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Practicing Compassion Increases Happiness and Self-Esteem

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The current study examined the effect of practicing compassion towards others over a 1week period. Participants (N=719) were recruited online, and were assigned to a compassionate action condition or a control condition which involved writing about an early memory. Multilevel modeling revealed that those in the compassionate action condition showed sustained gains in happiness (SHI; Seligman et al. in Am Psychol 60:410–421, 2005) and self-esteem (RSES; Rosenberg in Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1965) over 6months, relative to those in the control condition. Furthermore, a multiple regression indicated that anxiously attached individuals (ECR; Brennan et al. 1998) in the compassionate action condition reported greater decreases in depressive symptoms following the exercise period. These results suggest that practicing compassion can provide lasting improvements in happiness and selfesteem, and may be beneficial for anxious individuals in the short run. KeywordsCompassion–Compassionate action–Attachment–Happiness–Self-esteem
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RESEARCH PAPER
Practicing Compassion Increases Happiness
and Self-Esteem
Myriam Mongrain
Jacqueline M. Chin
Leah B. Shapira
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
Abstract The current study examined the effect of practicing compassion towards others
over a 1 week period. Participants (N = 719) were recruited online, and were assigned to a
compassionate action condition or a control condition which involved writing about an
early memory. Multilevel modeling revealed that those in the compassionate action con-
dition showed sustained gains in happiness (SHI; Seligman et al. in Am Psychol
60:410–421, 2005) and self-esteem (RSES; Rosenberg in Society and the adolescent self-
image. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1965) over 6 months, relative to those in the
control condition. Furthermore, a multiple regression indicated that anxiously attached
individuals (ECR; Brennan et al. 1998) in the compassionate action condition reported
greater decreases in depressive symptoms following the exercise period. These results
suggest that practicing compassion can provide lasting improvements in happiness and
selfesteem, and may be beneficial for anxious individuals in the short run.
Keywords Compassion Compassionate action Attachment Happiness
Self-esteem
1 Introduction
Compassion is often considered an important human strength, requiring a sense of caring,
empathy, and sympathy, each of which enable one to connect with and care for another. Of
notable relevance to mental health, compassion is not only a process that builds positive
relationships with others; it is also a vital path to releasing the human mind from the effects
of harmful negative emotions (Wang 2005).
M. Mongrain (&) L. B. Shapira
Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada
e-mail: mongrain@yorku.ca
Present Address:
J. M. Chin
Department of Psychology, Queens University, 62 Arch Street, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada
123
J Happiness Stud
DOI 10.1007/s10902-010-9239-1
Despite the centrality of compassionate attitudes and actions in Eastern traditions,
compassion has only recently garnered attention as a recognized psychological construct
(Gillath et al. 2005). The reciprocity of compassionate behaviour has also often been
neglected, with most studies demonstrating the health benefits for recipients of compas-
sionate support (e.g., Krokavcova et al. 2008; Smith and Howard 2008), rather than those
accrued by the provider of support. Thus, both theory (e.g., Brown and Brown 2006) and
empirical evidence highlight the need to further examine the experience of the provider of
compassion in a psychological health context.
While some studies dispute the psychological benefits of compassion-rooted behaviours
(e.g., O’Malley and Andrews 1983), a converging body of literature suggests that various
forms of compassionate behaviours have immediate and long-term psychological health
benefits for the individuals who exhibit them, including positive mood states (Millar et al.
1988), reduced depressive symptoms (Krause et al. 1992; Taylor and Turner 2001), and
increased self-esteem (Krause and Shaw 2000; Yogev and Ronen 1982). Compassion-
based behaviours may even provide a coping mechanism for stressful life events and
transitions. For example, one study found that individuals with a greater number of
compassionate goals experienced increased social support (Crocker and Canevello 2008).
Furthermore, there is mounting evidence demonstrating an association between psy-
chological gains and prolonged helping behaviours performed within institutional settings,
namely volunteering. For example, in a correlational study by Thoits and Hewitt (2001),
number of hours of volunteer work was found to predict positive changes in well-being,
happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, mastery, depression, and physical health over the
subsequent 3 years.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence originates from studies demonstrating the
superior benefits of the provision of compassion over the receipt of compassionate support.
For instance, a correlational study conducted by Schwartz et al. (2003) found that being the
provider of altruistic behaviours was associated with greater gains in mental health (i.e.
lowered depression and anxiety) than being the recipient of altruistic behaviours. Addi-
tionally, Dunn et al. (2008) found that individuals who were randomly assigned to spend a
windfall of money on others exhibited greater gains in happiness than those instructed to
spend a windfall on themselves.
In Buddhist traditions, compassionate orientations are typically promoted through the use
of imagery and meditation procedures (Allen and Knight 2005). One such practice is referred
to as loving-kindness meditation. Its objective is to effect positive cognitive, emotional, and
behavioural changes by training individuals to impart compassion and goodwill toward ‘real
or imagined others’ (Hutcherson et al. 2008, p. 720). Hutcherson et al. (2008) conducted one
of the few studies to empirically test the efficacy of loving-kindness meditation in eliciting
changes in mood. Participants were trained in a 7-min visualization procedure, in which they
were to imagine two loved ones sending loving and compassionate feelings towards oneself,
and to subsequently redirect these warm feelings toward the photograph of an emotionally
neutral stranger (Hutcherson et al. 2008). Participants then recited a succession of phrases
wishing the stranger health, happiness, and well-being. Relative to the control group, par-
ticipants who engaged in this loving-kindness visualization experienced more positive
moods and less negative moods, in addition to more positive affective responses to the self
and others. These findings suggest that even a brief procedure designed to cultivate com-
passion towards others may have upward effects on mood (Hutcherson et al. 2008).
Recently, Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) reported data describing the use of a 6-week
positive psychology intervention designed to increase happiness and leverage one’s per-
sonal strength of kindness. Over the course of 6 weeks, participants were randomly assigned
M. Mongrain et al.
123
to complete five acts of kindness that would benefit others—either all in 1 day or spread
throughout the week. These acts varied in terms of personal costs, ranging from donating
blood to writing a thank-you note to a former professor. The control condition consisted of
withholding treatment, with participants only completing measures of well-being. Results
were promising, showing that individuals who performed five acts of kindness per week
exhibited gains in well-being over the study period, providing that all acts were performed
in a single day. On the contrary, control participants experienced declines in happiness.
1.1 Matching Compassion to Attachment Style
The need to assess the ways in which attachment styles differentially influence the
response to a compassion exercise is timely. Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) maintain that
exercise efficacy can be maximized by matching people to intentional therapeutic activities
according to their unique personalities, needs, values, and preferences. This postulation is
supported by several studies by Fordyce (1977, 1983) which found that happiness-
increasing activities were effective to the extent that they corresponded to the needs and
weaknesses of the individual (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005). Given the interpersonal-oriented
nature of compassionate acts, attachment style appeared to be a particularly relevant to the
study of individual differences in the benefits obtained from a compassion-based exercise.
In line with Bowlby’s (1973) accentuation on the continuity of the attachment system across
the life span, numerous theoretical models have endeavored to describe attachment styles in
adulthood. One model, proposed by Bartholomew (1990) delineates four adult attachment
patterns comprised of combinations of abstract images of self (loveable vs. unlovable) and
others (trustworthy, accepting and reliable vs. untrustworthy and rejecting) (Bartholomew
1990; Bartholomew and Horowitz 1991). In the context of romantic relationships, Brennan
et al. (1998) conceptualized attachment styles among adults as existing along two orthogonal
dimensions. The first dimension, anxiety, indicates the extent to which an individual worries
about abandonment and rejection by significant others (Brennan et al. 1998).
The second dimension, avoidance, indicates the degree to which an individual has
difficulty in achieving intimacy with others and struggles to preserve a sense of autonomy
and self-reliance. Avoidant individuals adopt deactivating strategies involving the dis-
missal of attachment-related needs and avoidance of intimate interactions (Mikulincer and
Shaver 2007).
