Loving-kindness meditation for symptoms of depression

Hofmann, S.G. at al. (2015). Loving-Kindness Meditation to Target Affect in Mood Disorders: A Proof-of-Concept Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Article ID 269126, doi:10.1155/2015/269126. Full text.

Conventional treatments for mood disorders primarily focus on reducing negative affect, but little on enhancing positive affect. Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a traditional meditation practice directly oriented toward enhancing unconditional and positive emotional states of kindness towards oneself and others.

We report here two independent and uncontrolled studies carried out at different centers, one in Boston, USA (n = 10), and one in Frankfurt, Germany (n = 8), to examine the potential therapeutic utility of a brief LKM group intervention for symptoms of dysthymia and depression.

Results at both centers suggest that LKM was associated with large-sized effects on self-reported symptoms of depression , negative affect, and positive affect. Large effects were also found for clinician-reported changes in depression, rumination and specific positive emotions, and moderate effects for changes in adaptive emotion regulation strategies. The qualitative data analyses provide additional support for the potential clinical utility of the intervention.

Self-compassion and mindfulness

Neff, K. D., & Dahm, K. A. (2013). Self-Compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. Chapter to appear in Robinson, M., Meier, B., & Ostafin, B. (Eds.). Mindfulness and Self-Regulation. New York: Springer. Full text.

Over the past decade self-compassion has gained popularity as a related and complementary construct to mindfulness, and research on self-compassion is growing at an exponential rate. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern and support you’d show to a good friend.

When faced with difficult life struggles, or confronting personal mistakes, failures, and inadequacies, self-compassion responds with kindness rather than harsh self-judgment, recognizing that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. In order to give oneself compassion, one must be able to turn toward, acknowledge, and accept that one is suffering, meaning that mindfulness is a core component of self-compassion.

This chapter provides a comprehensive description of self-compassion and a review of the empirical literature supporting its psychological benefits.  Similarities and distinctions between mindfulness and self-compassion are also explored, as these have important implications for research and intervention. This chapter hopes to provide a compelling argument for the use of both self-compassion and mindfulness as important means to help individuals develop emotional resilience and wellbeing.

Self-compassion and well-being

Hall, C. W., et al. (2013). The Role of Self-Compassion in Physical and Psychological Well-Being. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 147(4), 311-323.

Abstract: The relation of self-compassion to physical and psychological well-being was investigated among 182 college students. The self-compassion scale was delineated into three composites, following the proposition by Neff that self-compassion consists of three main components: self-judgment versus self-kindness (SJ–SK), a sense of isolation versus common humanity (I–CH), and over-identification versus mindfulness (OI–M).

Findings support the association between self-compassion and psychological and physical well-being, but the composites demonstrate different influences. SJ–SK and I–CH were predictive of both depressive symptomatology and physical well-being, and SJ–SK and OI–M were predictive of managing life stressors. The results of this study support and expand prior research on self-compassion.

Compassion in the classrom through meditation and mindfulness

Stanley, T. E. (2012). The empty classroom: Using symbols to explore kindness and connection. Master of Arts thesis. Naropa University, Boulder, CO. Full text.

From the Abstract: As part of this project, I explored the practice of meditation and mindfulness with myself and with my students to see, if even in small ways, I could help them to rediscover an ethic of compassion and reciprocal care.

Over the course of several months, I developed activities and projects that built toward a greater understanding of interconnectivity and mutual respect between people. In doing so, I tried to provide them with a renewed understanding of “kind”-ness that recognizes all of the human family as more similar than different.

By having an intuitive understanding of how our minds generate meaning, it was my goal that students would see how it is possible to modify thought patterns and choose stories and symbols that unite instead of separate.