According to recent research that synthesized findings from 94 studies and 29,588 individuals, our physical wellness can be supported by an inner resource that is already available within us and can be accessed at a moment’s notice: self-compassion.
Researchers found that individuals with higher self-compassion were more likely to have better global health, fewer physical symptoms, greater immune function, fewer stress hormones, and better metabolism and cardiovascular fitness. In particular, self-compassion was strongly associated with better sleep and improved functioning of the immune system, both of which are bolstered by our ability to respond adaptively to stress when it arises. The study was recently published in Health Psychology Review.
In our current circumstances, it is important we keep returning to a self-compassionate way of being. When we encounter difficulties with open awareness and care toward ourselves, we are growing our capacity to adapt and be resilient. As we train in self-compassion over time, we create the conditions in our lives and in our bodies for being healthier and enhancing our wellbeing. In fact, additional findings from this study demonstrate that sustained self-compassion practice is good for your health. Researchers found that engaging in multiple sessions of self-compassion training led to improvements in physical health and increases in supportive health behaviors.
Each time we choose to respond to our struggles with presence, connection, and love instead of self-judgment, isolation, or avoidance, we are investing in our vitality. It can take time to make self-compassion a consistent habit, though we can be encouraged that our cumulative efforts do make a remarkable difference for our overall health.
Wendy J. Phillips & Donald W. Hine (2019): Self-compassion, physical health, and health behaviour: a meta-analysis, Health Psychology Review, DOI: 10.1080/17437199.2019.1705872