Individuals scoring low on both anxiety and avoidance are believed to possess a secure
attachment style. Secure individuals attempt to foster interdependent relationships, in
which a balance between intimacy and autonomy is realized (Collins and Read 1990;
Hazan and Shaver 1987).
The quality of our interpersonal relationships is a significant determinant of our psy-
chological health and sense of self-worth (see McAdams and Bryant 1987 for a review).
This is particularly true for anxiously attached individuals whose psychological func-
tioning and well-being are profoundly entwined with interpersonal concerns. It is therefore
possible that such persons may derive a number of benefits from compassionate goals,
including an increase in the amount of social support received (Crocker and Canevello
2008). Overall, incorporating compassion into one’s interpersonal activities may ease
anxious individuals’ concerns regarding the availability, reliability, and responsiveness of
others by creating a supportive social milieu in which one’s own requests for support are
more likely to be reciprocated.
The integration of compassionate acts into one’s social behaviour repertoire may also
initiate a multitude of self-validating and self-esteem enhancing experiences. Anxious
Practicing Compassion
123
individuals may begin to value themselves as compassionate beings who play an important
role in the lives of others, thereby increasing their depleted feelings of self-worth and
mattering—both of which have been shown to enhance well-being (e.g., Roberts et al.
1996; Taylor and Turner 2001). By becoming the provider rather than compulsive seeker
of compassionate support, anxious individuals could also derive a sense of empowerment
and self-reliance.
The defensive strategies of avoidant individuals may preclude the possibility of deriving
particularly strong mental health gains from the proposed intervention. Avoidant attach-
ment has been shown to entail fewer compassionate goals (Crocker and Canevello 2008)
and the interpersonal nature of the compassionate action exercise may be perceived as
objectionable. As discussed previously, highly avoidant individuals cope with attachment
insecurity by avoiding romantic situations that activate the attachment behavioural system
(Mikulincer et al. 2003). Although the proposed exercise was not geared towards romantic
partners, it may nonetheless necessitate a level of closeness that may unwelcomingly
challenge the avoidant person’s active attempts to maintain interpersonal distance
(Mikulincer et al. 2003). For those reasons, a compassionate action exercise was not
expected to provide particular benefits for those with an avoidant attachment style.
1.2 Overview and Hypotheses
The present work involved an online study in which participants were randomly assigned to
a compassionate action condition, or a control group. Participants in the compassion group
were required to interact with someone in a supportive and caring way on a daily basis for
1 week. The compassionate action exercise was compared to an early memories control
condition in which participants were to write a detailed description of an early memory, also
on a daily basis for 1 week (see Seligman et al. 2005 for a similar procedure).
All participants completed self-report measures of depression, happiness, self-esteem,
and attachment at the onset of the study. Well-being, comprised of depression, happiness,
and self-esteem, was assessed at four subsequent time points over a 6 month period. This
longitudinal study was thus comprised of a 1 week exercise period followed by post-
experimental assessments for up to 6 months.
The central hypothesis was as follows: Compared to writing about an early memory,
performing daily compassionate actions for 1 week should result in greater reductions in
depression and greater increases in happiness and self-esteem over the 6 month period.
An additional goal of this study was to examine potential interactions between
attachment and responses to the compassion exercise. It was expected that those high in
anxious attachment would experience greater reductions in depressive symptoms and
greater increases in happiness and self-esteem in the compassionate action condition.
Those with an avoidant attachment style were not expected to show superior gains from the
compassion exercise and this attachment style was not expected to be a significant pre-
dictor of outcome.
2 Method
2.1 Participants
Participants were recruited via the Internet through advertisements placed on Facebook,
inviting individuals to participate in an online study by York University researchers that
M. Mongrain et al.
123
explored the effect of positive exercises on mood. The initial sample consisted of 719
participants ranging in age from 17 to 72 years (M = 33.63, SD = 11.52). There were 591
(82.2%) females and 118 (16.4%) males, and 10 (1.4%) participants did not respond to this
question. No exclusionary criteria, other than being Canadian and over 18 years of age
were employed for this study.
1
Overall, the sample was predominantly Christian (48.5%) and of Caucasian heritage
(79.4%). The remaining participants identified themselves as Asian (5.8%), Mixed Heri-
tage (4.3%), East Indian (2.6%), Black (2.1%), Middle Eastern (1.5%), ‘Other’ (1.5%),
Aboriginal or Inuit (1.4%), and Hispanic (1.0%). Participants were highly educated overall,
with 82.7% reporting they had completed at least some college education. Additionally, the
majority of participants (74.9%) had an annual income of less than $50,000, with 2.5% not
responding to this question. With respect to marital status, 37.4% of the participants were
single and did not have children (55.1%). Of the remaining individuals in the study, 28.9%
were married, 17.7% were currently dating, and 15.7% were co-habitating.
2.1.1 Participant Remuneration
Participants entering the study before November 1st, 2007 received a total of 30 dollars in
remuneration upon completion of the 1 week exercise and measures. In the second round
of data collection, participants were not offered 30 dollars remuneration, however were
entered into a $1000 prize draw upon completion of the 1 week exercise and assessments.
All participants were entered into a $1000 draw following completion of each follow-up at
1, 3, and 6 months. Winners were informed by telephone.
2.2 Measures
2.2.1 Demographic Questionnaire
An author-constructed demographics survey was administered at the beginning of the study,
similar to the one administered during an online study at http://www.authentichappiness.org.
This questionnaire assessed demographic characteristics of participants including age,
gender, race and ethnicity, citizenship, religion, marital status, number of children, highest
level of educational attainment, and income range.
2.2.2 Steen Happiness Index (SHI; Seligman et al. 2005)
The SHI consists of 20 items tapping levels of happiness over the previous week. Its items
are based on Seligman’s (2002) theory which states that happiness is determined by three
core elements: pleasure, engagement and meaning (Seligman et al. 2006). Participants are
required to select one of five statements, ranging from negative to positive, that most
describes their present state. An example includes response choices ranging from 1 (life is
bad)to5(life is wonderful). To demonstrate convergent validity in non-clinical adult
populations, Seligman et al. (2005) found the SHI to correlate highly with other measures
of happiness, including the General Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky and Lepper 1999;
r = .79) and the Happiness Scale (Fordyce 1977; r = .74).
1
Those under 18 years of age were not invited to participate in the study. However two participants who
were 17 years old were included in the sample.
Practicing Compassion
123
2.2.3 Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff 1977)
The CES-D is a 20-item self-report scale that assesses the frequency of depressive
symptoms, such as hopelessness and depressed mood, within the previous week. Responses
are ranked on a 4-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 (rarely or none of the time)to4(most
or all of the time). Sample items include ‘I was bothered by things that usually don’t
bother me,’ or ‘I felt that everything I did was an effort.’ The scale has been shown to
have internal consistency of .8 or higher (Klinedinst et al. 2007) and split-half reliability
coefficients ranging from .77 to .92 (Corcoran and Fisher 1987). The CES-D has good
validity, being strongly correlated with other commonly used measures of depression
(Santor et al. 1995), and highly discriminating of individual differences in symptom
severity (Santor et al. 1997).
2.2.4 Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES; Rosenberg 1965)
The RSES is a self-report unidimensional measure of global self-esteem. It consists of 10
statements related to overall feelings of self- worth, respect and confidence. Examples of such
items are ‘‘On the whole, I am satisfied with myself’ or ‘I feel that I’m a person of worth, at
least on an equal plane with others.’ Responses are ranked on a four-point scale ranging from
strongly agree to strongly disagree. Scores range from 10 to 40 with higher scores reflecting
higher self-esteem. Construct validity and concurrent validity have been demonstrated
(Carmines and Zeller 1979). Good internal consistency has also been found, with Cronbach’s
alpha coefficients ranging from .83 (Yarcheski and Mahon, 1989) to .99 (Damji et al. 1996).
The RSES reportedly has good test–retest reliability (Fleming and Courtney 1984).
