The Development and Validation of the Mindful Self-Care Scale (MSCS): an Assessment of Practices that Support Positive Embodiment


This study details the development and validation of a measure of mindful self-care, the Mindful Self-Care Scale (MSCS). Based on theory and emerging empirical work, the MSCS items were developed to align with a set of actionable practices that promote positive embodiment and well-being. The extant literature on self-care was reviewed and a set of items developed. Following expert review, the retained items were factor analyzed (N = 448, aged 18–71, 79.7% female, 90.0% Caucasian) resulting in six factors: physical care, supportive relationships, mindful awareness, self-compassion and purpose, mindful relaxation, and supportive structure. Overall, the MSCS was significantly and positively correlated with body esteem and negatively correlated with eating disorder risk. Confirmatory factor analyses were applied to a second independent sample (N = 452, aged 18–78, 69.7% female, 70.8% Caucasian) providing cross-validation of the six-dimensional structure of the MSCS. Internal consistency was upheld for the total scale and subscales. Findings and implications for future research follow along with a review of the limitations of this study.

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Author information




CC completed the initial conceptual and theoretical work, created the first batch of items, conducted the expert review, and constructed the set of items to be analyzed. CC and WG worked to collect data. WG was the primary statistician on the paper. CC and WG collaborated to interpret the EFA and CFA results and integrate pervious research with findings. CC and WG contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Catherine P. Cook-Cottone.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.



Mindful Self-Care Scale (MSCS)

Directions for administration

Check the box that reflects the frequency of your behavior (how much or how often) within the past week (7 days); never (0 days), rarely (1 day) sometimes (2 to 3 days), often (4 to 5 days), and regularly (6 to 7 days). Note, one item is reverse scored (see Physical Care*). For clinical use, items can be administered in order.

Physical care (8 items)

  1. 1.

    I drank at least 6 to 8 cups of water.

  2. 2.

    I ate a variety of nutritious foods (e.g., vegetables, protein, fruits, and grains).

  3. 3.

    I planned my meals and snacks.

  4. 4.

    I exercised at least 30 to 60 min.

  5. 5.

    I took part in sports, dance, or other scheduled physical activities (e.g., sports teams, dance classes).

  6. 6.

    I did sedentary activities instead of exercising (e.g., watched TV, worked on the computer)—reversed score*.

  7. 7.

    I planned/scheduled my exercise for the day.

  8. 8.

    I practiced yoga or another mind/body practice (e.g., Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi).

Supportive relationships (5 items)

  1. 9.

    I spent time with people who are good to me (e.g., support, encourage, and believe in me).

  2. 10.

    I felt supported by people in my life.

  3. 11.

    I felt that I had someone who would listen to me if I became upset (e.g., friend, counselor, group).

  4. 12.

    I felt confident that people in my life would respect my choice if I said “no.”

  5. 13.

    I scheduled/planned time to be with people who are special to me.

Mindful awareness (4 items)

  1. 14.

    I had a calm awareness of my thoughts.

  2. 15.

    I had a calm awareness of my feelings.

  3. 16.

    I had a calm awareness of my body.

  4. 17.

    I carefully selected which of my thoughts and feelings I used to guide my actions.

Self-compassion and purpose (6 items)

  1. 18.

    I kindly acknowledged my own challenges and difficulties.

  2. 19.

    I engaged in supportive and comforting self-talk (e.g., “My effort is valuable and meaningful”).

  3. 20.

    I reminded myself that failure and challenge are part of the human experience.

  4. 21.

    I gave myself permission to feel my feelings (e.g., allowed myself to cry).

  5. 22.

    I experienced meaning and/or a larger purpose in my work/school life (e.g., for a cause).

  6. 23.

    I experienced meaning and/or larger purpose in my private/personal life (e.g., for a cause).

Mindful relaxation (6 items)

  1. 24.

    I did something intellectual (using my mind) to help me relax (e.g., read a book, wrote).

  2. 25.

    I did something interpersonal to relax (e.g., connected with friends).

  3. 26.

    I did something creative to relax (e.g., drew, played instrument, wrote creatively, sang, organized).

  4. 27.

    I listened to relax (e.g., to music, a podcast, radio show, rainforest sounds).

  5. 28.

    I sought out images to relax (e.g., art, film, window shopping, nature).

  6. 29.

    I sought out smells to relax (lotions, nature, candles/incense, smells of baking).

Supportive structure (4 items)

  1. 30.

    I kept my work/school area organized to support my work/school tasks.

  2. 31.

    I maintained a manageable schedule.

  3. 32.

    I maintained balance between the demands of others and what is important to me.

  4. 33.

    I maintained a comforting and pleasing living environment.

General (3 items—not to be averaged)

G1. I engaged in a variety of self-care strategies.

G2. I planned my self-care

I explored new ways to bring self-care into my life.

Scoring: Each subscale should be averaged to calculate a subscale score. The total score is a sum of the averaged subscale scores. Note, the general items are not included in any subscale score or the total score.

Permission: The MSCS is free to use. We request that researchers notify the authors of publications using the scale. Please contact the author Catherine Cook-Cottone, Ph.D. at for permission to modify items.

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Cook-Cottone, C.P., Guyker, W.M. The Development and Validation of the Mindful Self-Care Scale (MSCS): an Assessment of Practices that Support Positive Embodiment. Mindfulness 9, 161–175 (2018).

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  • Mindfulness
  • Self-care
  • Eating disorder
  • Positive embodiment
  • Body esteem
  • Mindful self-care