The Compassionate Kitbag – Chris Winson

In 1915 two Welsh songwriters published a song called “Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag, and smile, smile, smile.” It became a famous wartime song and posed the question “What’s the use of worrying?”

Worry is something everyone does, its a natural process. It’s your brain trying to help you focus on things which seem important to you, to perhaps provide motivation to address an underlying concern or to take action to mitigate the perceived consequence.

The problem is that within modern times we can have a lot to worry about, that perhaps our ancestors didn’t. A constant flow of news and information, which lets face it always focuses on the bad things, apart from the “ And here is a lovely story about an old donkey that makes people smile” story tagged on the end of news shows.

And the thing is, worry can move very easily and quickly from helpful to unhelpful, into rumination. The concern grows, grows and grows until the worry is a weight that is exhausting to carry. Bringing a more self-compassionate view to your worries can help, by reducing the rumination, helping to see the worry with more clarity and maybe allow a more helpful reaction to the worry.

But that can be easier said than done. Especially at 2am in the morning when the worry monster creeps out from under the bed.

At times of rumination and heightened worry it can be very hard to bring that compassionate self to the fore of your thinking. Perhaps this is where the compassionate kitbag could help.

I was fascinated to hear that phrase used in a tweeted highlight from the recent Compassionate Mind Foundation, from a talk by Kate Lucre. Thanks to the power of social media connections Ali Binns kindly shared with me a short guide she uses with clients on creating a compassionate kitbag. As I read the guide it struck me that I already had a kitbag, just never realised it as such. You probably have one too.

It’s a simple and effective concept. To have with you, in your environment and on you, things which will sooth, nurture and foster calmness. These will be very personal to you. Something I hadn’t really thought about was a piece of advice that Ali gives, to consider things which appeal to different senses.

So I am going to share a few of my compassionate kitbag to see if that helps you think about this too….

  • Music – on my phone I have playlists to use in different situations, including one’s to help bring calmness, to feel connected, to feel reassured….and yes, one to dance to like no-one is watching. I also have a short meditation recording of a CFT loving-kindness practice on my phone- thanks James Kirby, the calm Aussie accent helps !
  • Journal – my notebook is with me as much of the time as possible, it helps to write about experiences and there are pages in it to remind me of certain things relating to my mental wellbeing and CFT practices. I use it to record Three Good Things daily. For me the journal writing is comparable to compassionate letter writing, in that it allows me to express certain things and respond in an encouraging, supportive manner.
  • Books – how joyful is it to be surrounded by books ? I have two favourite places at University and one of them is the little bookshop on campus. I go in most days, just for a few minutes wander around (avoiding the huge urge to buy a book each time – so many good books, only so many hours in the day!). Those few minutes refresh me. I also carry ebook versions on my phone of a couple of my favourite books, to dip into when needed.
  • Space – in places that I spend a lot of time I try to find quiet a space to go to, if I need time out. For example, at University there is a wonderful roof top garden on top of the multi-faith centre, which it seems only a few people know about and it’s such a perfect place to escape the noise of the University, looking out over the grounds. I like it so much I have a picture on my phone as a reminder, along with pictures of other favourite spaces.
  • Personal reminder – I wear a bracelet consisting of beads of four colours, to act as a constant reminder of being mindful and as present as I can be. The colours have a significance – the red, natural (standing in for blue) and green reflect the colours of CFT, while the black reflects the relationship to depression. At times of stress it can be helpful to simply see and feel that reminder, helping to ground and support breathing exercises.

The more I thought about the kitbag concept, the more realisation grew that this idea is something that we probably all do to an extent – how many of us have pictures of loved ones on phone screens for example ?   Perhaps just taking a few moments to reflect on this, what things you have around you or carry with you which act as such a reminder, might be useful, even if just to remind yourself why those things help and what they mean to you.

And perhaps you might share one thing you have in your compassionate kitbag as a comment to this blog post ? You never know it might help and inspire someone else.


Here is a link to the guide that Ali sent over to me



  1. Mine (a box and a bag that I always carry with me) amongst other very important things contains a charm. I wear it every day to remind me of the journey I am on and to take one step at a time walking with and in the footsteps of my compassionate other, self and friends, my compassionate community and the collective consciousness. It’s rather beautiful as it’s a silver hope shaped pendant very smooth like a pebble with three embossed paw prints on the rounded front, the middle one filled with gold vermeil. The whole idea is woven into my poetry, all of my compassion practices and into my heart.

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  2. I have a stone (small one ! ) in my handbag always. It’s from a favourite beach in Wales. It’s smooth and cool to the touch to soothe me when I need it.

    I always have a poetry book to hand too.

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