2.2.5 Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR; Brennan et al. 1998)
This self-report scale consists of 36-items used to measure adult romantic attachment.
Respondents are required to indicate the extent to which each item is descriptive of their
feelings in close relationships, on a 7-point scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to
strongly agree (7). Items were derived from a factor analysis of numerous self-report
measures of adult romantic attachment. Factor analysis of the ECR yielded a two-dimen-
sional, orthogonal factor structure: an Avoidance dimension, indicative of discomfort with
interpersonal closeness and fear of intimacy, and an Anxiety dimension, indicative of fear of
interpersonal rejection and preoccupation with abandonment (Brennan et al. 1998). The
Avoidance subscale consists of 18 items such as ‘I prefer not to be too close to romantic
partners’ and ‘I find it difficult to allow myself to depend on romantic partners.’ The
Anxiety subscale consists of 18 items such as ‘My desire to be very close sometimes scares
people away’’ and ‘‘I resent it when my partner spends time away from me.’’ Brennan et al.
(1998) reported a high level of internal consistency with coefficient alphas of .91 and .94 for
the Anxiety and Avoidance subscales, respectively. Test–retest reliabilities for the ECR are
reportedly between .68 and .71 for both subscales (Lopez and Gormley 2002). In terms of
validity, numerous studies have supported the convergent and divergent validity of the ECR
with respect to both scales (e.g., Fairchild and Finney 2006; Wei et al. 2006).
2.3 Procedure
Advertisements placed on Facebook invited individuals to participate in a study entitled
‘Project HOPE: Harnessing One’s Personal Excellence,’ examining the effects of mental
M. Mongrain et al.
123
exercises on mood and well-being. The ad for the project appeared to Canadian Facebook
users over 18 years of age. Once they clicked on the ad, prospective participants were
directed to the project website (http://www.ProjectHopeCanada.com). All participants who
registered for the study were first asked to complete a battery of measures online, including
a demographic questionnaire, the SHI, CES-D, RSES, and ECR. Following completion of
these baseline measures, participants were randomly assigned to the compassionate action
condition or the early memory control condition. Instructions were provided describing
their daily exercise and the need to report to the website each night to complete the
exercise.
Participants in the active condition were subsequently asked to act compassionately
towards someone for 5–15 min the following day, by actively helping or interacting with
someone in a supportive and considerate way. Several examples of compassionate actions
were offered, including ‘talking to a homeless person’ and ‘simply being more loving to
those around you.’ During the evening of their daily compassionate act, participants were
instructed to log onto the website to report about their experience.
Participants in the early memories control condition were asked to engage in a daily
psychological exercise consisting of describing an early memory. Participants were sub-
sequently asked to spend 10 min each night writing about an early memory in as much
detail as possible. They were asked to describe this early memory in terms of what they
were doing, what they were feeling, and by whom they were accompanied. An unlimited
amount of space was provided for each online entry.
At the conclusion of the 7 day study period, participants in both conditions were asked
to complete the SHI, CES-D, and SES, which served as outcome measures. The first 33.7%
of participants who were paid at this point, while the remaining participants were entered
into a $1000 draw.
At 1 month following the exercise period of the study, e-mails were sent to participants
encouraging them to return to the website to complete a battery of follow-up question-
naires. These again consisted of the SHI, CES-D, and SES, as well as questions assessing
their continued practice of the exercise. At 2 months after post-test, reminder e-mails were
sent encouraging participants to continue their assigned exercise if they found it effective.
Finally, e-mails were sent at 3 and 6 months post test reminding participants to return to
the website to complete the outcome measures. Participants were entered into a separate
1,000 dollar prize raffle following completion of each follow-up assessment.
3 Results
3.1 Correlations
Pearson correlations were employed to examine the relationships among study variables
(see Table 1). The ‘paid’ variable represents whether or not participants received remu-
neration upon completion of the study (coded as 0 = no remuneration and 1 = received
$30 remuneration). Participants who were not offered remuneration were more depressed
and less happy at the time of entering the study. Adherence, representing the number of
nights participants logged onto the study website and submitted their homework online was
also positively correlated with being paid, suggesting that receiving financial compensation
may have had an upward effect to complete the exercises. Older individuals also tended to
do their exercises more, and higher adherence was correlated with lower depression scores
at 1 week. Given that age, income, receiving payment, and adherence were significantly
Practicing Compassion
123
Table 1 Correlations among study variables at baseline and 1 week (N = 719)
123 456 7 8910111213
1. Condition 1.00
2. Adherence
a
-.13** 1.0
3. Paid -.02 .39** 1.0
4. Anxiety(n = 712)
b
-.06 -.08* -.02 1.0
5. Avoidance (n = 712)
c
-.06 .01 -.10** .23** 1.0
6. Age (n = 704) -.01 .12** -.03 -.09* .08* 1.0
7. Income (n = 694) -.01 -.02 -.03 -.15** -.07 .36** 1.0
8. Self-esteem (Baseline)
d
.05 .02 -.01 -.27** -.23** .09* .07 1.0
9. Self-esteem (n = 469) week)
e
.05 .05 -.04 -.32** -.26** .08 .12* .57** 1.0
10. Happiness (baseline)
f
-.03 .04 .11** -.34** -.28** .001 .19** .52** .57** 1.0
11. Happiness (n = 468) (1 week)
g
.07 .08 .12* -.28** -.30** -.04 .20** .48** .62** .86** 1.0
12. Depressive symptoms (baseline)
h
-.003 -.06 -.15** .35** .29** -.01 -.16** -.53** -.51** -.68** -.63** 1.0
13. Depressive symptoms (n = 471)
(1 week)
-.15** -.08 -.18** .27** .26** -.03 -.20** -.44** -.58** -.64** –.75** .68** 1.0
Means, frequencies 4.05 2.87 66.3% PAID 3.14 3.96 33.63 $20 K –$30 K 2.65 2.88 2.67 2.79 20.57 18.28
Standard deviations 3.0 2.32 1.21 1.27 11.52 .73 .72 .77 .82 14.57 13.22
* p \ .05, ** p \ .01
a
Number of nights participants logged on to project website and completed exercise
b, c
Anxiety subscale and avoidance subscale from the experiences in close relationships (ECR; Brennan et al. 1998)
d, e
From the Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES; Rosenberg 1965)
f, g
From the Steen happiness index (SHI; Seligman et al. 2005)
h, i
From the Center for epidemiological studies depression scale (CES-D; Radloff 1977). There is no statistical correction applied to these correlations
M. Mongrain et al.
123
related to predictor and outcome variables (see Table 1) these were controlled for these in
subsequent analyses.
3.2 Completers vs. Non-Completers Across Time
A total of 719 participants provided data at baseline, with 65.9% (n = 474) of these
individuals completing the 1 week assessment, rendering them eligible to complete the
follow-up assessments at 1 (n = 356), 3 (n = 260), and 6 (n = 179) months. Independent
sample t-tests were performed on demographic and other study variables, comparing the
participants remaining in the study at 1 week, 1, 3 and 6 months. Variables that distin-
guished completers versus non-completers for at least 2 time points are reported here
(Table 2).
Interestingly, the condition assigned to participants predicted completion of the project
at 1 week and 1 month. Those assigned to the compassionate action condition were more
likely to drop out at 1 week, (t(717) = 2.41, p = .02, all 2-tailed), and at 1 month,
(t(717) = 2.75, p = .006). This may be attributed to the onerous nature of the exercise,
compared to the early memories condition which did not require any interaction with
others.
Age was related to project completion at all time points, with younger participants being
more likely to drop out at 1 week, 1, 3 and 6 months (ts(708) \ -2.76, p \ .01).
2
Men
were more likely to drop out at 1 month and 6 months (ts(707) [ 2.14, p \ .05). Less
educated participants were more likely to drop out at 3 and 6 months (ts(717) \ -2.58,
p = .01).
Table 2 Mean scores (and standard errors) for depressive symptoms, happiness, and self-esteem for each
condition over time
Baseline 1 week 1 month 3 months 6 months
CES-D
a
Early memories 20.43 (1.54) 19.28 (1.36) 19.96 (1.41) 20.76 (1.43) 20.31 (1.46)
Compassionate action 18.67 (1.66) 15.40 (1.46) 16.27 (1.52) 14.04 (1.54) 15.42 (1.57)
SHI
b
Early memories 2.71 (.085) 2.79 (.090) 2.78 (.093) 2.76 (.088) 2.67 (.095)
Compassionate action 2.68 (.092) 2.82 (.097) 2.82 (.101) 3.03 (.095) 2.98 (.103)
RESE
c
Early memories 2.78 (.077) 2.88 (.073) 2.95 (.071) 2.85 (.074) 2.75 (.077)
Compassionate action 2.90 (.083) 2.98 (.079) 3.01 (.077) 3.11 (.080) 3.13 (.083)
Bracketed numerals denote standard errors
a
Center for epidemiological studies depression scale (CES-D; Radloff 1977)
b
Steen happiness index (SHI; Seligman et al. 2005)
c
Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES; Rosenberg 1965)
2
We investigated the possibility that participants’ mood at baseline (i.e. happiness, self-esteem, and
depression) might predict completion or non-completion based on the exercise assigned. Several regression
models were run predicting completion at 1 week, 1, 3 and 6 months with mood (SHI, RSES, CESD) and
exercise condition as predictors. None of the interaction between participants’ mood and the condition
assigned predicted completion of the project.
Practicing Compassion
123
Payment status (whether participants were paid or entered in a lottery) influenced
completion of the study, with those being paid being more likely to complete the project at
all time points (ts(717) \ -7.80, p \ .001). Getting paid may have created a sense of
obligation to complete the follow-up questionnaires. Adherence to the exercise regimen
was similarly related to project completion. Those who completed their ‘‘homework’’ were
more likely to complete the follow-up measures at all time points (ts(717) \ -11.30,
p \ .001). Finally, those with higher self-esteem were more likely to complete the project
at 1, 3, and 6 months (ts(717) \ -2.07, p \ .05). Attachment styles were unrelated to the
likely hood of dropping out of the study.
In summary, those who were younger, less educated, male, not paid, low in self-esteem
and who completed fewer of their exercises were more likely to drop out during the
6 month project.
3
3.3 Exercise Effectiveness Using Multi-Level Modeling
Given the high attrition rate in our sample, a data analytic approach capable of handling
missing data was adopted. Multi-level models were run on participants who provided
responses at baseline and at 1 week (n = 458), in order to preserve a more balanced data
set and derive more reliable regression estimates. Maximum likelihood estimation was
used to estimate parameters in the models.
These analyses were conducted to determine the effect of the exercises on well-being
over time, and were performed on 3 outcome measures including self-esteem, happiness
and depression. Payment status, age, income, and adherence were entered as fixed effects,
and controlled for in all models. The rate of change in self-esteem, happiness, and
depression over the 6 month period are described next.
3.4 Self-Esteem
The model tested included the control variables (payment status, age, income, and
adherence), along with exercise condition, followed by all interaction terms with Time.
Inspection of the random effects for this model revealed that the rate of change among
participants, or the slope of the trajectories, did not vary significantly (Estimate = .001,
SE = .001, z = .93, p = .18) while controlling for all variables in the model. As well,
participants’ initial status in terms of self-esteem did not show significant variability
(Estimate = .0001, SE = .005, z = .03, p = .98). Furthermore, the rate of change for
participants did not covary with their baseline levels of self-esteem (Estimate =-.59,
SE = 1.25 z =-.47, p = .64), suggesting that participants’ self-esteem status at the outset
of the study did not systematically impact their rate of change over time.
In terms of the fixed effects, a Time by condition interaction was obtained (Esti-
mate = .04, SE = .02, t = 2.75, p = .006). Inspection of the estimates indicated that
participants in the compassion condition showed greater increases in self-esteem than those
in the control condition.
4
(The control condition was the reference group for interpreting
3
The relationship between baseline affect and degrees of freedom varied slightly across t tests because
some participants failed to provide some demographic information.
4
The multilevel model in the prediction of self-esteem produced a main effect for income (Estimate = .07,
SE = .02, t = 4.43, p \ .001), and for payment status (Estimate = .23, SE = .08, t = 2.94, p = .003).
Those with a higher income and those who were paid reported higher levels of self-esteem at baseline.
M. Mongrain et al.
123
the fixed effects). Therefore, support for our hypotheses was obtained in demonstrating the
superiority of the compassion exercise in improving self-esteem over time.
3.5 Happiness
The model for happiness included as fixed effects: income, adherence, payment status, age,
exercise condition, as well as the interaction between Time and all variables. Inspection of
the random effects for this model revealed that the rate of change (Estimate = .003,
SE = .001, z = 3.30, p = .005) and baseline values for happiness (Estimate = .47,
SE = .04, z = 13.59, p \ .0001) showed significant variability across participants. How-
ever, the rate of change for participants did not covary with their baseline levels of
happiness (Estimate =-.004, SE = .005 z =-.73, p = .47). This indicates that partic-
ipants’ happiness scores at the outset of the study did not systematically impact their
trajectory or rate of change over time.
A Time by condition interaction effect was obtained (Estimate = .04, SE = .01,
t = 3.27, p = .001), and inspection of the estimates indicated that those in the compassion
condition experienced greater increases in happiness than those in the control group
(reference group).
5
In short, participants assigned to the compassion exercise experienced
greater gains in happiness over the 6 month period.
6
3.6 Depression
As for the previous two models, fixed effects included income, adherence, payment status,
age, exercise condition, as well as the interaction between Time and all variables.
Inspection of the random effects revealed that the rate of change (Estimate = .79,
SE = .44, z = 1.82, p = .04) and initial status in terms of depressed symptoms (Esti-
mate = 110.80, SE = 9.33, z = 11.87, p \ .0001) showed significant variability across
participants. However, the rate of change for participants did not covary with their baseline
levels of depression (Estimate = -2.65, SE = 1.74, z =-1.52, p = .13). This indicates
that participants’ levels of depression at the outset of the study did not systematically
impact their trajectory or rate of change over time.
Inspection of the fixed effects failed to reveal a significant Time by condition interaction
in the prediction of depressed symptoms (Estimate =-.34, SE = .27, z =-1.24,
p = .21). There was a marginal effect for Time with reference to the compassion condition
5
The multilevel model in the prediction of happiness produced a main effect for income (Estimate = .09,
SE = .02, t = 4.79, p \ .001), and for payment status (Estimate = .26, SE = .09, t = 2.74, p = .006).
Those with a higher income, and those who were paid reported higher levels of happiness at baseline.
However, a Time by payment status effect was also obtained (Estimate =-.03, SE = .01, t =-1.97,
p = .05) and inspection of the estimates indicated those who were paid did not increase in happiness as
much as those who joined the study without payment.
6
The dependent variables in this study (happiness, self-esteem and depression) were highly correlated,
raising the question of independence between the constructs. It is possible, for example, that the increase in
both happiness and self-esteem represent redundant effects. This issue was addressed in HLM by using
‘time-varying’ predictors, which allows for the prediction of change in one outcome variable while con-
trolling for co-occurring changes in the other ‘time-varying’ predictor. In the first model, happiness was
treated as the time-varying predictor of change in self-esteem. The results indicated that fluctuations in
happiness significantly accounted for increases in self-esteem (Estimate = .07, SE = .03, t = 2.10,
p = .04). The second model treated self-esteem as the time-varying predictor of change in happiness. The
results indicated that fluctuations in self-esteem did not significantly account for increases in happiness
(Estimate = .05, E = .04, t = 1.55, p = .12). These results suggests that happiness and self-esteem are
inter-related but not equivalent.
Practicing Compassion
123
(Estimate =-.37, SE = .20, z =-1.90, p = .06). The effect for Time was nonsignificant
for the control group (Estimate =-.03, SE = .19, z =-.18, p = .86). This suggests the
compassion exercise lowered depression levels, while the control group did not. However,
the effects here were more modest than those obtained for happiness and self-esteem and
failed to produce a Time by condition interaction effect.
7
3.7 The Influence of Attachment on Well-Being
The subsequent analyses included attachment styles as predictors of change following the
exercise period. Our hypotheses pertained to the differential effects of the experimental
condition for anxious and avoidant participants, so we were particularly interested in the
Time by Condition by Attachment interaction effects in predicting changes in well-being.
3.7.1 Self-Esteem
The model tested included the control variables (income, adherence, payment status, age)
along with the exercise condition, followed by the attachment variables and interaction
terms predicting self-esteem over 6 months. Inspection of the random effects for this model
revealed that the rate of change among participants, or the slope of the trajectories, did not
vary significantly (Estimate = .002, SE = .001, z = 1.33, p = .09) while controlling for all
variables in the model. But participants’ initial levels of self-esteem did show significant
variability (Estimate = .20, SE = .02, z = 10.50, p \ .0001). Furthermore, the rate of
change for participants did not covary with their baseline levels of self-esteem (Esti-
mate =-.003, SE = .004, z =-.61, p = .54), suggesting that participants’ self-esteem
status at the outset of the study did not systematically impact their rate of change over time.
In terms of the fixed effects, main effects for Avoidance (Estimate =-.17, SE = .03,
t =-6.10, p \ .001) and Anxiety (Estimate =-.14, SE = .03, t =-5.43, p = . \ .001)
were obtained. Inspection of the estimates indicated that participants who were more
anxious or avoidant were lower in self-esteem at baseline.
8
None of the three-way inter-
actions were significant, contrary to our predictions. That is, the effect of the compas-
sionate exercise on self-esteem was not found to vary according to attachment style.
3.7.2 Happiness
The model tested included the control variables (income, adherence, payment status, age)
along with the exercise condition, followed by the attachment variables and interaction
terms predicting happiness over 6 months. Inspection of the random effects for this model
revealed that the rate of change among participants, or the slope of the trajectories, varied
7
The multilevel model in the prediction of depression produced a main effect for income (Estimate =
-1.42, SE = .29, t =-4.91, p \ .001), and for payment status (Estimate =-4.49, SE = 1.51, t =-2.98,
p = .003). At the outset, those with a higher income, and those who were paid for participation reported
lower levels of depression. Furthermore, a main effect for condition was obtained (Estimate =-7.21,
SE = 2.29, t =-3.15, p = .002), indicating that those in the compassion group started the study feeling
less depressed. The random effects for this model indicated that participants’ baseline depression scores
were unrelated to their trajectory over time. Therefore, group differences at baseline should not have biased
the rate of change rate obtained for the compassion and control group.
8
The longer multilevel model in the prediction of self-esteem also produced a main effect for income
(Estimate = .06, SE = .01, t = 4.38, p \.001) such that wealthier participants had higher levels of self-
esteem at baseline.
M. Mongrain et al.
123
significantly (Estimate = .003, SE \ .001, z = 3.15, p = .0008) while controlling for all
variables in the model. Initial status, or participants’ baseline values in happiness did show
significant variability (Estimate = .37, SE = .03, z = 13.19, p \ .0001). However, the
rate of change for participants did not covary with their baseline happiness values (Esti-
mate = .0009, SE = .004, z = .23, p = .82), indicating that participants’ happiness at the
outset of the study did not systematically impact their rate of change over time.
Main effects for Avoidance (Estimate =-.18, SE = .04, t =-4.92, p \ .001) and
Anxiety (Estimate =-.15, SE = .03, t =-4.77, p \ .001) were obtained. Inspection of
the estimates indicated that participants who were more anxious or avoidant reported being
less happy at baseline.
9
None of the three-way interactions were significant, contrary to our
predictions. For example, anxious attachment did not predict greater changes in happiness
following the compassionate exercise.
3.7.3 Depression
The model tested included the control variables (income, adherence, payment status, age)
along with the exercise condition, followed by the attachment variables and interaction
terms. Inspection of the random effects for this model revealed that the rate of change among
participants tended to vary significantly (Estimate = .67, SE = .43, z = 1.58, p = .06)
while controlling for all variables in the model. Initial status, or participants’ baselines values
for depression did show significant variability (Estimate = 78.60, SE = 7.25, z = 10.85,
p \ .0001). However, the rate of change did not covary with baseline scores (Estimate =-
1.05, SE = 1.52, z =-.69, p = .49), suggesting that participants’ depression at the outset
of the study did not systematically impact their rate of change over time.
Main effects for Avoidance (Estimate = 3.13, SE = .57, t = 5.53, p \ .001) and
Anxiety (Estimate = 3.06, SE = .49, t = 6.28, p \ .001) were obtained. Inspection of the
estimates indicated that participants who were more anxious or avoidant were more
depressed at baseline.
10
None of the three-way interactions were significant, contrary to our
predictions. That is, anxious participants did not respond differently to the compassion
exercise in terms of changes in depression.
3.7.4 Multiple Regressions with Attachment
We had clear hypotheses for the relationships between attachment style, and response to
exercise type. More specifically, we expected those with an anxious attachment style to
particularly profit from the compassionate exercise. While the previous findings provide no
evidence for this in the long run, we conducted regression models to determine possible
effects in the short run. Three separate models were run involving well-being measures at
1 week (self-esteem, happiness and depression) regressed onto baseline values for each
9
The longer multilevel model in the prediction of happiness produced a main effect for income (Esti-
mate = .08, SE = .02, t = 4.47, p \ .001), and for age (Estimate =-.009, SE = .004, t =-2.43,
p = .02). Those who were younger and with a higher income, reported higher levels of happiness at
baseline. A Time by payment status effect was also obtained (Estimate =-.03, SE = .01, t =-2.09,
p = .04) and inspection of the estimates indicated those who were paid did not increase in happiness as
much as those who joined the study without any payment.
10
The longer multilevel model in the prediction of depression produced a main effect for income (Esti-
mate =-1.13, SE = .26, t =-4.28, p \ .001), and a Time by age interaction effect (Estimate = .03,
SE = .01, t = 2.10, p = .04). Younger participants reported greater reductions in depressive symptoms
over time than older participants.
Practicing Compassion
123
measure respectively, followed by the control variables, attachment style, condition, and
the interaction term between attachment and condition.
No significant interaction between attachment and condition was obtained in the pre-
diction of self-esteem or happiness.
11
A significant anxiety by condition interaction effect
did emerge in the prediction of depression, F(1, 454) = 6.21, p = .01. More specifically,
anxiously attached individuals in the compassion group experienced greater reductions in
depressive symptoms at 1 week (see Fig. 1).
3.8 Summary
Multilevel modeling provided evidence for the effectiveness of compassionate action in
enhancing psychological well-being over time when compared to an inactive condition.
Gains in happiness and self-esteem were found over the 6 month project for those in the
active exercise group. They also marginally decreased in levels of depression. Over the
6 month period, the compassionate action intervention did not appear to be more effective
for individuals with an anxious attachment style. However, at 1 week following the
exercise period, those anxiously attached showed a greater reduction in depressive
symptoms when in the compassionate action condition.
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
Anxious
Control-Low Anxious Compassion-Low
Control-High Anxious Compassion-High
Anxious
Condition by Anxious Attachment
Depressive Symptoms (CES-D)
Baseline
One Week
Fig. 1 Each bar indicates changes over 1 week for those high and low on anxious attachment (median split;
within the control and experimental groups using the Experiences in Close Relationships scale (ECR;
Brennan et al. 1998). Control control group, compassion compassionate action group, low anxious low
anxious attachment, high anxious high anxious attachment. As shown on the right bar, highly anxious
participants decreased more in depressed symptoms (CES-D; Radloff 1977) in the compassionate action
condition (p = .01)
11
The main effects obtained in the regression analyses are not repeated here as they were previously
reported in the multilevel modeling analyses.
M. Mongrain et al.
123
4 Discussion
The primary aim of this study was to explore the potential benefits of other-directed
compassionate actions for psychological well-being. Multilevel modeling revealed that
participants who practiced the compassionate action exercise reported significantly greater
increases in well-being over 6 months, as measured by levels of happiness and self-esteem,
than participants who wrote about an early memory. These findings align well with pre-
vious studies demonstrating the positive influence of practicing compassion-rooted activ-
ities on mental health (e.g., Brown et al. 2003; Schwartz et al. 2003). Thus, our results
buttress the use of brief, daily self-help exercises to increase well-being in a non-clinical
population.
4.1 Self-Esteem
Participants in the compassionate action condition reported significantly greater increases
in self-esteem at 6 months compared to those in the control condition. This finding lends
support to previous research which found compassion-rooted activities to influence posi-
tive shifts in self-esteem (Krause and Shaw 2000; Raupp and Cohen 1992; Simmons 1991;
Simmons et al. 1993). This, in turn, raises the following question: Why was the com-
passionate action exercise particularly effective in elevating self-esteem? According to the
sociometer theory of self-esteem—which likens self-esteem to an internal measure of one’s
relational value and success (Leary et al. 1995)—the current exercise possibly improved
self-esteem by creating the conditions for achieving greater social appeal. Consistent with
previous studies demonstrating the causal relationship between compassionate behaviours
and charitable self-evaluations (e.g., O’Malley and Andrews 1983; Otake et al. 2006),
adopting a compassionate social role may have also resulted in a favorable view of self as
encompassing culturally valued qualities.
4.2 Subjective Happiness
The compassionate action condition led to significantly greater increases in happiness up to
6 months, thus indicating the enduring benefits of the exercise on positive mood states.
This is an important finding, as happiness has been shown to engender a variety of positive
life outcomes, including improved mental and physical health, work life, and interpersonal
relationships (see Lyubomirsky et al. 2005 for a review). Furthermore, our findings are
consistent with studies that found helping behaviours to predict positive emotions and
mood states (e.g., Dulin and Dominy 2008; Millar et al. 1988; Williamson and Clark 1989;
Yinon and Landau 1987); including happiness (e.g., Thoits and Hewitt 2001). Additionally,
the differential effects of the compassionate action exercise on levels of happiness are
reminiscent of previous findings that compassion-based behaviours have an upward
influence on positive but not negative affect (e.g., Dulin and Dominy 2008).
The compassionate action exercise might have effected positive changes to one’s
happiness levels by satisfying some of the defining components of happiness as outlined by
Seligman (2002)—’the pleasant life’ and ‘the meaningful life’ (Seligman et al. 2006). For
example, by representing a positive and valuable presence in others’ lives may have led
individuals to happiness by conferring a sense of meaning and purpose. This finds support
in research indicating that compassionate activities increase meaning (e.g., Greenfield and
Marks 2004), which in turn elevate levels of happiness (e.g., Compton 2000). Given that
happiness is conceptualized as being composed of three distinct types (Seligman 2002),
Practicing Compassion
123
using a measure such as the Orientations to Happiness measure (Peterson et al. 2005) that
is designed to yield three separate subscale scores for Pleasure, Meaning, and Engagement,
would yield important, detailed information regarding the relationship between compas-
sionate action and happiness.
4.3 Depressive Symptoms
Participants in the compassionate action condition reported greater reductions in depres-
sive symptomatology over time, but the difference with the control condition did not reach
significance. On the one hand, this outcome is divergent from positive findings demon-
strating a causal relation between lowered depressive symptoms and such expressions of
compassion as volunteerism (e.g., Musick and Wilson 2003). Future empirical work needs
to establish the type of self-help interventions that would be particularly helpful in
reducing depressive symptoms in the general population.
4.4 The Influence of Attachment Style on Outcome
The interaction between exercise type and attachment style were tested in multilevel
models. There was no evidence for the superiority of the compassionate goal condition
over the control group for those high on anxious or avoidant attachment. More specifically,
anxiously attached individuals did not show lasting improvements when in the compassion
condition. However, regression models indicated that after the 1-week experimental per-
iod, anxious persons reported greater reductions in their depressive symptoms when in the
compassion exercise. Future research is required to determined whether the practice of
compassion is beneficial for anxiously attached individuals.
4.5 Limitations
While this study presents several promising findings, a number of limitations must be
acknowledged. Firstly, the compassionate action condition was compared to an inactive
control group. While this allows us to conclude with greater confidence that gains in well-
being evidenced by participants were not simply the result of placebo effects or demand
characteristics, it is not possible to ascertain whether such gains were actually due to
compassionate actions. For example, participants in the experimental condition had to
exert greater effort than the control group by being actively engaged in new behaviours
every day. In order to avoid dissonance, these participants may have reported higher levels
of well-being to justify their efforts. Furthermore, the practice of a new behavior may have
strengthened the ‘self-regulatory muscle’ (Muraven et al. 1999) and the practice of self-
control may have created an upward effect on mood, such as increases in happiness and
self-esteem (Tice et al. 2007). In short, participants in the experimental condition may
have improved as a result of a number of factors unrelated to enacting compassionate
behaviors.
Another limitation of this study is the high rate of attrition which appears to plague
longitudinal internet-based research (e.g., Richards and Alvarenga 2002; Strom et al.
2000). This could have been due to a number of technical issues associated with the use of
the internet, including changes to one’s daily internet access or one’s email address. Lastly,
asking participants to repeat the same activities every night may have been perceived as a
burden, or led participants to a point of monotony and loss of interest.
M. Mongrain et al.
123
Finally, this study cannot escape the criticism that our results are of limited general-
izability. Firstly, the sample was restricted to self-selected individuals that were largely
Canadian, Caucasian, female, and highly educated, thus limiting the extension of our
findings to the overall population. Furthermore, the entire study—from recruitment to
assessment to intervention delivery—was conducted online. Thus, the results of this study
cannot be generalized to individuals without daily internet access or knowledge in the use
of computers.
To conclude, a 1-week, online exercise involving practicing other-directed compassion
was found to provide lasting increases in happiness and self-esteem in a non-clinical
population. These findings are harmonious with positive psychology objectives that focus
on the cultivation of human strengths (Seligman et al. 2005), and highlight the possibility
of incorporating the provision of compassion as a method of increasing emotional well-
being.
Acknowledgments This project was funded by a grant to the first author from the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council of Canada. The article is based on portions of the second author’s honours’
thesis which was supervised by the first author.
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Practicing Compassion
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... In two experimental studies, engaging in kind or compassionate acts decreased depression relative to those in an affectively neutral control condition. These benefits persisted from one month to six months following the end of the intervention [64,65]. Given existing evidence and the theoretical considerations offered above, we hypothesize that prosocial acts will reduce depression relative to both affectively neutral acts (Hypothesis 3a) and self-focused acts intended to gratify personal emotional needs (Hypothesis 3b). ...
... Applying TOP10 gave us 3.57 effects, which we rounded up to 4 to capture greater variety. These effects are: d = 0.08, 0.30, 0.20, and 0.18 [13,65,84]. The average of these four effects is d = 0.19. ...
... The reasonableness of this assumption is indicated by large bivariate correlations between baseline and follow-up measures of emotional well-being and mental health in several studies. For example, Mongrain et al. [65] found that happiness measures correlated at 0.86 and depressive symptoms at 0.68 after one week. This indicates that the baseline measure of happiness alone would account for 0.86 2 = 74% of the variance in happiness one week later, and that baseline depression would account for 0.68 2 = 46% of the variance in depression one week later. ...
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Background The COVID-19 pandemic, the accompanying lockdown measures, and their possible long-term effects have made mental health a pressing public health concern. Acts that focus on benefiting others-known as prosocial behaviors-offer one promising intervention that is both flexible and low cost. However, neither the range of emotional states prosocial acts impact nor the size of those effects is currently clear-both of which directly influence its attractiveness as a treatment option.Objective To assess the effect of prosocial activity on emotional well-being (happiness, belief that one's life is valuable) and mental health (anxiety, depression).Methods1,234 respondents from the United States and Canada were recruited from Amazon's Mechanical Turk and randomly assigned (by computer software) to perform prosocial (N = 411), self-focused (N = 423), or neutral (N = 400) behaviors three times a week for three weeks. A follow-up assessment was given two weeks after the intervention. Participants were blind to alternative conditions. Analyses were based on 1052 participants (Nprosocial = 347, Nself = 365, Nneutral = 340).FindingsThose in the prosocial condition did not differ on any outcome from those in the self-focused or neutral acts conditions during the intervention or at follow-up, nor did prosocial effects differ for those who had been negatively affected socially or economically by the pandemic (all p's > 0.05). Exploratory analyses that more tightly controlled for study compliance found that prosocial acts reduced anxiety relative to neutral acts control (β = -0.12 [95% CI: -0.22 to -0.02]) and increased the belief that one's life is valuable (β = 0.11 [95% CI: 0.03 to 0.19]). These effects persisted throughout the intervention and at follow-up.Conclusion Prosocial acts may provide small, lasting benefits to emotional well-being and mental health. Future work should replicate these results using tighter, pre-registered controls on study compliance.
... Despite the apparent connection between compassion and well-being outcomes, the past research hints at the need to capture the experience of the compassion provider as well as to examine the mechanisms by which compassion influences happiness (López et al., 2018;Mongrain et al., 2011;Sanchez et al., 2020). Drawing on the positive activity model (Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013), we argue that showing compassion to others may result in the experience of a range of positive emotions, leading eventually to happiness at the workplace for the individual employees. ...
... Steffen and Masters (2005) suggested that a compassionate attitude toward others was significantly related with positive psychological outcomes, such as decreased depressive symptoms and low level of perceived stress indicating better emotional well-being. Mongrain et al. (2011) reported that practicing compassion over a duration of one week resulted in sustained gains in happiness and improved self-esteem for the participants. Similarly, Jazaieri et al. (2014) showed that compassion cultivation training led to increased level of subjective happiness in a community sample of adults. ...
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Drawing on positive activity model ( Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013 ), the present study aims to examine the relationship of employees’ compassion for others and the level of workplace happiness whilst investigating mediating mechanism of positive affectivity. The study further explores the role of perceived organizational support (POS) in bolstering the happiness of the employees. Using the purposive sampling technique, a sample of the Indian working population ( N = 422) was selected for the study. Standardized instruments were administered to the respondents for data collection. Structural equation modeling findings revealed that the employees who showed more compassion toward others experienced a higher level of happiness at work. The results indicated that the positive emotions acted as a significant mediator in this relationship. The PROCESS macro analysis showed that the POS moderated the link between compassion and workplace happiness for the employees in a positive direction. The study highlights the importance of performing intentional positive activities for the better well-being of the employees. The implications of the study in terms of practicing positive psychology for creating thriving modern organizations are discussed.
... Since the concept of genuine happiness comes from Buddhism, it is expected that the level of genuine happiness would be high in Buddhist or mindfulness practitioners. Indeed, several studies found support that mindfulness and compassion foster happiness (e.g., Campos, 2016;Choi et al., 2012;Coo & Salanova, 2018;Hollis-Walker & Colosimo, 2011;Mongrain et al., 2011). Furthermore, it is important to note that in the present study only a subset of existing measures assessing happiness or well-being were included in order to keep the subject burden low. ...
Article
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Genuine happiness can be described as an unlimited, everlasting inner joy and peace undisturbed by external circumstances. The current study proposes a Genuine Happiness Scale (GHS) with four items. The sample consisted of 678 US young adults, with 432 completing the online surveys twice, approximately six weeks apart. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis provided evidence for a unidimensional factor structure of the GHS. Hierarchical regression analysis revealed that, after controlling for genuine happiness at baseline, caring for bliss, mindfulness, and compassion predicted genuine happiness approximately six weeks later. In addition, genuine happiness predicted later well-being after controlling for well-being at baseline.
... Examining these characteristics may help to contextualize our findings and provide insight into the types of acts that elicit positive versus negative emotions (e.g., delight versus guilt after treating oneself). Although this trial lacked power to examine moderators of treatment effects, previous studies have reported moderated effects for both other-focused kindness (Mongrain et al., 2011;Rini et al., 2014;Tashjian et al., 2021) and mindfulness-based (Lengacher et al., 2016) interventions. Finally, the structure of the meditations provided and lack of didactic component may limit comparison with other kindness-based meditation interventions. ...
... Compassion is linked to positive patterns not only at the relational level but also the individual level: it was found to be negatively related to stress (Gu et al., 2020) and fear of compassion for others (Pommier et al., 2020), and positively associated with mental well-being (Gu et al., 2020), emotion regulation (Jazaieri et al., 2014), self-esteem (Mongrain et al., 2011), and dispositional mindfulness (Gu et al., 2020;Pommier et al., 2020). ...
Article
The present multi-sample study (N = 723) explores in depth the construct of dispositional compassion and its assessment, relying on two recent multidimensional scales: the Sussex-Oxford Compassion Scale – toward Others (SOCS-O; Gu et al., 2020) and the Compassion Scale (CS; Pommier et al., 2020). First, we validated the two scales in Italian, finding substantial support for their original factor structures and second-order solutions aggregating first-order factors into a general dispositional compassion factor. Second, we tested the simultaneous links between SOCS-O and CS facets via network analysis to identify which facets stand at the core of dispositional compassion or are more distal. Kindness (CS) and Feeling (SOCS-O) facets were more central components of compassion, leaning on the ability to tune in to (CS Mindfulness) and understand others’ pain (SOCS-O Universality) and connected to the urge to alleviate that pain (SOCS-O Acting). Third, we explored the nomological net of correlates of dispositional compassion and examined the differences between the SOCS-O and the CS in their relationship with the correlates. Results supported the convergent and discriminant validity of the scales and showed that the SOCS-O, compared to the CS, may capture some emotionally aversive sides of compassion.
... A limited number of studies have examined compassion for others together with self-compassion (e.g., Mongrain et al., 2011;Neff and Pommier, 2013). Notably, an fMRI study revealed that they involve similar brain regions (Longe et al., 2010) suggesting that people who are more compassionate toward others could certainly learn to be more compassionate or kind toward themselves. ...
Article
Background: Opioid-related deaths continue to rise. Psychological trauma is commonly comorbid with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). Adverse childhood experiences can disrupt the development of emotion regulation, increasing risk of substance use. Self-compassion may reduce OUD risk and outcomes by facilitating emotion regulation, decreasing the toxicity of shame, and reducing internalized stigma that can hinder recovery. Mindfulness practice enhances self-compassion. Methods: This study is part of a pilot (N = 18) of the Mindful Recovery OUD Care Continuum (M-ROCC) during buprenorphine office-based opioid treatment (OBOT). The present study was conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the intervention's effects on self-compassion development, and to explore differential changes in self-compassion during the intervention among participants with varying intensity of trauma exposure measured by high levels of childhood adversity (defined by 4+ adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) at baseline). We conducted secondary analyses of a subset of qualitative interview data (N = 11 unique participants) collected for the pilot study (weeks 4 and 24, 14 total interviews) to elaborate upon changes in Self-Compassion Scale (SCS-SF) scores. Results: In the primary pilot study, participants' mean SCS-SF scores shifted significantly from baseline to week 24, β = 0.22, p = 0.028. This change is elaborated upon through interviews. Despite pervasive challenges to becoming more self-compassionate (e.g., trauma histories and substance use), participants reported increased compassionate self-responding and decreased uncompassionate self-responding. Mindfulness training was identified as the primary mechanism underlying the shift. Kindness to self and others and-to a lesser extent an increased sense of common humanity-were also identified as key to overall self-compassion. Compared to those in the lower ACEs group, participants in the higher ACEs group tended to have lower baseline self-compassion scores (d = 1.09, p = 0.055). Conclusion: M-ROCC may increase self-compassion among patients with OUD during OBOT by increasing compassionate, and decreasing uncompassionate, self-responding. Patients with OUD with greater childhood adversity tended to have lower levels of self-compassion, which improved with M-ROCC. Future trials with larger samples are needed to confirm these potential outcomes, mechanisms, and differential impacts between ACEs subgroups.
