Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 88–97 | Cite as

Self-kindness when facing stress: The role of self-compassion, goal regulation, and support in college students’ well-being

  • Michelle E. NeelyEmail author
  • Diane L. Schallert
  • Sarojanni S. Mohammed
  • Rochelle M. Roberts
  • Yu-Jung Chen
Original Paper


This project brought together the constructs of goal and emotion regulation as a way of understanding college students’ well-being, building on previous work that identified the ability to disengage in goal pursuit and to redirect energy toward alternative goals as an important contributor to well-being. In Study 1, we assessed the amount of variance in well-being accounted for by measures of goal management, adding to the regression measures of student stress and self-compassion, the latter defined as a healthy form of self-acceptance and characterized as a tendency to treat oneself kindly in the face of perceived inadequacy. In Study 2, the stress scale was replaced by measures of perceived need and availability of support. Across studies, although factors such as goal management, stress, and need for and availability of support were important predictors of well-being, self-compassion accounted for a significant amount of additional variance in well-being.


Goal regulation Well-being Self-compassion Stress College students Positive psychology 


  1. Baldwin, D. R., Chambliss, L. N., & Towler, K. (2003). Optimism and stress: An African-American college student perspective. College Student Journal, 37, 276–285.Google Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman/Times Books.Google Scholar
  3. Brissette, I., Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (2002). The role of optimism in social network development, coping, and psychological adjustment during a life transition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 102–111. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.82.1.102.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–848. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385–396. doi: 10.2307/2136404.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. The American Psychologist, 55, 34–43. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. The American Psychologist, 56, 218–226. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.218.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gilbert, P. (2005). Compassion: Conceptualisations, research and use in psychotherapy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Greenberg, L. S. (1983). Toward a task analysis of conflict resolution in Gestalt therapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 20, 190–201. doi: 10.1037/h0088490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Holmes, R. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11, 213–218. doi: 10.1016/0022-3999(67)90010-4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Insel, P., & Roth, W. (1985). Core concepts in health (4th ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  15. Langer, E. (2005). Well-being: Mindfulness versus positive evaluation. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 214–230). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Leary, M. R., Tate, E. B., Adams, C. E., Batts, A. A., & Hancock, J. (2007). Self-compassion and reactions to unpleasant self-relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 887–904. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.92.5.887.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Miller, G. E., & Wrosch, C. (2007). You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em: Goal disengagement and systemic inflammation in adolescence. Psychological Science, 18, 773–777. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01977.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Neff, K. D. (2003a). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–101. doi: 10.1080/15298860309032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Neff, K. D. (2003b). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250. doi: 10.1080/15298860309027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Neff, K. D., Hsieh, Y., & Dejitterat, K. (2005). Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self and Identity, 4, 263–287. doi: 10.1080/13576500444000317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007a). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2006.03.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Neff, K. D., Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. L. (2007b). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 908–916. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2006.08.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pearlin, L. I., & Schooler, C. (1978). The structure of coping. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 19, 2–21. doi: 10.2307/2136319.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ross, S. E., Neibling, B. C., & Heckert, T. M. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 33, 312–317.Google Scholar
  25. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. The American Psychologist, 55, 68–78. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1080. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.57.6.1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719–727. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.69.4.719.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shapiro, S. L., Astin, J. A., Bishop, S. R., & Cordova, M. (2005). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for health care professionals: Results from a randomized trial. International Journal of Stress Management, 12, 164–176. doi: 10.1037/1072-5245.12.2.164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1, 105–115. doi: 10.1037/1931-3918.1.2.105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vedder, P., Boekaerts, M., & Seegers, G. (2005). Perceived social support and well being in school: The role of students’ ethnicity. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 269–278. doi: 10.1007/s10964-005-4313-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wagner-Moore, L. E. (2004). Gestalt therapy: Past, present, theory, and research. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice. Training (New York, NY), 41, 180–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wallace, A. B., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). Mental balance and well-being: Building bridges between Buddhism and Western psychology. The American Psychologist, 61, 690–701. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.61.7.690.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 678–691. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.64.4.678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wethington, E., & Kessler, R. C. (1986). Perceived support, received support, and adjustment to stressful life events. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 27, 78–89. doi: 10.2307/2136504.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wrosch, C., & Heckhausen, J. (2002). Perceived control of life regrets: Good for young and bad for old adults. Psychology and Aging, 17, 340–350. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.17.2.340.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wrosch, C., Miller, G. E., Scheier, M. F., & Brun de Pontet, S. B. (2007). Giving up on unattainable goals: Benefits for health? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 251–265. doi: 10.1177/0146167206294905.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wrosch, C., Scheier, M. F., Miller, G. E., Schulz, R., & Carver, C. S. (2003). Adaptive self-regulation of unattainable goals: Goal disengagement, goal reengagement, and subjective well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1494–1508. doi: 10.1177/0146167203256921.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle E. Neely
    • 1
    Email author
  • Diane L. Schallert
    • 1
  • Sarojanni S. Mohammed
    • 1
  • Rochelle M. Roberts
    • 1
  • Yu-Jung Chen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Educational Psychology D5800University of TexasAustinUSA
  2. 2.Leader UniversityTainan CityTaiwan

Personalised recommendations