In a new study from the University of Exeter, researchers found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can help promote self-kindness in people with a history of depression, thereby putting their bodies in a state of safety and relaxation.
They found that MBCT may help break the cycle of highly critical thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, which often lead people with depression to relapse.
In the study, the researchers tested 50 people who were in remission from depression and at risk for depressive relapse.
25 of this group were tested before and after an eight-week MBCT treatment and compared with an untreated control sample of 25 people with recurrent depression.
The participants treated with MBCT showed a pattern of being kind to themselves, along with body responses of reduced threat response, a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing.
In contrast, the untreated control group showed body responses indicative of a more adverse response to self-compassion meditation when they engaged in it a second time.
The authors believe the study helps to better understand how MBCT prevents relapse.
MBCT is an effective group-based psychological treatment that helps people change the way they think and feel about their experiences and learn skills that reduce the likelihood of further episodes of depression.
Previous research has shown that people with recurrent depression benefit particularly from MBCT when they learn to become more compassionate towards themselves.
This increased self-compassion has been defined as the ability to be kind to ourselves in stressful times.
The study builds on the team’s previous research that found that a brief self-compassion exercise can temporarily activate a pattern of self-kindness and feeling safe in healthy individuals.
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The study is published in Mindfulness and was conducted by Dr. Hans Kirschner et al.
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