Benefits of Self-Compassion
The Mindfulness Association approach to mindfulness training is unusual in that it incorporates training in self-compassion. In addition, we offer a training in compassion meditation, starting with self-compassion, for those who have completed mindfulness training.
Self-compassion as formulated by Kristin Neff (2011) has three components.
The first is to turn towards what is difficult or challenging with curiosity as opposed to avoiding or distracting ourselves from what is difficult.
The second is recognising our common humanity, which means recognising that the human condition is messy, evolved and conditioned and so many of the causes and conditions leading to a difficulty or challenge we did not choose and so we don’t have to blame ourselves. We recognise that all humans experience the same range of emotions and that this is a normal part of living a human life. This is opposed to the usual habit of self-isolation or thinking it is only us that feels bad in the face of these challenges.
The third is actively taking steps to be kind to ourselves as opposed to the usual reaction of giving ourselves a hard time. We do this by making a gesture of self-soothing towards ourselves, such as placing our hands on our hearts, by saying kind phrases to ourselves and by actively doing an act of self-kindness, such as making ourselves a cup of tea or phoning a supporting friend.
Zessin et al (2015) a meta-analysis of 79 studies, including a total of 16,416 participants highlights the importance of self-compassion for an individuals’ well-being. People who are high in self-compassion treat themselves with kindness and concern when they experience negative events and so cope better with stressful situations. In particular, people with high self-compassion tend to construe negative events in less dire terms and focus less on negative emotions. (Batts Allen & Leary, 2010).
MacBeth & Gumley (2012) a meta-analysis of fourteen studies concluded that self-compassion is an important factor underpinning mental health and resilience, in particularly depression, anxiety and stress.
Ferrari et al (2019) which is a meta-analysis of twenty seven randomised control trials concludes that cultivating self-compassion can improve eating behaviour, rumination, compassion, stress, depression, mindfulness, self-criticism and anxiety, with stronger results when self-compassion is cultivated in a group training context. This meta-analysis also suggested that the positive improvements were maintained after the intervention and that depressive symptoms continued to improve after the intervention. Results were particularly good in relation to eating behaviour, which is why self-compassion practice is a big part of our Mindfulness Based Healthy Living training.
Batts Allen & Leary, 2010. Self-Compassion, Stress and Coping.
Ferrari et al, 2019. Self-Compassion Interventions and Psychosocial Outcomes: a Meta-Analysis of RCTs.
MacBeth & Gumley, 2012. Exploring Compassion: a Meta-analysis of the Association between Self-Compassion and Psychopathology.
Neff, 2011. Self-Compassion, Self-Esteem and Well Being.
Zessin et al, 2015. The Relationship Between Self-Compassion and Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis.