Self-compassion Modulates Heart Rate Variability and Negative Affect to Experimentally Induced Stress

Abstract

Self-compassion has increasingly been recognized to buffer stress and promote emotional health. However, few studies have examined the influences of self-compassion on physiological stress response. The current study aimed to investigate the impact of self-reported self-compassion on physiological stress response and negative affect induced in a laboratory setting. Healthy male participants (N = 34, Asians) were grouped into high (N = 17, age: mean = 19.65, SD = 0.59) or low (N = 17, age: mean = 19.71, SD = 0.82) self-compassion groups based on the Self-Compassion Scale. They were subjected to the Trier Social Stress Test, with electrocardiography recorded and negative affect assessed by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. Results demonstrated that self-compassionate individuals showed higher vagally mediated heart rate variability (vmHRV) at baseline (CI = [0.30, 0.91], p = 0.01). Interestingly, self-compassionate individuals demonstrated higher vmHRV to an acute stressor after an anticipated decrease in vmHRV (CI = [0.02, 0.67], p = 0.04). Moreover, self-compassionate individuals reported less negative affect in response to stress (CI = [− 8.29, − 0.42], p = 0.03). Our results demonstrate the role of self-compassion in the flexible adjustment of physiological and psychological responses to stress.

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Funding

XC is supported by the China Scholarship Council (201506990016).

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Authors

Contributions

XL contributed to study design, data collection, data analysis, and manuscript preparation. LQ contributed to data collection and manuscript preparation. XC contributed to study design, data analysis, and manuscript preparation.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xianwei Che.

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Ethical Statement

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the local ethics committee in the Southwest University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Xi Luo and Lei Qiao contributed equally to this work.

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Luo, X., Qiao, L. & Che, X. Self-compassion Modulates Heart Rate Variability and Negative Affect to Experimentally Induced Stress. Mindfulness 9, 1522–1528 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0900-9

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Keywords

  • Self-compassion
  • Stress
  • Emotion
  • Heart rate variability