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Breathing To Activate Your Soothing System

The Breathing To Activate Your Soothing System exercise is taken from the Psychology Tools For Developing Self-Compassion audio collection. Listeners are guided to breathe slowly, deeply, and evenly to relax and activate their soothing system.


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Audio track (MP3)

A therapy audio track designed for skills development.

Audio script (PDF)

The script for a therapy audio track. Read along with an exercise, or record in your own voice.


One of the aims of compassion focused therapy (CFT) and compassionate mind training (CMT) is to activate and develop the soothing system, as this allows us to counteract the effects and stresses of the threat and drive systems. In simple terms, when the soothing system is active, we are more inclined to feel and give compassion. Like any practical skill, however, the soothing system is developed and strengthened through training and practice. 

The Breathing To Activate Your Soothing System exercise is taken from the Psychology Tools For Developing Self-Compassion audio collection. Many studies have found that slow, rhythmic breathing can make us feel calmer and less stressed (Hopper et al., 2019), as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is linked to the soothing system. Studies of compassionate mind training including soothing breathing exercises have found beneficial effects upon physiological measures such as heart rate variability (Matos et al., 2017). In this exercise, listeners are taught a variety of techniques to breathe more slowly, deeply, and rhythmically.


The Psychology Tools For Developing Self-Compassion audio collection is for anyone who wants to learn more about the ideas and practices of compassion focused therapy. It has been designed to be versatile, so it is suitable to support work with therapists who have been trained in compassion focused therapy, or to be used as a stand-alone collection of exercises. To assist the integration of the exercises into their clinical work, therapists can download the scripts for each exercise and use them in-session.

Individual tracks from the audio collection can be downloaded as .MP3 files, which can be played in most media player apps.

The simplest way to share an audio track with your clients is by using the Psychology Tools ‘Email a client’ function. After obtaining their consent, you can send it directly from this page by clicking ‘Send securely to my client’. Your client will receive a secure email containing a unique link, and when they click the link, they will be prompted to download the .MP3 file onto their device.


  • Gilbert, P. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology53(1), 6-41.
  • Gilbert, P. (2020). Compassion: From its evolution to a psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 3123.
  • Irons, C., & Beaumont, E. (2017). The compassionate mind workbook: A step-by-step guide to developing your compassionate self. Robinson.
  • Irons, C., & Heriot‐Maitland, C. (2021). Compassionate Mind Training: An 8‐week group for the general public. Psychology and psychotherapy: Theory, research and practice94(3), 443-463.
  • Leboeuf, I., Andreotti, E., Irons, C., Beaumont, E., & Antoine, P. (2022). A randomized controlled study of a French compassionate mind training. Mindfulness13(11), 2891-2903.
  • Savari, Y., Mohagheghi, H., & Petrocchi, N. (2021). A preliminary investigation on the effectiveness of compassionate mind training for students with major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Mindfulness12(5), 1159-1172.