Regulating eating behavior

Duarte, Cristiana, José Pinto‐Gouveia, and R. James Stubbs. “Compassionate Attention and Regulation of Eating Behaviour: A pilot study of a brief low‐intensity intervention for binge eating.” Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 2017, doi: 10.1002/cpp.2094, online 13 Jun 2017.

Abstract. A low-intensity 4-week intervention that included components of compassion, mindfulness, and acceptance was delivered to women diagnosed with binge eating disorder. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 conditions: intervention (n = 11) or waiting list control (n = 9).

Participants in the intervention condition were invited to practise mindfulness, soothing rhythm breathing, and compassionate imagery practices with a focus on awareness and acceptance of emotional states and triggers to binge eating and engagement in helpful actions.

Results revealed that, in the intervention group, there were significant reductions in eating psychopathology symptoms, binge eating symptoms, self-criticism, and indicators of psychological distress; there were significant increases in compassionate actions and body image-related psychological flexibility. Data suggest that developing compassion and acceptance competencies may improve eating behaviour and psychological well-being in individuals with binge eating disorder.

Can compassion be defined and measured?

Strauss, C., Taylor, B. L., Gu, J., Kuyken, W., Baer, R., Jones, F., & Cavanagh, K. (2016). What is Compassion and How Can We Measure it? A Review of Definitions and Measures. Clinical Psychology Review. Full draft ahead of inclusion in an issue.


  • Compassion is recognized as important across many sectors of society.
  • There is lack of consensus on definition and few self/observer-rated measures exist.
  • Five elements of compassion are proposed after consolidating existing definitions.
  • The psychometric properties of existing measures are poor, limiting their utility.
  • A new measure of compassion with robust psychometric properties is needed.

Loving-kindness meditation (analytic review)

Zeng, X., Chiu, C. P., Wang, R., Oei, T. P., & Leung, F. Y. (2015). The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: a meta-analytic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1693. Full text.

While it has been suggested that loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is an effective practice for promoting positive emotions, the empirical evidence in the literature remains unclear. Here, we provide a systematic review of 24 empirical studies on LKM with self-reported positive emotions.

Analysis showed that (1) interventions focused on loving-kindness had medium effect size, but interventions focused on compassion showed small effect sizes; (2) the length of interventions and the time spent on meditation did not influence the effect sizes, but the studies without didactic components in interventions had small effect sizes. A few individual studies reported that the nature of positive emotions and individual differences also influenced the results.


Reduces mind wandering

Jazaieri, H., et. al. (2015). A wandering mind is a less caring mind: Daily experience sampling during compassion meditation training. The Journal of Positive Psychology, (ahead-of-print), 1-14. Abstract.

Mind wandering, or the tendency for attention to drift to task-irrelevant thoughts, has been associated with worse intra- and inter-personal functioning. Utilizing daily experience sampling with 51 adults during 9-weeks of a compassion meditation program, we examined effects on mind wandering (to neutral, pleasant, and unpleasant topics) and caring behaviors for oneself and others.

Results indicated that compassion meditation decreased mind wandering to neutral topics and increased caring behaviors towards oneself. When collapsing across topics, mind wandering did not serve as an intermediary between the frequency of compassion meditation practice and caring behaviors, though mind wandering to pleasant and unpleasant topics was linked to both variables.

A path analysis revealed that greater frequency of compassion meditation practice was related to reductions in mind wandering to unpleasant topics and increases in mind wandering to pleasant topics, both of which were related to increases in caring behaviors for oneself and others.

Mechanism of mindfulness and compassion

crutchesLim, D., Condon, P., & DeSteno, D. (2015). Mindfulness and Compassion: An Examination of Mechanism and Scalability. PLOS ONE. Published online February 17, 2015. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118221. Full text.

Abstract. Emerging evidence suggests that meditation engenders prosocial behaviors meant to benefit others. However, the robustness, underlying mechanisms, and potential scalability of such effects remain open to question. The current experiment employed an ecologically valid situation that exposed participants to a person in visible pain. [Comment: The final sample consisted of 56 individuals, 30 female, 26 male; mean age = 19.4 years.]

Following three-week, mobile-app based training courses in mindfulness meditation or cognitive skills (i.e., an active control condition), participants arrived at a lab individually to complete purported measures of cognitive ability. Upon entering a public waiting area outside the lab that contained three chairs, participants seated themselves in the last remaining unoccupied chair; confederates occupied the other two. As the participant sat and waited, a third confederate using crutches and a large walking boot entered the waiting area while displaying discomfort.

Compassionate responding was assessed by whether participants gave up their seat to allow the uncomfortable confederate to sit, thereby relieving her pain. Participants’ levels of empathic accuracy was also assessed. As predicted, participants assigned to the mindfulness meditation condition gave up their seats more frequently than did those assigned to the active control group. In addition, empathic accuracy was not increased by mindfulness practice, suggesting that mindfulness-enhanced compassionate behavior does not stem from associated increases in the ability to decode the emotional experiences of others.

Loving-kindness meditation for veterans with PTSD

Kearney, D. J., McManus, C., Malte, C. A., Martinez, M. E., Felleman, B., & Simpson, T. L. (2014). Loving-Kindness Meditation and the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions Among Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Medical care, 52, S32-S38.

From the Abstract. Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a practice intended to enhance feelings of kindness and compassion for self and others.

Objectives: To assess whether participation in a 12-week course of LKM for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with improved positive emotions, decentering, and personal resources.

Design: In an open-pilot trial, 42 veterans with active PTSD (40% female ) were assessed at baseline, after the course, and 3 months later. Emotions, decentering, psychological wellbeing including autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations, purpose in life, self-acceptance, and sense of social support were measured at each time point.

Conclusions: Overall, positive emotions increased, and enhancement of personal resources occurred over time. Further investigation of LKM for PTSD is warranted.

Compassion meditation and chronic pain

Chapin, H. L., Darnall, B. D., Seppala, E. M., Doty, J. R., Hah, J. M., & Mackey, S. C. (2014). Pilot study of a compassion meditation intervention in chronic pain. Journal of Compassionate Health Care, 1(1), 1-12. Full Text.

The emergence of anger as an important predictor of chronic pain outcomes suggests that treatments that target anger may be particularly useful within the context of chronic pain. Eastern traditions prescribe compassion cultivation to treat persistent anger. Compassion cultivation has been shown to influence emotional processing and reduce negativity bias in the contexts of emotional and physical discomfort, thus suggesting it may be beneficial as a dual treatment for pain and anger.

Our objective was to conduct a pilot study of a 9-week group compassion cultivation intervention in chronic pain to examine its effect on pain severity, anger, pain acceptance and pain-related interference. We also aimed to describe observer ratings provided by patients’ significant others and secondary effects of the intervention. Twelve chronic pain patients completed the intervention (F = 10). Data were collected from patients at enrollment, treatment baseline and post-treatment; participant significant others contributed data at the enrollment and post-treatment time points.

In this predominantly female sample, patients had significantly reduced pain severity and anger and increased pain acceptance at post-treatment compared to treatment baseline. Significant other qualitative data corroborated patient reports for reductions in pain severity and anger.