Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1113–1126 | Cite as

Enhancing Compassion: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Compassion Cultivation Training Program

  • Hooria Jazaieri
  • Geshe Thupten Jinpa
  • Kelly McGonigal
  • Erika L. Rosenberg
  • Joel Finkelstein
  • Emiliana Simon-Thomas
  • Margaret Cullen
  • James R. Doty
  • James J. Gross
  • Philippe R. Goldin
Research Paper

Abstract

Psychosocial interventions often aim to alleviate negative emotional states. However, there is growing interest in cultivating positive emotional states and qualities. One particular target is compassion, but it is not yet clear whether compassion can be trained. A community sample of 100 adults were randomly assigned to a 9-week compassion cultivation training (CCT) program (n = 60) or a waitlist control condition (n = 40). Before and after this 9-week period, participants completed self-report inventories that measured compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. Compared to the waitlist control condition, CCT resulted in significant improvements in all three domains of compassion—compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion. The amount of formal meditation practiced during CCT was associated with increased compassion for others. Specific domains of compassion can be intentionally cultivated in a training program. These findings may have important implications for mental health and well-being.

Keywords

Compassion Self-compassion Meditation Training 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a Fetzer grant awarded to Philippe Goldin and James Gross, as well funding from Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). The authors of this manuscript do not have any direct or indirect conflicts of interest, financial or personal relationships or affiliations to disclose.

