Novelty Seeking Lowers the Ability of Mindfulness Training to Increase Self-Compassion.
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion insofar as we can only respond self-compassionately when we know we are struggling.” – Pittman McGehee
One of the more remarkable aspects of Western culture is that in general people do not like themselves. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and since there can only one best, virtually everyone falls short. So, we constantly criticize ourselves for not being the smartest, the swiftest, the strongest, the most liked, the most handsome or beautiful. If there wasn’t something wrong with us, then we would be the best. As a result, we become focused and obsessed with our flaws. This can lead to anxiety and worry and poorer mental health.
Mindfulness promotes experiencing and accepting ourselves as we are, which is a direct antidote to seeing ourselves in comparison to others and as we wish to be. In other words, mindfulness promotes self-compassion. Self-compassion involves being warm and understanding about ourselves rather than self-criticism. If we have that attitude, we will like ourselves more and suffer less. So, it is important to study what factors affect the ability of mindfulness training to increase self-compassion.
In today’s Research News article “More Purpose in Life and Less Novelty Seeking Predict Improvements in Self-Compassion During a Mindfulness-Based Intervention: The EXMIND Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7146234/ ) Akase and colleagues recruited adult participants and randomly assigned them to receive either 8 weekly mindfulness training sessions or 4 weeks of mindfulness training followed by 4 weeks of existential approach. Both groups required daily home practice. The mindfulness training included raisin exercise, mindful breathing, body scan, walking meditation, and sitting meditation. The participants were measured before, at 4 weeks and after training for mindfulness, self-compassion, temperament, reading ability, depression, parental bonding, and purpose in life.
They found that mindfulness training produced significantly increased self-compassion at 4 weeks and significantly greater increased self-compassion at the end of training. They also found that the higher the levels at baseline of purpose in life and the lower the levels of novelty seeking the greater the change in self-compassion produced by mindfulness training. In addition, they found that the higher the levels of purpose in life, but not novelty seeking, the higher the levels of self-compassion.
The findings found as has been seen in previous research that mindfulness training improves self-compassion. This is important as higher levels of self-compassion are associated with better mental health, greater resistance to stress, and less burnout. The current study found also that the effectiveness of mindfulness training in increasing self-compassion was best in participants who were low in novelty seeking and high in purpose in life.
That self-compassion and purpose in life are related may be due to conceptual overlap between the two. Indeed, many of the questions in the scales measuring purpose in life and self-compassion are very similar. Novelty seeking, on the other hand, is not directly related to self-compassion, rather it appears to modulate the effectiveness of mindfulness training to improve self-compassion. It was speculated that novelty seeking makes it more difficult to disengage from spontaneous thoughts (mind wandering) during mindfulness exercises and thereby decreases the effectiveness of mindfulness training.
Hence, novelty seeking lowers the ability of mindfulness training to increase self-compassion.
“The growing movements of self-compassion and mindfulness are linked by the growing awareness and evidence from a huge body of research that indicate that treating ourselves (and others) with kindness not only feels better but also allows us to make healthy changes and face new challenges with more success.” – Samantha Price
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Akase, M., Terao, T., Kawano, N., Sakai, A., Hatano, K., Shirahama, M., Hirakawa, H., Kohno, K., & Ishii, N. (2020). More Purpose in Life and Less Novelty Seeking Predict Improvements in Self-Compassion During a Mindfulness-Based Intervention: The EXMIND Study. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 252. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00252
Recently, a 4-week mindfulness-based intervention followed by a 4-week existential approach was found to be as effective for increasing self-compassion as an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention. The purpose of the present study was to identify the factors that predicted change in self-compassion during the 8-week mindfulness-based intervention.
Fifty-seven of the 61 completers of the 8-week mindfulness-based intervention provided baseline, 4-week, and 8-week self-compassion scale scores. The mean age of the 47 females and 10 males was 49.6 years. Pearson’s correlation coefficients were generated on the associations between the change of total self-compassion scale scores from baseline to 8 weeks with age; gender; and the baseline scores on the Temperament Evaluation of Memphis, Pisa and San Diego Auto-questionnaire, Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), Mini-Mental State Examination, Japanese Adult Reading Test, Young Mania Rating Scale, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Parental Bonding Instrument, and purpose in life (PIL). Multiple regression analysis was performed to identify the predictors of the change in total self-compassion scale scores.
Novelty seeking (TCI) was significantly and negatively associated with the change in total self-compassion scale scores, whereas the PIL scores were significantly and positively associated with the change in total self-compassion scale scores. Novelty seeking was not significantly associated with baseline, 4-week, or 8-week total self-compassion scale scores, whereas the PIL scores were significantly and positively associated with baseline, 4-week, and 8-week total self-compassion scale scores. The limitation of the present study was a relatively small number of subjects which deterred a more sophisticated analysis of the pathways involved.
The present findings suggest that more PIL and less novelty seeking predict improvements in self-compassion during mindfulness-based interventions, although novelty seeking might substantially predict the improvement but self-compassion scale and PIL might somewhat conceptually overlap.