... ). Örneğin; Merhametli Zihin Eğitimi bireylerin depresyon düzeylerini azaltabilmekte(Laithwaite ve diğerleri, 2009) ve merhamete dayalı uygulamalar bireylerin mutluluk ve özsaygılarını artırabilmektedir(Mongrain, Chin ve Shapiro, 2011). Ayrıca Merhamet Geliştirme Eğitimi ruh sağlığı ve iyi oluş açısından etkili olabilmekte(Jazaieri ve diğerleri, 2013) stres ve kaygı semptomlarını azaltabilmektedir(Jazaieri ve diğerleri, 2018). ...
... However, the effect of prosociality on hedonic well-being is somewhat inconsistent. While several studies have linked prosociality with positive affect (e.g., Aknin et al., 2013), there is less consistent evidence that prosociality decreases negative affect (e.g., Alden & Trew, 2013;Mongrain et al., 2011;Nelson et al., 2016;Ouweneel et al., 2014). Furthermore, despite the amount of work detailing the relationship between prosociality and happiness, both a recent large-scale replication project conducted by Aknin et al. (2020) and meta-analysis by Hui et al. (2020) have revealed that the relationship between prosociality and happiness is only modest. ...
Article
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Prosocial behaviors benefit others, but what benefits do they hold for those who enact them? Prosociality can enhance the actor’s well-being, yet whether it is one’s sense of happiness or meaning that is impacted, and how this plays out in everyday life, has received limited attention. We address this gap in knowledge by examining how prosociality is related to daily meaning and happiness across two large daily diary studies in two countries. Study 1 (N = 1140) revealed that changes in one’s subjective sense of prosociality was uniquely associated with both daily meaning and happiness. Study 2 (N = 217) found that self-reported prosocial behavior was also clearly linked to increases in daily meaning, and modestly associated with daily happiness. Altogether, our findings suggest that the subjective sense of prosociality is associated with meaning and happiness, and that performing prosocial acts may be particularly relevant to experiencing meaning.
... If an interviewer presents himself or herself with a positive, happy personality, that may impact how respondents see themselves. Happiness has been found to be strongly correlated to compassion (Mongrain et al., 2011), empathy and altruism (Lu et al., 2020), trait emotional intelligence, and social support (Blasco-Belled et al., 2020;Ye et al., 2019). Such interviewer attitudes may become transparent during the interview in verbal-and nonverbal forms and may impact the self-perception of the respondent positively. ...
Article
Full-text available
Interviewers in face-to-face surveys can potentially introduce bias both in the recruiting and the measurement phase. One reason behind this is that the measurement of subjective well-being has been found to be associated with social desirability bias. Respondents tend to tailor their responses in the presence of others, for instance by presenting a more positive image of themselves instead of reporting their true attitude. In this study, we investigated the role of interviewers in the measurement of happiness. We were particularly interested in whether the interviewer’s happiness correlates with the respondent’s happiness. Our data comes from a face-to-face survey conducted in Hungary, which included the attitudes of both respondents and interviewers. The results of the multilevel regression models showed that interviewers account for a significant amount of variance in responses obtained from respondents, even after controlling for a range of characteristics of both respondents, interviewers, and settlements. We also found that respondents were more likely to report a happy personality in the presence of an interviewer with a happy personality. We argue that as long as interviewers are involved in the collection of SWB measures, further training of interviewers on raising awareness on personality traits, self-expression, neutrality, and unjustified positive confirmations is essential.
Article
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Compassion-focused therapy helps increase couples 'emotional security by regulating emotional systems, which can ultimately improve couples' attachment styles. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of compassion focused therapy (CFT) on attachment styles of couples with marital conflict. In this study, a single case design of asynchronous multiple baseline type was used. The statistical population of this study was married couples with marital conflict referring to Hamedan counseling centers. Accordingly, three couples who had marital conflict were selected by purposive sampling. Compassion-focused therapy was performed in three stages: baseline, intervention (8 sessions of 90 minutes), and follow-up, and couples responded to the Adult Attachment Style (Collins and Reed, 1990). Data analyzed with visuals inspection, improvement percentage and reliable change index (RCI) strategies. The results showed that the rate of improvement after treatment and follow-up is for secure attachment styles (36.33-33.93), avoidance (40.37-37) and anxiety (26.47-25.98), respectively. Therefore, the research findings indicate that compassion-focused therapy can be used as an effective treatment to improve the attachment styles of couples with marital conflict
Article
Three studies investigated the relation between adult attachment security and symptoms of depression. Study 1 examined the overall magnitude of the association between adult attachment and depression, and Studies 2 and 3 tested whether this relation was mediated by dysfunctional attitudes and low self-esteem. Results from the three studies were consistent with a mediation model. This model suggests that insecure adult attachment styles are associated with dysfunctional attitudes, which in turn predispose to lower levels of self-esteem. Such depletions in self-esteem are directly associated with increases in depressive symptoms over time. Insecure attachment appears to lead to depressive symptoms in adulthood through its impact on self-worth contingencies and self-esteem.
Article
The study examines the effects of cross age tutoring in school on the tutors’ empathy, altruism, and self-esteem. The sample consists of 73 high school freshmen, who participated in a year-long program of tutor-training, and a comparison group of 98 other freshmen. Controlling the effects of initial attribute scores, students’ sex, and socioeconomic status, it was found that program participation significantly increased the tutors’ empathy, altruism, and self-esteem. The findings, interpreted according to role-taking theory, suggest that school programs of cross-age tutoring may have some psychological benefits in addition to their already established influence on students’ academic achievements. Since no interactions were found between the effects of program participation and students’ social background on the increases in attribute scores, such programs may perhaps be used for the integration of students from different social-cultural backgrounds.
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This article explores the possibility that romantic love is an attachment process--a biosocial process by which affectional bonds are formed between adult lovers, just as affectional bonds are formed earlier in life between human infants and their parents. Key components of attachment theory, developed by Bowlby, Ainsworth, and others to explain the development of affectional bonds in infancy, were translated into terms appropriate to adult romantic love. The translation centered on the three major styles of attachment in infancy--secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent--and on the notion that continuity of relationship style is due in part to mental models (Bowlby's "inner working models") of self and social life. These models, and hence a person's attachment style, are seen as determined in part by childhood relationships with parents. Two questionnaire studies indicated that relative prevalence of the three attachment styles is roughly the same in adulthood as in infancy, the three kinds of adults differ predictably in the way they experience romantic love, and attachment style is related in theoretically meaningful ways to mental models of self and social relationships and to relationship experiences with parents. Implications for theories of romantic love are discussed, as are measurement problems and other issues related to future tests of the attachment perspective.
Article
Five studies tested hypotheses derived from the sociometer model of self-esteem according to which the self-esteem system monitors others' reactions and alerts the individual to the possibility of social exclusion. Study 1 showed that the effects of events on participants' state self-esteem paralleled their assumptions about whether such events would lead others to accept or reject them. In Study 2, participants' ratings of how included they felt in a real social situation correlated highly with their self-esteem feelings. In Studies 3 and 4, social exclusion caused decreases in self-esteem when respondents were excluded from a group for personal reasons, but not when exclusion was random, but this effect was not mediated by self-presentation. Study 5 showed that trait self-esteem correlated highly with the degree to which respondents generally felt included versus excluded by other people. Overall, results provided converging evidence for the sociometer model.