Self-Kindness Benefits Individuals With Depression, Research Results Show


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps change feelings and thoughts about experiences, minimizing depressive episodes, analysis indicates.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can help encourage self-kindness in individuals with a history of depression, new results research showed.

MBCT is a group-based psychological treatment that helps individuals change the way they feel and think about their experiences and learn skills that reduce the likelihood of further episodes of depression, according to the study authors.

Investigators from the University of Exeter in collaboration with those from the universities of Magdeburg and Oxford said that MBCT may help break the chain of highly critical thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, which can often lead to relapses in individuals with depression.

Participants treated with MBCT showed a pattern of being kind to themselves, along with body responses of reduced threat response and a state of relaxation and safety that are important for healing and regeneration, the investigators said in a statement.

In previous research, individuals with recurring depression benefited specifically from MBCT when they learned to become more compassionate toward themselves. The investigators defined self-compassion as the ability to be kind to ourselves during stressful times.

The research team studied 50 individuals who were in remission from depression and at risk for depressive relapse. Of this group, 25 individuals were evaluated before and after an 8-week MBCT treatment and compared with an untreated control sample of 25 individuals with recurring depression.

The untreated control group showed body responses indicative of a more hostile response to the self-compassion meditation when they engaged in it a second time.

Compared with previous research, the research team found that the self-compassion exercise alone was not sufficient to bring about the feeling of safety, but MBCT did so successfully.

“This study extends our previous research that found that a brief self-compassion exercise can temporarily activate a pattern of self-kindness and feeling safe in healthy individuals, but in individuals with recurrent depression this is unlikely to happen without going through an effective psychological therapy that we know addresses vulnerability to relapse,” lead study author Anke Karl, a professor at the University of Exeter, who is the strategic group lead of the Clinical Psychology Research Group and the Mood Disorders Centre and the director of the MDC Biobehavioural Lab, said in a statement.


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy benefits people with depression through promoting self-kindness. University of Exeter. News release. March 9, 2022. Accessed March 29, 2022.

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