your life or people that have touched you that day. Send them love and kindness by saying, “May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you be healthy.”

The 5% Principle

Change happens in small increments and it does not happen overnight. Create micro habits by doing things just 5% more. Maybe drink water with lemon in the morning just 5% more, get 5% more sunlight or do 5% more sit ups. It’s like baby steps. 

Our culture is so focused on perfectionism and striving for the next thing. Focusing on the practice of changing with small steps is really going to help you make significant changes in your life. Although it can be hard to engage in behavior where you don’t see the benefits immediately, little micro shifts can have a huge impact over time. You will actually see a difference by practicing a new habit for 5-10 minutes a day. The key is consistent, daily practice. Also, setting very small achievable goals and then celebrating them, releases dopamine which propels you forward!

The Smile Mediation

Smiling is powerful.  It sends a biochemical message to the nervous systems that you are safe and that the body can relax the flight-fight-freeze-fawn response.  Try bringing a gentle smile to your face throughout the day and see how your body feels. “In this moment, I am ok.” Invite in this warmth and kindness.

Calming Technique  – Name it to Tame it

Practice meeting your emotions in a healthy way. Emotions rise and pass.  They actually only last between 30 and 90 seconds – rising as a wave and then settling again.  How you respond to your emotions and meet them will impact their trajectory. When you name your emotion, it can put the brakes on physiological reactivity and calm the nervous system (and you) down.

Then “feel it to heal it”. Emotions need to be felt and released. The final step is to bring kindness to it.  Being your own inner ally.  Example “I am feeling stressed right now.”  When you name it, there is a part of you that is witnessing it and no longer consumed by it.

When naming your emotions, you are getting a little distance from your emotions and gaining perspective and clarity.  Naming emotions activates your prefrontal cortex. After naming it, pause and then make a choice about how to respond to it. The witness state of awareness -pausing in mindfulness – allows you to take a mental step back from whatever is happening and use higher-order thinking to observe a situation objectively. 

Lastly, and unfortunately, it is important to feel the pain of your emotions and repair it. With practice, you can learn to accept your emotions instead of fighting them and become more compassionate with yourself. 

Self-Compassion Practice

Self-Compassion is bringing kindness to yourself and turning compassion inward. When you have self-compassion, you are able to take risks. You are not afraid to fail because you are going to try again. You have faith in yourself.

The Self-Compassion Practice involves putting your hand on your heart when you are having a hard time. It is treating yourself like you would a dear friend. Think about how would you talk to a loved one or your child. It gives you the ability to pick yourself up and try again. It can be a moment to begin new and start fresh. 

Another Self-Compassion Practice is to imagine something you are struggling with – friendship conflict, sleep, children etc. To support yourself in a self-compassionate way, write a letter to yourself from the perspective of what would you say to your best friend. How would you guide her?  It is easier to give advice to a loved one.    

Studies show that people who are more compassionate with themselves are more compassionate with others. Your practice can ripple out into the world.                              

Challenges You May Face

You Will Mess Up!

When you set an intention and then later break your commitment to yourself, you may begin to lose trust in yourself.  Often shame and guilt follow. Research shows that shame and judgment do not create change. They actually keep you stuck because these feelings shut down the learning centers of the brain and inhibit you from having insight and making changes. Your resources are shuttled into survival pathways which lead to a fight or flight response. When you judge yourself and put pressure on yourself, you inevitably get lost in self-criticism. Shame and judgment keep you repeating the same unhealthy patterns and habits and deters you from learning new behaviors.

Humans have the mistaken belief that if we beat ourselves up that we will do better and change BUT it is actually the opposite. When you are kind and self-compassionate with yourself, you think more clearly, problem-solve more effectively, and are more motivated to make a change.

You are Not Alone!

You may think you are alone and the only one experiencing pain or trauma, but there is actually a term called Common Humanity. People suffer and go through challenges – this is life. Often, you may isolate yourself in your pain and think you are the only one suffering. When you are feeling alone in your struggles, in the moment of pain or frustration, remind yourself you are not alone.  Think about all the others that are struggling.  Send them compassion and then breathe it back into yourself. 

Have you ever heard of negativity bias? I mentioned it above. Negativity bias is how humans were able to evolve hundreds of years ago. Humans are wired to focus on what’s wrong, what we are afraid of, and what could possibly happen. This keeps us safe. Long ago this made sense for survival. Today, humans still tend to look for the negative and danger. However, living with negativity bias is really not a great way to live at all. Instead, practice cultivating more joy and gratitude to prime the mind to focus on beauty. Dr. Rick Hansen shares that balancing your negativity bias by focusing on beauty and positivity is something you can try today.

What to Remember

Cultivate an attitude of kindness and compassion. Reflect and focus on your healing practices rather than blame and shame. Be intentional about how you are living your life, how you are taking care of yourself, and what you are exposing yourself to.  Make choices to nourish yourself to support your “best self” to come forward.  Using mindfulness, you always have a choice in how you are going to respond to a current situation. 

In conclusion, be proactive and take care of yourself instead of waiting for a challenge or tragedy in your life to make a change. The only way that you heal and change is to do something different. When you strengthen your compassion for yourself, you are able to give it out. Because we are all interconnected, everything you do ripples out into the world and will cultivate greater compassion for those around you.

Science shows it is never too late to change your brain because it is constantly changing throughout your life. Humans can restructure their brain at any moment. So what are you waiting for?  Take a small action today in your personal growth today. Then watch as you grow in self-compassion and mindfulness.

Support yourself with self-compassion and a positive mindset.

Journal Prompts

  • What you practice grows stronger. What are you practicing and growing?
  • Mindfulness is intention, attention, and attitude. Reflect on today. Did you pay attention with kindness, openness, and curiosity?
  • The morning is incredibly important for your health. Can you set a morning intention or start a morning practice? Which one sounds comfortable?
  • Change happens in small increments. What is something you can do 5% more of?

Self-Compassion and Mindfulness Resources

Shauna Shapiro BLOG Good Morning I Love You

TEDTalk What You Practice Grows Stronger

Chasing Consciousness Podcast The Science of Minds and Reality with Freddie Drabble 

The Psychology of Mindful Meditation An approach to stress management and happiness. 

Live Happy Now Podcast #50 Regulating Emotions with Dr. Shauna Shapiro July 14, 2020

GOOP Why Self-Esteem is a FairWeather Friend January 21, 2020, Shauna Shapiro 

Untangle Mindfulness for Curious Humans

Dr. Shauna Shapiro – Activate Your Superpowers: Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, and Neuroplasticity September 13, 2022

With mindfulness, it’s important to have a coach or teacher that is monitoring your progress. With anything that is powerful and effective, you want to make sure you are doing it right.  

 If you need a Self-Care Accountability Partner, I AM HERE to support you.

Bringing a fresh loving and supportive perspective, I can help you set goals, create healthy routines, or help you become the most loving and confident woman you have always dreamed of to be.  

Life Coaching with Tricia

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