References

  1. Balslev, A., & Evers, D. (2011). Compassion in the world’s religions: Envisioning human solidarity. Berlin: Lit Verlag.Google Scholar
  2. Batson, C. D. (1991). The altruism question: Toward a social-psychological answer. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  3. Birnie, K., Speca, M., & Carlson, L. E. (2010). Exploring self-compassion and empathy in the context of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Stress and Health, 26, 359–371. doi:10.1002/smi.1305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Capitanio, J. P., & Herek, G. M. (1999). AIDS-related stigma and attitudes towards injecting drug users among Black and White Americans. American Behavioral Scientist, 42, 1144–1157. doi:10.1177/0002764299042007007.Google Scholar
  5. Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior Therapy, 35, 471–494. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(04)80028-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Compassion. (2011). In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved October 19, 2011, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion.
  7. Eisenberg, N., Guthrie, I. K., Murphy, B. C., Shepard, S. A., Cumberland, A., & Carlo, G. (1999). Consistency and development of prosocial dispositions: A longitudinal study. Child Development, 70, 1360–1372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. A. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1045–1062. doi:10.1037/a0013262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gerhardt, S. (2010). The selfish society: How we all forgot to love one another and made money instead. London: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  10. Germer, C. K. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  11. Gilbert, P. (2007). Psychotherapy and counselling for depression (3rd ed.). London: Stage.Google Scholar
  12. Gilbert, P. (2009). The compassionate mind: A new approach to life’s challenges. London: Constable & Robinson.Google Scholar
  13. Gilbert, P. (2010). Compassion focused therapy: Distinctive features. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Gilbert, P., & Irons, C. (2005). Focused therapies and compassionate mind training for shame and self-attacking. In P. Gilbert (Ed.), Compassion: Conceptualisations, research and use in psychotherapy (pp. 263–325). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Gilbert, P., McEwan, K., Matos, M., & Rivis, A. (2010). Fears of compassion: Development of three self-report measures. Psychology and Psycotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. doi: 10.1348/147608310X526511.
  16. Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self-criticism: overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 13, 353–379. doi:10.1002/cpp.507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goetz, J. L., Keltner, D., & Simon-Thomas, E. (2010). Compassion: An evolutionary analysis and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 351–374. doi:10.1037/a0018807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hutcherson, C. A., Seppala, E. M., & Gross, J. J. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8, 720–724. doi:10.1037/a0013237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jazaieri, H., Goldin, P. R., Werner, K., Ziv, M., & Gross, J. J. (2012). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction versus aerobic exercise for social anxiety disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68, 715–731. doi:10.1002/jclp.21863.Google Scholar
  20. Jinpa, T. (2010). Compassion cultivation training (CCT): Instructor’s manual. Unpublished, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  21. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Delacorte.Google Scholar
  22. Lama, D. (1995). The power of compassion: A collection of lectures. New Delhi: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  23. Lama, D. (2001). Open heart: Practicing compassion in everyday life. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  24. Leary, M. R., Tate, E. B., Adams, C. E., Allen, A. B., & Hancock, J. (2007). Self-compassion and reactions to unpleasant self-relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 887–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lutz, A., Brefczynski-Lewis, J., Johnstone, T., & Davidson, R. J. (2008). Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: Effects of meditative expertise. Public Library of Science, 3, 1–5.Google Scholar
  26. Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Rawlings, N. B., Ricard, M., & Davidson, R. J. (2004). Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101, 16369–16373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mayhew, S., & Gilbert, P. (2008). Compassionate mind training with people who hear malevolent voices. A case series report. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 15, 113–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moses, J. (2002). Oneness: Great principles shared by all religions. Toronto: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  29. Neff, K. D. (2003a). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250. doi:10.1080/15298860309027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Neff, K. D. (2003b). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–102. doi:10.1080/15298860309032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Neff, K. D. (2009). The role of self-compassion in development: A healthier way to relate to oneself. Human Development, 52, 211–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5, 1–12. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00330.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Neff, K. D., Hseih, Y., & Dejitthirat, K. (2005). Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self and Identity, 4, 263–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Neff, K. D., Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 908–916. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2006.08.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Neff, K. D., & Vonk, R. (2009). Self-compassion versus global self-esteem: Two different ways of relating to oneself. Journal of Personality, 77, 23–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pace, T. W., Negi, L. T., Adame, D. D., Cole, S. P., Sivilli, T. I., Brown, T. D., et al. (2009). Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34, 87–98. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.08.011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pace, T. W., Negi, L. T., Sivilli, T. I., Issa, M. J., Cole, S. P., Adame, D. D., et al. (2010). Innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress do not predict subsequent compassion meditation practice time. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35, 310–315. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.06.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Salzberg, S. (1995). Loving-kindness: The revoluationary art of happiness. Boston: Shambhala.Google Scholar
  39. Schafer, J. L., & Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: Our view of the state of the art. Psychological Methods, 7, 147–177. doi:10.1037/1082-989X.7.2.147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shapiro, S. L., Astin, J. A., Bishop, S. R., & Cordova, M. (2005). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for health care professionals: Results from a randomized trial. International Journal of Stress Management, 12, 164–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shapiro, S. L., Bootzin, R. R., Figueredo, A. J., Lopez, A. M., & Schwartz, G. E. (2003). The efficacy of mindfulness-based stress reduction in the treatment of sleep disturbance in women with breast cancer: An exploratory study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 54, 85–91. doi:10.1016/S0022-3999(02)00546-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(2), 105–115. doi:10.1037/1931-3918.1.2.105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E., & Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stres reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 581–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weiner, B., Perry, R. P., & Magnusson, J. (1988). An attributional analysis of reactions to stigmas. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 738–748. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.55.5.738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Werner, K., Jazaieri, H., Goldin, P. R., Ziv, M., Heimberg, R. G., & Gross, J. J. (2011). Self-compassion and social anxiety disorder. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping. doi: 10.1080/10615806.2011.608842.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hooria Jazaieri
    • 1
  • Geshe Thupten Jinpa
    • 2
  • Kelly McGonigal
    • 2
  • Erika L. Rosenberg
    • 2
  • Joel Finkelstein
    • 3
  • Emiliana Simon-Thomas
    • 2
  • Margaret Cullen
    • 2
  • James R. Doty
    • 2
    • 3
  • James J. Gross
    • 1
  • Philippe R. Goldin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Center for Compassion and Altruism ResearchStanfordUSA
  3. 3.School of MedicineStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations