Untitled design-10According to a pilot study in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, self-critical people were significantly kinder and more compassionate toward themselves after practicing lovingkindness meditation, compared with a control group.

Lovingkindness is a form of meditation designed to bring out feelings of warmth and kindness to all people, including oneself. Practicing the technique may activate a soothing-caring regulation system that is probably deficient in chronic self-critics, according to the researchers. The technique is rooted in Buddhism, and may help reduce symptoms of depression, the researchers suggest.

The study stated that self-critical perfectionism can be linked to a number of psychological conditions, including eating disorders, and can interfere with treatments for depression.

Researchers in Israel recruited 38 people, 23 women and 15 men, who had high self-criticism scores on pre-study evaluations. Half were assigned to a seven-week lovingkindness- meditation program and the rest of the participants formed a control group that was offered the program after the study.

The program consisted of 90-minute weekly sessions, led by an instructor, in which participants practiced directing feelings of warmth and compassion toward themselves. In subsequent sessions, they imagined directing those emotions towards others, including close friends, friends in need, neutral individuals, and people with whom they had a difficult relationship.

Subjects in both groups completed multiple questionnaires before and after the study. Following the mediation program, the participants scored significantly lower on self-critical perfectionism and inadequacy, while scores for self-compassion and self-reassurance increased. Control scores did not change.

The program had no effect on self-hate, a severe form of self-criticism that may require more intensive therapy, according to researchers. The benefits remained for at least three months.

Larger studies involving more than one instructor could ensure the practice of lovingkindness was responsible for the changes and not other factors, such as attachment to the instructor, the researchers added.

wsjhealth.com   August, 2015

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