Self-Compassion & TMS


Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness, care, and understanding during times of failure, distress, or suffering, similar to how one would treat a good friend. It entails self-kindness, mindfulness, and feelings of common humanity (Neff, 2003).

Why is it so important?

Many individuals may not be sufficiently aware of the importance of preventing burnout and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The benefits of self-care, and particularly self-compassion, often go unnoticed and are unknown to many people. Paying extra attention to your self-compassion can play a crucial role in improving your overall well-being, reducing stress, and fostering resilience.

By recognising the significance of treating oneself with kindness and understanding, individuals can handle better life’s challenges, improve their emotional health, and create a more fulfilling and balanced life.

The benefits

Self-compassion interventions produce benefits in self-compassion, mindfulness, optimism, self-efficacy, life satisfaction and connectedness, and decreases in rumination (Smeets et al., 2014).

  • Improved Mental Health
    • Self-compassion is associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression (MacBeth & Gumley, 2012).
  • Enhanced Emotional Resilience
    • Self-compassionate individuals demonstrate greater emotional resilience in the face of stress and adversity (Neff, 2003a).
  • More positive Body Image
    • Practicing self-compassion improves body image and reduces body dissatisfaction (Albertson et al., 2015).
  • Increased Motivation
    • Self-compassion enhances motivation and reduces fear of failure, promoting a growth mindset (Breines & Chen, 2012).
  • Reduced Rumination
    • Self-compassion helps reduce rumination, which is linked to mental health issues such as depression (Raes, 2010).
  • Improved Relationships
    • Higher levels of self-compassion are associated with better relationship satisfaction and healthier interpersonal dynamics (Neff & Beretvas, 2013).
  • Greater Life Satisfaction
    • Self-compassion contributes to higher overall life satisfaction and well-being (Neff & Germer, 2013).
  • Effective Emotion Regulation
    • Self-compassion aids in emotion regulation, helping individuals manage their emotions more effectively (Diedrich et al., 2014).
  • Increased Mindfulness
    • Self-compassion practices enhance mindfulness, which is linked to numerous psychological benefits (Birnie et al., 2010).
  • Decreased Self-Criticism
    • Practicing self-compassion reduces self-criticism and promotes a more positive self-view (Gilbert & Procter, 2006).

Self-Compassion & TMS

Self-compassion can play a critical role in the effectiveness of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatment. It works in two ways:

Patients undergoing TMS treatment for conditions such as depression or anxiety may initially struggle with self-doubt and frustration, especially if they expect rapid improvement, a lot of patients believe this is ‘their last resort’. This can lead to harsh self-criticism and negative self-talk, reinforcing a cycle of hopelessness and diminishing their overall optimism about the treatment’s potential.

When patients are harsh on themselves for not experiencing quick benefits, their critical self-talk can exacerbate their symptoms, making them feel even worse. This negative mindset can act as a detrimental placebo, where the expectation of no improvement leads to a perceived lack of progress, further entrenching feelings of despair and failure. This self-fulfilling prophecy can undermine the therapeutic effects of TMS, as the mental state of the patient plays a crucial role in their response to treatment.

Integrating self-compassion practices can help counteract these negative effects. By fostering a kinder and more understanding attitude towards themselves, patients can better manage their expectations and reduce self-criticism. Self-compassion encourages patients to recognize that treatment takes time, and that setbacks or slow progress are part of the healing process, not personal failures. This compassionate perspective can maintain their motivation and hope, improving their emotional resilience and making them more receptive to the benefits of TMS.

Furthermore, self-compassion can help create a more supportive internal environment, where patients are less likely to give up on TMS, maximizing its potential benefits. Encouraging self-compassion in conjunction with TMS treatment may not only increase the effectiveness of the treatment but also contribute to a more positive overall mental health outcome (Neff & Germer, 2013; Diedrich et al., 2014).

TMS improving Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is strongly linked to the patients journey with TMS. Luo et al. (2023), found that intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) in TMS, increased gamma brain activity, which correlated with greater self-compassion, and modulated theta activity based on social context, such as self-compassion or social rejection. The results suggest that iTBS can influence the neural mechanisms behind self-compassion, potentially enhancing mental resilience and emotional regulation. These findings have implications for using brain stimulation to improve self-compassion and manage negative emotions.

A recent study has revealed TMS can influence our brains to help us manage emotional pain, especially the kind that comes from social isolation and rejection. Researchers found that stimulating the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC), using TMS, can significantly boost the placebo effect in decreasing negative emotions. Participants who received treatment reported feeling less emotional distress and showed lower levels of emotional intensity in their brain activity compared to sham group (Wang at al., 2023).

Written by Weronika, Smart TMS Edinburgh practitioner


  1. Luo, X., Che, X., & Li, H. (2023). Concurrent TMS-EEG and EEG reveal neuroplastic and oscillatory changes associated with self-compassion and negative emotions. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 23(1), 100343.
  2. Wang, M., Cheng, S., Li, Y., Li, H., & Zhang, D. (2023). The role of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on placebo effect of regulating social pain: A TMS study. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 55(7), 1063–1073.
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