Compassion and self-compassion can be protective factors against mental health difficulties, in particular depression. The cultivation of the compassionate self, associated with a range of practices such as slow and deeper breathing, compassionate voice tones and facial expressions, and compassionate focusing, is central to compassion focused therapy (Gilbert, 2010). However, no study has examined the processes of change that mediate the impact of compassionate self-cultivation practices on depressive symptoms.
The aim of this study is to investigate the impact of a brief compassionate self training (CST) intervention on depressive symptoms, and explore the psychological processes that mediate the change at post intervention.
Using a longitudinal design, participants (general population and college students) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: Compassionate self training (n = 56) and wait-list control (n = 37). Participants in the CST condition were instructed to practice CST exercises for 15 minutes everyday or in moments of stress during two weeks. Self-report measures of depression, self-criticism, shame and compassion, were completed at pre and post in both conditions.
Results showed that, at post-intervention, participants in the CST condition decreased depression, self-criticism and shame, and increased self-compassion and openness to receive compassion from others. Mediation analyses revealed that changes in depression from pre to post intervention were mediated by decreases in self-criticism and shame, and increases in self-compassion and openness to the compassion from others.
These findings support the efficacy of compassionate self training components on lessening depressive symptoms and promoting mental health.
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
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