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Self-Compassion Tied to Improved Health

Update Date: Apr 04, 2014 02:05 PM EDT
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In a new study conducted by researchers from Brandeis University, the team examined the link between self-compassion and health. They found that people who have a self-compassionate attitude are better equipped to deal with stress. By effectively dealing with stress, these people have lower levels of stress-induced inflammation.

For this study, the researchers defined self-compassion as having self-forgiveness. People who are self-compassionate are less likely to blame themselves for situations that were out of their control. The team, headed by psychology professor Nicholas Rohleder, recruited 41 participants who were instructed to rank their levels of self-compassion. Certain sentences, such as "I try to be understanding and patient toward aspects of my personality I do not like" and "I'm disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies," were used to assess self-compassion.

The participants then underwent one stress test per day for two days. The researchers assessed their stress levels by measuring interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is an inflammatory agent tied to stress. IL-6 levels were taken before and after the stress tests on both days.

The researchers discovered that people who reported lower levels of self-compassion had elevated levels of IL-6 on day two before the stress test was administered. This finding suggested that the participants who were not self-compassionate carried over the stress from day 1.

"The high responses of IL-6 on the first day and the higher baseline levels on the second day suggest that people with low self-compassion are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of this kind of stress," Rohleder stated according to Medical Xpress. "Hopefully, this research can provide more effective ways to cope with stress and reduce disease, not only by relieving negative emotions but by fostering positive ideas of self compassion."

The researchers hope that by helping people build self-compassion, they could also help them deal with their stress levels and improve their overall health. The study was published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

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