Women Who Practice Self-Compassion Are Less Likely to Develop Cardiovascular Disease, According to a New Study
It's been long understood that practicing self-compassion through self-care techniques like mindfulness can provide a sense of peace in everyday life. And now, according to a new study published in the journal Health Psychology, the health benefits of being good to yourself keep coming. A research team out of the University of Pittsburgh found that middle-aged women who regularly practice self-compassion have less of a risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This proved to be true, no matter the warning signs for the illness, like high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol.
"A lot of research has been focused on studying how stress and other negative factors may impact cardiovascular health, but the impact of positive psychological factors, such as self-compassion, is far less known," said Rebecca Thurston, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, clinical and translational science, epidemiology, and psychology, in a media release.
The study authors experimented by researching 200 women, all between 45 and 67 years of age. They provided a survey, which gave the study's volunteers an opportunity to detail how often they felt like they were lacking personally, felt discouraged by any flaws they saw within themselves, and gave themselves a chance to care for themselves when feeling stressed from life. From there, the researchers tested each woman's health based on a diagnostic ultrasound of their carotid arteries (the vessels found in the neck that carry blood from the heart to the brain). The result? The participants that had the highest self-compassion scores also had thinner carotid artery walls and minimal plaque buildup than those who did not practice self-compassion as frequently.
Since the conditions listed above are tied to risk of developing cardiovascular disease or experiencing a heart attack and stroke, the act of self-compassion appears to help combat these health issues head on. And the study authors' research stayed consistent, even after factoring in depressive emotions, smoking, and low physical activity among participants. "These findings underscore the importance of practicing kindness and compassion, particularly towards yourself," Dr. Thurston added. "We are all living through extraordinarily stressful times, and our research suggests that self-compassion is essential for both our mental and physical health."