Being kinder to yourself could help alleviate stress and make you feel safe, relaxed, and more connected, according to new research.
Self-care, self-compassion, and mindfulness are gaining the attention of the medical community as potential methods to help improve mental health and wellbeing.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Exeter conducted a new study to examine the physical and psychological impacts of self-compassion and cultivating a kinder inner dialogue.
The research was published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
135 students from Exeter took part in the study, and the researchers split the students into five groups.
Each of the groups was given an 11-minute recording meant to cultivate self-compassion or create a critical inner voice.
The researchers recorded the heart rates and sweat responses of the participants, and each student was asked about how they felt and how connected they felt to others.
Two of the groups were given recordings that helped guide self-compassion, and the members of these groups said they felt more connected and compassionate towards themselves. The researchers also noticed that students from these two groups had lower heart rates and sweat responses.
The groups that listened to critical recordings meant to induce positive feelings of competitiveness and self-improvement had higher heart rates. All the groups reported higher levels of self-compassion, but only the groups given the self-compassion recordings had lowered stress responses.
Self-kindness also resulted in increased heart-rate variability which is a strong indicator of heart health.
“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing,” said Hans Kirschner, the first author of the study.
Past research has shown that when the body’s threat response is turned on, it can damage the immune system and increase the risk of disease.
The researchers only assessed the effects of self-compassion on healthy students and next plan to see if self-compassion exercises can help people with recurrent depression.