The benefits of being compassionate to yourself

How being self-compassionate can improve women’s physical and mental health is the focus of new research at Griffith University.

Led by PhD candidate Yvette Forbes from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland, the study aims to show how being compassionate, rather than self-critical can have a positive health benefit on women aged 18-45.

Self-compassion, says Ms Forbes, is defined as “a way of relating positively to the self despite any perceived personal flaws and inadequacies.

“Being kind to oneself and how this affects our mental and physical well-being is at the heart of this study,” says Ms Forbes. “A sizeable body of research has demonstrated an association between self-compassion and positive mental states including lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress.

Stigma of being overweight

“Our study is particularly interested in researching self-compassion and its role in reducing the impacts of stigma on overweight women.

“There are many negative stereotypes around being overweight, and a number of people who do not fit the ‘thin ideal’ experience bullying, harassment and ridicule, sometimes on a daily basis.

“Indeed previous studies have shown that as many as 90 to 100% of obese participants surveyed have reportedly experience stigmatisation about their weight during their lives.

“Research has shown that weight based stigma is associated with negative effects such as mood and anxiety disorders, shame, social isolation and decreased quality of life. The negative effects of weight stigma may be even worse for individuals who have actually internalised and believe the negative stereotypes themselves.

Benefits of self-compassion

“We are hoping to see if self-compassion can help people to be more resilient to the effects of weight stigma. Our team is seeking to explore both the benefits of self-compassion for women of all sizes generally, and to also more specifically investigate if self-compassion can provide resilience for women in the face of stigma.”

The research team is currently seeking women to be involved in our study by completing an online survey.

A second part of the study will involve the team designing an intervention which will take the form of a six-week program for individuals who may have experienced bullying regarding their weight and would like to increase their ability to be self-compassionate.

Expressions of interest are now open to women who would like to participate in this study which is scheduled to commence in early 2017.

If you are interested in this study, please contact Yvette and her team at: Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, 07 3735 3325 or email yvette.forbes@griffithuni.edu.au