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Give yourself a break

That’s right. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Not only will you feel better emotionally, you might also be physically healthier. A recent RCT published in Diabetes Care showed that an 8-week intervention using something called “Mindful Self-Compassion” resulted in a decrease in measures of depression, diabetes-specific distress and HbA1c. (1) What is mindful self-compassion? That is something that has grown out of the psychology literature that has to do with looking at yourself the same way you would look at a dear friend who is suffering for some reason. The idea is that you show yourself the same compassion you would show your friend. Kristen Neff has defined self-compassion as having three components: self-kindness, a sense of common humanity and mindfulness. (2) She points out that kindness toward others is valued in society but not so much with kindness toward ourselves. Our own internal dialogs are often much harsher and critical then we would ever express to another person. This has the potential to isolate us and mute our sense of common humanity. To address this self-awareness or mindfulness is important.

Mindful self-compassion has been around the psychology literature for a number of years. It is used in treating anxiety as well as PTSD. (3,4) The application to physical problems is relatively recent. Of course, we have all witnessed the effect that a person’s attitude has on their outcomes. It’s good to know there are interventions that have the potential to influence attitudes.

(1) Friis AM, Johnson MH, Cutfield RG, Consedine NS. Kindness Matters: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindful Self-Compassion Intervention Improves Depression, Distress, and HbA1c Among Patients With Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2016 Jun 22. pii: dc160416. [Epub ahead of print]
(2) Neff, K. D. & Davidson, O. (2016). Self-compassion: Embracing suffering with kindness.In I. Ivtzan & T. Lomas (Eds.), Mindfulness in Positive Psychology (pp. 37-50). Rutledge.
(3) Neff, K. D. (2003a). Development and validation of a scale to measure self- compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223-250.
(4) Germer CK1, Neff KD.Self-compassion in clinical practice. J Clin Psychol. 2013 Aug;69(8):856-67.

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