Trait Self-Compassion Reflects Emotional Flexibility Through an Association with High Vagally Mediated Heart Rate VariabilityReport as inadecuate

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, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 1103–1113

First Online: 02 June 2016DOI: 10.1007-s12671-016-0549-1

Cite this article as: Svendsen, J.L., Osnes, B., Binder, PE. et al. Mindfulness 2016 7: 1103. doi:10.1007-s12671-016-0549-1


Converging evidence shows a positive effect of self-compassion on self-reported well-being and mental health. However, few studies have examined the relation between self-compassion and psychophysiological measures. In the present study, we therefore examined the relation between trait self-compassion and vagally mediated heart rate variability vmHRV in 53 students 39 female, mean age = 23.63. Trait self-compassion was assessed using the Self-Compassion Scale, and resting vmHRV was measured during a 5-min ECG baseline period. We hypothesized that higher levels of trait self-compassion would predict higher levels of resting vmHRV. Controlling for potential covariates including age, gender, and BMI, the results confirmed our hypotheses, showing that higher levels of trait self-compassion predicted higher vmHRV. These results were validated with a 24-h measure of vmHRV, acquired from a subsample of the participants n = 26, 16 female, mean age = 23.85, confirming the positive correlation between high trait self-compassion and higher vmHRV. The relation between trait self-compassion, vmHRV, self-reported trait anxiety the trait scale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory; STAI and self-reported rumination the Rumination subscale of the Rumination-Reflection Questionnaire; RRQ-Rum was also investigated. Higher levels of trait anxiety and rumination were highly correlated with low levels of trait self-compassion. Trait anxiety, but not rumination, correlated marginally significantly with the level of vmHRV. The findings of the present study indicate that trait self-compassion predicts a better ability to physiologically and psychologically adapt emotional responses. Possible implications and limitations of the study are discussed.

KeywordsSelf-compassion Heart rate variability Emotion regulation Emotional flexibility Young adults Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1007-s12671-016-0549-1 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Julie Lillebostad Svendsen - Berge Osnes - Per-Einar Binder - Ingrid Dundas - Endre Visted - Helge Nordby - Elisabeth Scha


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