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Soothe ourselves in times of need: A qualitative exploration of how the feeling of ‘soothe’ is understood and experienced in everyday life

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Soothe ourselves in times of need: A qualitative exploration of how the feeling of ‘soothe’ is understood and experienced in everyday life

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Objectives: Evidence suggests that self-compassion is linked to psychological benefits. Compassion-focused therapy emphasizes the importance of developing abilities to self-soothe in alleviating psychological distress. However, little is known about how the feeling of soothe is understood, experienced, and achieved in everyday life. This study addressed two research questions: (1) How is the feeling of soothe understood? (2) How is the feeling of soothe experienced in everyday life? Design: This is part of our ongoing research Project Soothe (www.projectsoothe.com), which collects soothing images from the public with the goal to develop a bank of soothing images for psychotherapeutic and research use. We also set up an online survey to explore how individuals understand and experience the feeling of soothe in everyday lives. The current study was based on the qualitative narratives obtained in this survey. Methods: A total of 176 participants were recruited. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Three themes emerged in response to the first research question: (1) a complex interconnected state of feelings, (2) self-soothe and being soothed, and (3) involvement of physical sensations. Five themes emerged regarding the second research question: (1) venturing out in nature, (2) being in a familiar surrounding, (3) being solitary, (4) being affiliated, and (5) being physically and mentally relaxed. Conclusions: Our study illustrated the importance of affiliations, physical sensations, mindfulness, connection with nature, and solitude on the cultivation of soothe. Results may help develop therapeutic techniques in enhancing self-soothe by tapping into individuals' understanding and subjective experience in everyday contexts. Practitioner points: Compassion-focused therapy and related third wave therapies emphasize the role of cultivating self-compassion and feelings of self-soothe in reducing psychological distress and improving mental well-being. This study sheds light on how individuals understand and achieve self-soothe in everyday life contexts. Individuals' subjective narratives suggested that both being in solitude and affiliated with others were associated with feelings of self-soothe, in addition to feeling connected with the nature, being in familiar environments and experiencing physical sensations. These findings will help practitioners develop different ways to enhance individuals' self-compassion by tapping into their understanding and experience of self-soothe in everyday life.
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Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice (2019)
©2019 The British Psychological Society
www.wileyonlinelibrary.com
Soothe ourselves in times of need: A qualitative
exploration of how the feeling of ‘soothe’ is
understood and experienced in everyday life
Michelle C. L. Mok, Matthias Schwannauer and Stella W. Y. Chan*
Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh, UK
Objectives. Evidence suggests that self-compassion is linked to psychological benefits.
Compassion-focused therapy emphasizes the importance of developing abilities to self-
soothe in alleviating psychological distress. However, little is known about how the feeling
of soothe is understood, experienced, and achieved in everyday life. This study addressed
two research questions: (1) How is the feeling of soothe understood? (2) How is the
feeling of soothe experienced in everyday life?
Design. This is part of our ongoing research Project Soothe (www.projectsoothe.com),
which collects soothing images from the public with the goal to develop a bank of soothing
images for psychotherapeutic and research use. We also set up an online survey to
explore how individuals understand and experience the feeling of soothe in everyday lives.
The current study was based on the qualitative narratives obtained in this survey.
Methods. A total of 176 participants were recruited. Data were analysed using thematic
analysis.
Results. Three themes emerged in response to the first research question: (1) a
complex interconnected state of feelings, (2) self-soothe and being soothed, and (3)
involvement of physical sensations. Five themes emerged regarding the second research
question: (1) venturing out in nature, (2) being in a familiar surrounding, (3) being solitary,
(4) being affiliated, and (5) being physically and mentally relaxed.
Conclusions. Our study illustrated the importance of affiliations, physical sensations,
mindfulness, connection with nature, and solitude on the cultivation of soothe. Results
may help develop therapeutic techniques in enhancing self-soothe by tapping into
individuals’ understanding and subjective experience in everyday contexts.
Practitioner points
!Compassion-focused therapy and related third wave therapies emphasize the role of cultivating self-
compassion and feelings of self-soothe in reducing psychological distress and improving mental well-
being.
!This study sheds light on how individuals understand and achieve self-soothe in everyday life contexts.
!Individuals’ subjective narratives suggested that both being in solitude and affiliated with others were
associated with feelings of self-soothe, in addition to feeling connected with the nature, being in familiar
environments and experiencing physical sensations.
*Correspondence should be addressed to Stella W. Y. Chan, Section of Clinical Psychology, School of Health in Social Science,
University of Edinburgh, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK (email: stella.chan@ed.ac.uk).
DOI:10.1111/papt.12245
1
!These findings will help practitioners develop different ways to enhance individuals’ self-compassion by
tapping into their understanding and experience of self-soothe in everyday life.
Compassion is originally derived from Buddhist principles and defined as ‘a sensitivity to
suffering in self and others, with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it’ (The Dalai
Lama, 2001). Buddhist teachings emphasize that the practice of compassion involves a
dedication to alleviate suffering through soothing ourselves and others (Shonin, Van
Gordon, & Griffiths, 2014). In the past two decades, there has been growing research
evidence in support for the therapeutic potential of compassion on improving individuals’
mental health, with meta-analyses illustrating that higher levels of self-compassion are
associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress with large effect sizes across
age groups (MacBeth & Gumley, 2012; Marsh, Chan, & MacBeth, 2017), as well as higher
levels of well-being (Zessin, Dickh
auser, & Garbade, 2015). Notably, MacBeth and Gumley
(2012)’s meta-analysis suggested that this association was not different between clinical
and non-clinical samples, suggesting that self-compassion plays a role in mental health
regardless of the severity of symptoms. This evidence base has supported the
development of compassion-focused therapy (Gilbert, 2010) and a range of other
compassion-based interventions (Kirby, 2016) designed to help individuals cope with
psychological distress through cultivating self-compassion, as well as the ability to show
compassion for and receive compassion from others, and enhancing the experience of
feeling soothed. However, no research has examined what soothe means to individuals
and how it is experienced in the everyday life contexts.
The importance of compassion has been emphasized in many schools of thoughts
across different disciplines. Within psychology, compassion has been defined in a variety
of ways. Goetz, Keltner, and Simon-Thomas (2010), for example, defined compassion as
an affective experience that arises when witnessing undeserved suffering of others, which
then motivates a subsequent desire to facilitate cooperation and protection of the weak
and those who suffer. Jazaieri et al. (2013), on the other hand, proposed that compassion
is a multidimensional construct comprising of a cognitive component (an awareness of
the suffering), affective component (sympathetic concern related to being emotionally
moved by suffering), intentional component (a wish to see a relief of the suffering), and a
motivational component (a responsiveness or readiness to help and relieve that suffering).
One of the most commonly used conceptualizations of compassion was proposed by
Neff (2003a, 2003b). In this model, self-compassion was defined as a self-to-self relating
construct that comprises three components, each with two opposing pairs: self-kindness
versus self-judgement, common humanity versus isolation, and mindfulness versus over-
identification, all of which interact with one another and constitute a self-compassionate
mind (Neff, 2016; Neff et al., 2017). According to this theory, self-kindness entails offering
oneself warmth, gentle acceptance, understanding, and actively soothing oneself in times
of need, rather than being overly judgemental condemning oneself for his/her
imperfections. Common humanity refers to the recognition and acceptance of the
flawed humanity as a shared human experience so that one needs not be isolated for his/
her inevitable failings or sufferings, but rather feel connected for the shared experience.
Mindfulness involves staying aware of the presence with clarity and balance, rather than
persistently ruminating on one’s own negative aspect.
While Neff’s conceptualization of self-compassion was based on a social psychological
perspective, Gilbert (1989, 2000)’s model was grounded in evolutionary theory. While
both were derived from Buddhist practice, the latter proposed an interactive three-system
affect regulation model suggesting that the threat-protection system detects threats and
2Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
activates fight-or-flight responses; the incentive system drives one to seek resources he/
she needs for survival; and the soothing and contentment system brings to mind a sense of
soothe, quiescence, and peacefulness (Gilbert, 2009). According to this theory,
compassion arises when the seeking and achieving state of mind in the threat and drive
systems blends with the soothing system to enable caring responses and facilitate
prosocial and affiliative interactions with the self and others. In other words, this theory
proposed that mental health would be enhanced by a well-developed soothing system,
which would help balance the threat and drive systems and regulate their associated
emotional responses (Gilbert, 2014, 2015). Gilbert’s theoretical conceptualization was
supported mostly from studies demonstrating the physiological processes underlying the
relationship between affiliation and affect regulation, and theorizations on the interplay
between the evolved social motivational systems (Gilbert, 2014). For instance, neurosci-
entific research suggested that attachment, physical touch, and social support have
salubrious effects on the affect regulation system (Leaviss & Uttley, 2015). In particular,
the feeling of being cared for and physical touch increases the release of oxytocin and
endorphins, respectively, both of which are hormones that stimulate the soothing
properties of the parasympathetic nervous system and generate a sense of calmness,
fulfilment, and contentment. This was shown in Rockcliff, Gilbert, McEwan, Lightman,
and Glover, (2008) where compassion exercise was found to lower the level of stress
hormone (cortisol) in individuals. While the existing evidence showed a correlational
relationship between affiliation and emotions in compassion, how the construct of
compassion resides in the proposed interactive affect regulation system and how it can get
‘awakened’ and ‘re-wired’ still remain largely on a theoretical level (Cozolino, 2010).
In terms of clinical application, a recent review by Kirby (2016) has identified eight
compassion-based interventions, with six of them (including compassion-focused
therapy, cognitively based compassion training, compassion cultivation training, mindful
self-compassion, cultivating emotional balance, and compassion meditation and loving
kindness meditation) having been examined by randomized controlled trials. According
to this review (Kirby, 2016), the most empirically investigated compassion-based
intervention is compassion-focused therapy (CFT; Gilbert, 2005). CFT aims to ‘redress the
imbalances within the affect regulation systems’ by cultivating a kind and self-supportive
inner voice to counter shame and self-criticism (Gilbert, 1989; Gilbert, 2000; Leaviss &
Uttley, 2015). A growing body of research is constructing a considerable evidence base for
the therapeutic value of CFT. For example, a systematic review of 14 studies suggested
that CFT showed promise as an intervention for mood disorders, particularly those with
higher levels of self-criticism (Leaviss & Uttley, 2015); the effectiveness of CFT and other
self-compassion related therapies in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety has
been further illustrated in a recent meta-analysis of 22 studies (Wilson, Mackintosh,
Power, & Chan, 2018). A pilot randomized controlled trial also suggested that group-based
CFT offered in conjunction with treatment as usual for eating disorders may be an
acceptable, feasible, and efficacious intervention with an additional benefit in patients
overcoming fear of compassion (Kelly, Wisniewski, Martin-Wagar, & Hoffman, 2017).
Compassionate mind training, a form of CFT, has also been found to increase heart rate
variability, a physiological measure of emotion regulation (Matos et al., 2017).
Despite the surge of studies on the conceptualization of compassion and investigation
of how it helps individuals achieve better mental health, there is a paucity of research on
how individuals subjectively understand soothe and how they soothe themselves in times
of need. To date, there have only been two qualitative studies of compassion, one in
individuals who suffer from depression and anxiety and another in people who suffer from
Project Soothe 3
overweight problems (Gilbert et al., 2014; Pauley & McPherson, 2010). No qualitative
study has been conducted to illuminate how compassion is directed to the self in day-to-
day contexts among the general populations. The present study therefore sought to
address this research gap and present an exploratory qualitative thematic analysis of how
‘soothe’ is understood and manifested in the lived experiences of the general population,
as a route to elucidate the structured contents of the subjective experience of compassion.
This study asked two specific questions:
1. How the feeling of soothe is understood?
2. How is the feeling of soothe cultivated in everyday life contexts?
Methods
Design and ethics
This is part of our ongoing research Project Soothe, which invites the general public to
submit images that make them feel soothed with the ultimate goal to develop a bank of
soothing images for use in psychotherapy and research. Alongside collecting images, we
set up an online survey to explore how individuals understand and experience the
feeling of soothe in everyday lives. Other than the minimum age requirement (16 years
or above), there were no other inclusion or exclusion criteria. Recruitment was
conducted using a snowball approach via the Project Soothe website (projectsoothe.c
om) and advertised via online social media platforms. Qualitative data collected from this
survey were based on responses to two questions. Firstly, participants were asked
‘when people say “soothed,” what does it mean to you? Can you describe what is meant
by feeling “soothed”?’ Secondly, participants were asked to recall their previous
experiences of feeling soothed. Memory recall of the experiences was prompted by four
follow-up questions: (1) What were your surroundings? (2) What did you see, hear,
smell, or touch that made you feel soothed? (3) Was there anything else that made you
feel soothed? (4) Which emotions did you experience? Participants could share up to
three memories of soothing experiences. These questions were designed with an aim to
capture and elucidate the structured contents of individuals’ subjective experience of
soothe. This study sought to explore to what extent individuals’ conceptual
understanding of soothe was similar to, or different from, their actual experiences in
everyday lives. The follow-up prompt questions were based on the soothing imagery
exercise used in the practice of CFT. In addition to the above, a small set of quantitative
data was collected. Specifically, participants were asked to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10,
how soothed they felt at the time and also at the present moment when recalling the
memory. These questions were included to observe if participants would re-experience
similar levels of soothe through memory retrieval. To collect some contextual
information about the everyday life experience of soothe, we also asked participants
to indicate in general how frequently they feel soothed and what kinds of activities they
found particularly soothing. An information sheet was provided on the front page of the
survey. Informed consent was recorded. The completion of survey was anonymous. This
study received ethical approval from the University Research Ethics Committee.
Participants
A total of 176 participants (66.5% female; 10.8% male; 22.7% did not mention) were
recruited. The mean age was 37.65 (SD =11.27), ranging from 21 to 71. Of the 176
4Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
participants, 134 (76.1%) answered the first question asking their interpretations of
soothe. For the second part, the survey received a total number of 184 self-soothing
experiences collected from 105 participants. Of these 105 participants, 43 (41%)
shared one soothing experience, 45 (43%) shared two experiences, and 17 (16%)
shared three experiences.
Data analysis
Narratives were analysed using thematic analysis, informed by a hermeneutic
phenomenological stance (Braun & Clarke, 2006). In order to systematically analyse
the large amount of qualitative data, all responses were entered into a qualitative
software package NVivo 11. Two coding frameworks for the two separate research
questions (see Appendix A) were carefully devised based on the inductive codes
grounded in the content of the data after multiple performances of line-by-line
inspection of the data set. The entire coding process was informed by the step-by-
step guide suggested by Braun and Clarke (2006): (1) familiarization of the data set,
(2) multiple coding, (3) initial search of candidate themes, (4) revision of candidate
themes, and (5) re-definition and refinement of themes.
For purposes of rigour, the first author coded all the scripts. The research team
met and discussed the validity of the lists of initial descriptive codes and the analytic
categorizations of them to increase accuracy of the data analysis, readability, and
transparency of how the thematic contents were interpreted. This also facilitated the
re-organization of the hierarchy of codes and the interconnections between the
codes under each theme.
Is closely
linked to
Is linked
to
Is partly
comprised of
Is partly
cons!tuted
by
Is comprised
of
Warmth
Happiness
Emo!onal
relief
Comfort Well-being
Safeness
Is partly
cons!tute
d by
ContentmentInner peace
Calmness
Relaxa!on Ease
Is closely
linked to
Is closely
linked to
Is some!mes
accompanied by
a sense of
Is felt as a
sense of
Is partly
cons!tuted
by
Is partly
cons!tuted by
Is partly
cons!tuted by Is felt as a
sense of
Is partly
comprised of
Is felt as
Is partly
felt a"er
Is partly
felt a"er
Is partly
felt a"er
Figure 1. Soothe understood as the interconnected states of feeling calm, relaxed, and at ease,
constituted by the feeling of inner peace, contentment, and safeness.
Project Soothe 5
Results
Research question 1: How is the feeling of soothe understood?
Three themes were identified. To better elucidate the recurring themes, results are
presented according to the prevalence of the themes documented in participants’
responses. Each theme will begin with a visual network chart that illustrates the nodes and
relationships between the nodes under a theme (see Figures 1–4). The nodes appearing
in the highest position coloured in blue within each network chart are the most recurring
ideas. These visual network charts were then combined into a full thematic map (see
Figure 5).
Engagement of
senses
Valued by
oneself
Is constituted by
a sense of
Is a practice of
Can however
be
Solitary Tranquillity
Hideaway from
reality
Can be gained
through
Can be gained
through
Self-compassion Care-giving
BreathableReflection Confidence
Preparedness
Mindfulness
Inner peace Contentment
Is achieved through
the practice of
Is achieved through
the practice of
Comes with
Is linked to
Is attained
through
Is achieved by
being
Is facilitated by
being
Partly comes
from Partly comes
from
Is related to
being
Is enabled
through
Is facilitated by
being
Is facilitated
through
Can however
be
Figure 2. Understanding of soothe: The framework of self-soothe.
6Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Figure 3. Understanding of soothe: The framework of being soothed.
Figure 4. The physical sensations involved in the understanding of soothe.
Project Soothe 7
Theme 1. Soothe is understood as the interconnected states of feeling calm, relaxed, and at ease,
constituted by a sense of inner peace, contentment, and safeness
As illustrated in Figure 1, the complex interconnectedness of the feeling of calmness,
relaxation, and ease, as constituted by inner peace, contentment, and safeness, comprises
the core of the understanding of soothe. When asked what is meant by feeling ‘soothed’,
the majority of the participants characterized it as an interconnected state of emotions,
rather than giving it a single emotional definition. In particular, the intertwined feeling of
calmness, being relaxed, and at ease emerged as a very important main theme that
recurred the most in the data.
[Feeling soothed is] feeling comforted, warm, calm, at ease, feeling deeply content...
(Female, 50)
Soothe to me means to become calmer or how to relax... [it] means being able to breathe
more slowly and evenly with a reduction in negative or anxious thoughts. (Female, 43)
We further categorized the sources of soothe mentioned by participants into two sets
of frameworks. In relation to reaching the state of feeling relaxed and calm, narratives
mainly centred on the cultivation of inner peace and contentment.
[Feeling soothed] means bringing myself to being at peace with myself. It involves bringing
my awareness to my body, paying close attention to...any feelings of emotional discomfort or
pain...being able to come back to a place of calm. (Female, 50)
Figure 5. How the feeling of soothe is understood. Note. This figure illustrates the entire thematic map in
response to the first research question. Details regarding ‘Self-soothe’, ‘Being soothed’, and ‘Physical
sensations’ are displayed in Figures 1–4.
8Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
In regard to the state of feeling at ease and calm, the sense of safeness, which was the
feeling of being safe, secure, and protected, was widely mentioned as a specific source.
[Feeling soothed is] made to feel secure, made to feel that I can stop worrying about whatever
was previously worrying or upsetting me. (Female, 45)
These two themes, namely ‘relaxation’ and ‘ease’ (see Figure 1), are not completely
separated, but rather interlinked as they together contribute to emotional relief, which
was widely projected as one of the major sources of the aforementioned interconnected
emotions.
[Feeling soothed is] de-escalation of anxiety/stress. (Female, 36)
[Feeling soothed is] brief respite from stresses and responsibilities of daily living. (Female, 38)
Emotional relief after stressful situations is followed by a wealth of positive emotions,
ranging from comfort, happiness to a sense of well-being. These positive emotions were
regarded as highly linked to the feeling of warmth, which reinforced the interconnected
emotions that were closely linked back to the feeling of soothe.
[Feeling soothed is] getting a warm feeling of inner peace and serenity when getting
overwhelmed by negative emotions. (Female, 26)
Theme 2. The interconnected states of feeling calm, relaxed, and at ease were underpinned by two
separate frameworks: (a) self-soothe and (b) being soothed
(a) Self-soothe.A widespread opinion was the use of mindfulness practices to soothe
themselves and attain inner peace and contentment. Specific mentions of the activities
were exercises of breathing and reflection, engagement of senses, detachment from other
people, and immersion of oneself into the tranquillity of the environment.
[Feeling soothed is]... in the moment, present-focused, relaxed. (Male, 53)
[Feeling soothed is] a state of aloneness or detachment from my surroundings where I feel
calm, warm, safe and secure. (Female, 62)
Other than mindful living, inner peace and contentment were also sometimes
preceded by a sense of psychological preparedness mentioned by the participants. This
idea mainly stemmed from those who understood soothe as a feeling that came with
confidence.
[Feeling soothed] comes with confidence and determination or a feeling of control [over] the
future or thorns in life. (Female, 28)
Although not a recurring theme, a few participants did touch upon the notion of
kindness both being kind to others (care-giving) and also kind to oneself (self-
compassion) in the understanding of soothe.
[Feeling soothed is] calmed, nurtured, self-compassion. (Female, 38)
Project Soothe 9
Another noteworthy strand is the idiosyncratic interpretation of soothe as a ‘hideaway
from reality’, which appeared to be somewhat contradictory to some other participants’
understanding that feeling soothed was ‘voluntary detachment from the surroundings’.
[Feeling soothed is] about covering up, hiding, not facing the truth perhaps. (Female, 34)
(b) Being soothed.In addition to self-soothe, highly prevalent in the data was feeling
safe via being the object or receiver of soothe through affiliations. As shown in Figure 3,
this was primarily linked to behaviours that made individuals feel relaxed and secure. Most
felt relaxed and then safe when being calmed and comforted by others after stressful
situations, whereas some other participants expressed that they were made to feel relaxed
when being reassured by others, distracted from distress, reminded of good things in the
world, and made to slow down.
[Feeling soothed is] being comforted and calmed during times of stress or distress. (Female,
45)
The feeling of soothe was also understood as a sense of security that was constituted by
being loved, cared for, accepted, understood, heard, touched, and hugged. In particular,
some participants described their interpretation of soothe with the analogy of being taken
care of like a baby.
[Feeling soothed is] swaddled like a baby. (Female, 56)
Participants noted that both ‘made to feel relaxed’ and ‘made to feel secure’ through
affiliations led to a calming process and a reduced level of distress. Together they
comprised an important main source of safeness that was interpreted as a feeling of
soothe.
[Feeling soothed means] transitioning from a state of upset or anxiousness to one of feeling
calm and at peace. (Female, 71)
Of note, it was observed that female participants tended to understand soothe more
frequently as stemming from affiliations (being soothed), whilst male participants tended
to more frequently mention using mindfulness-based techniques (self-soothe) to achieve
and interpret the feeling of soothe.
Theme 3. Both frameworks involve physical sensations
The feeling of soothe was anchored to a range of physical sensations. Some recurring
nodes among them included ‘tenderness’, ‘physical pleasure’, and ‘lightness of the body’.
[Feeling soothed is] calm, softness, no agitation... (Female, 36)
Whilst other idiosyncratic narratives included physical sensations that connoted a
sense of physical comfort, such as ‘moist’, ‘colour’, the feeling of ‘putting cream onto the
mind’, ‘lying down’, one respondent mentioned ‘fatigue’ as her interpretation of soothe.
10 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
[Feeling soothed means] feeling warm and a nice tired. (Female, 36)
Summary of themes emerged for research question 1
All themes considered, individuals’ understanding of soothe can be demonstrated as a
complex yet highly interconnected emotional and physical network (see Figure 5). The
physical sensations acted as a foundation for both the frameworks of self-soothe and being
soothed, which altogether gave rise to the sample’s understanding of soothe.
Research question 2. How is the feeling of soothe cultivated in everyday life contexts?
Five themes were identified concerning how the feeling of soothe is cultivated in everyday
life contexts. When recalling experiences of feeling soothed, on average participants
rated the intensity of feeling soothed as eight out of 10 at the time and seven out of 10
during the processing of memory recall. Activities that were identified by most
participants as soothing included taking a walk (86%), listening to music (70%), taking a
bath (62%), and engaging in a creative hobby (60%). Based on the recurring themes, we
summarized that the cultivation of soothe in this sample is the flexibility to move between
two continuums, which, as illustrated in Figure 6, intersect with each other. In the centre
of the intersection lies the ‘physical and mental relaxation’, which was described as the
source of soothe contributed by its interlinked components.
Continuum one: Theme 1. Venturing out in nature: Cultivation of soothe via admiration of the taken-for-
granted surroundings
Venturing out in nature emerged as the singularly most recurring theme. When illustrating
their past soothing experiences, many participants attached significance on the attention
Figure 6. The cultivation of soothe in everyday life contexts.
Project Soothe 11
they paid onto the minutest details of the natural surroundings, including what they saw,
heard, smelled, and felt, which made them felt soothed. Many of these experiences were
episodes when participants were taking daily strolls in the nature.
[I was] out walking on a country lane. A number of kittens and cats appeared from farm
buildings, two came to say hello. [I was soothed by] the quietness of the lane, bird song and
amused at the playfulness of the youngest kittens. [I was] concerned that they might be in
danger if a car came along the lane, but mostly relaxed by the innocence and sweetness of
animals. (Female, 46)
Also highly prevalent in the data were soothing experiences when participants
ventured out of their ordinary lives and showed admiration towards the beauty of the
‘unspoiled’ nature.
Whilst travelling I visited the Mongolian steppes... I was surrounded by mountains, glacial
rocks and valleys...[I felt a] total sense of freedom. It was utterly beautiful and unspoiled by
man. [I was] in awe and amazed as the moon rose...[I felt] content...(Female, 30)
[I was] standing at the very front of the ship...[I felt an] intense calmness... [when] looking
up at the vastness of the universe. (Male, 62)
Albeit an idiosyncratic mention, a noteworthy description from a respondent was the
ability to ‘own’ the moment that created a feeling of soothe.
I was at my favourite beach [looking at the] sand, sea and reflected lights. I felt calm,
appreciation and soothed because I had a camera with me to create an image. (Female, 58)
Theme 2. Being in a familiar surrounding: Cultivation of soothe via a sense of safeness
On the other end of the continuum, being in a familiar surrounding also emerged as a very
important main theme. Many emphasized that it is the familiarity with the environment
and proximity to familiar people that brought them a sense of safeness, which cultivated
the feeling of soothe. Among the familiar environments, home appeared be the most
frequently mentioned setting where participants felt soothed.
[I felt soothed when I was] in my home, sitting on the sofa in the living room and saw a tidy and
homely setting... (Female, 27)
This feeling of soothe arisen from the familiarity with the environment was very often
accompanied by physical proximity to family members.
[I felt soothed when I was] lying on my sofa cuddling with my toddler son. Skin on skin...The
soft warmth of his body. (Male, 44)
[I felt soothed when I was in a] familiar room... and knowing my husband was at home too.
(Female, 27)
Whilst the majority of the participants documented familiar environment as home and
people as family members, familiarity here was not limited to home and the presence of
family members.
12 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
[I was in] Maggie’s Centre meeting room for my art class. [It was a] closed group with just a
few people who had been attending for 8 weeks... Familiar people in similar situation.
(Female, 44)
Continuum two: Theme 3. Being solitary and detached: Cultivation of soothe via engagement in
individual activities and witnessing kindness
Also important in the cultivation of soothe in everyday life was the flexibility to move
between being solitary and detached versus being affiliated and connected, which we
grouped in the horizontal continuum seen in Figure 6. The ability to stay solitary and
detached from other people emerged as the second most recurring theme in the everyday
cultivation of soothe. This was manifested by two subthemes:
(a) Full concentration on the presence. Among those who favoured solitary and
detachment, many mentioned that the feeling of soothe came from activities that
demanded their full concentration on the presence.
I was playing my piano. The cadences of notes, harmonies, being absorbed in concentration
on one activity, the stillness of mind made me feel relaxed and soothed. (Female, 46)
I was working in my garden... The warmth of the sun on my back, the quietness and being
able to focus on the job in hand without distractions made me feel soothed... (Female, 62)
Some participants also specifically mentioned the absence of responsibilities and
worries as the source of soothe that accompanied solitary and detachment.
[I felt soothed when] knowing that the ocean will always meet the land... [and] that I was
alone and could stop to take it all in without people walking past and looking. (Female, 34)
(b) Witnessing kindness.Apart from concentrating on the ongoing tasks, two
participants also spoke of mindfulness yet from a different perspective. They expressed
feeling soothed when witnessing something was ‘well taken care of’.
I was walking home after work. I saw a garden filled with beautiful flowers and a vegetable
plot that was clearly well tended... I felt calm after a day of work and enjoyment in the
evidence of someone’s care and love for their garden. (Female, 46)
Theme 4. Being affiliated and connected: Cultivation of soothe via kin-based, dyadic, interpersonal
relationships
On the other end of this continuum was affiliation and connection with others. Narratives
can be categorized into two subthemes:
(a) Kin relationships.Almost all participants who favoured being affiliated empha-
sized that the feeling of soothe stemmed from interpersonal connections with their
significant others from kin relationships.
Project Soothe 13
I was at home in our bedroom with my husband...I was laying down and we had an intimate
conversation. I was listening to my husband talk about his feelings. I felt loved, joyful, peaceful
and empowered. (Female, 31)
(b) Non-kin relationships.Non-kin relationships were also significantly mentioned
among the participants, especially affiliations and connections with animals and people
who shared similar situation to theirs.
I was at home working. I saw my cats sleeping on a bed. I touched and smelt their fur. Their
warmth [soothed me]. I felt secure, happy and comforted. (Female, 46)
[I felt soothed when I was] being with people who accepted me because we were all autistic.
(Female, 35)
Theme 5. Physical and mental relaxation: Cultivation of soothe via release of body tension
The source of everyday soothe was also fairly widely mentioned to be solely stemming
from the release of physical tension and unnecessary thoughts. In relation to the release of
physical tension, responses recorded a range of activities including exercising, having a
massage, and taking a bath.
[I felt soothed] when I was swimming in the water, being able to move easily (I have arthritis
and this can be hard and painful sometimes) ...[I felt] happy, relived, free and excited to] be
able to move easily and without pain... (Female, 27)
Some participants specifically mentioned the practice of mindfulness meditation as
the source of soothe.
I listened to a short mindfulness audio tape which helped me to focus on my breath... it
helped me to focus through visualization...I got a sense of strength and calm after listening to
the audio tape. (Female, 50)
Four participants particularly mentioned the notions of ‘having a task in hand’ and
‘having completed a task’ as a source of soothe, which was also often accompanied by the
aforementioned mindfulness at familiar surroundings and nature.
[I was] in bed, relaxed and with music on...I was soothed when] knowing that all my work
and tasks were done. I was both happy and optimistic. (Male, did not mention age)
Discussion
The present study explored the understanding of soothe in the general public and their
lived experiences of soothe in an everyday life context. The results revealed that there
were considerable commonalities between individuals’ conceptual understanding of
soothe and their actual experiences of soothe. Overall, a shared, essential understanding
of soothe was represented as the interconnected states of feeling calm, relaxed, and at
ease. These feelings were attributed to the sense of inner peace and contentment
14 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
cultivated solitarily by the participants themselves (the framework of self-soothe), and the
sense of safeness that was often attained via affiliations (the framework of being soothed).
This cognitive understanding of soothe was manifested in the lived experiences narrated
by the participants, where participants did not only emphasize an almost equally
important need for both solitude and affiliations with others, but they also attached great
significance on being surrounded by familiar people and environments. These findings
were consistent with the conceptualization of ‘soothe’ in Gilbert (2005)’s model of
compassion which contextualizes the sense of ‘safeness’ within social affiliation. Within
CFT, the sense of ‘safeness’ is related to freedom, exploration, openness, and curiosity,
which is different from a state of ‘safety’ achieved through avoiding or running away from
danger. This theme of safeness is also in line with attachment theories, in particular
echoing the concept of ‘secure base’ and attachment security, that is a sense of assurance
that others will be responsive and supportive for us in times of need (Mikulincer & Shaver,
2003). It is largely developed based on the care and soothe received from primary
caregivers during infancy, when infants internalize the ‘experience-based mental
representations of children’s caregivers’ likely behavior’ as their internal working models
and form their attachment style (Ainsworth, 1967; Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall,
11978; Bowlby, 1969; Sherman, Rice, & Cassidy, 22015). It was shown that attachment
orientation plays an important role in psychological well-being even in late adulthood, and
that attachment security was conducive to the development of a self-compassionate
attitude (Homan, 2016). Whilst attachment patterns developed in childhood remain
highly stable throughout the lifespan, these patterns could be ‘revised’ by experiences
and therapeutic relationships (Waters, Merrick, Treboux, Crowell, & Albersheim, 2000;
Weinfield et al., 2000). Mikulincer and Shaver (2007) suggested that the sense of safeness
and security can be activated by mental representations of loving and caring relationship
partners instead of overt proximity-seeking behaviour in adulthood. For example,
securely attached individuals reported that they coped with stress by seeking out physical
and emotional support from romantic partners when distressed (Mikulincer, Florian, &
Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003), whereas peer relationships can offer opportunities to people
of similar age, social status and competencies for cooperation, mutual altruism, and
reciprocity that are mostly egalitarian in nature (Furman, 1999). Therefore, these results
from existing literature could account for why some participants in our study experienced
feeling soothed by the ‘acknowledged presence’ of their significant others, whilst some
others felt soothed when they were affiliated with someone similar to them.
This study also highlighted the notion of solitude being conducive to creating a feeling
of soothe. Gilbert (2014) defined solitude as distinct from loneliness, where the former is a
state that is ‘sought out and enjoyed’ and the latter is related to ‘a yearning and seeking for
connectedness’. Despite being a niche in research, Leary, Herbst, and McCrary (2003)
illustrated that the frequency and enjoyment of solitary activities were more strongly
associated with a high desire for solitude instead of disinterest in social contact. It was also
revealed that solitude served as a constructive and protective function as a strategic retreat
that complements social experience (Larson, 1997). Thus, it was hypothesized that
solitude and attachment may work together as a ‘boon companion’ rather than two
disparate ends, as ‘a positive experience of solitude is only possible when one is securely
attached and that secure attachment requires the potential for aloneness’ (Detrixhe,
Samstag, Penn, & Wong, 2014). While our findings revealed an interesting role of solitude
in creating a sense of soothe, it should be noted that empirical findings in this area are still
scant. How solitude may benefit one’s psychological well-being still remains largely
Project Soothe 15
unclear and warrant future research for further investigation into this hypothesized
association.
Apart from the above, a number of threads also underpinned the feeling of soothe
stemming from being mindful of the present when participants were spending solitary
moments. This result was in line with the components of common humanity and
mindfulness under Neff’s (2003a, 2003b) conceptualization of self-compassion. This was
also consistent with previous findings which revealed that feelings of connectedness
afforded by self-compassion was a crucial attitudinal factor in the mindfulnesshappiness
relationship that led to greater psychological well-being (Hollis-Walker & Colosimo,
2011). However, the existing literature has yet to examine the relationship of self-
compassion and mindfulness with solitude. Although current conceptualizations of
compassion and self-compassion accentuated the adverse effects of isolation Neff’s
(2003a, 2003b) and loneliness (Gilbert, 2014) on mental well-being, the results in the
present study suggested that solitude played a significant role when self-compassion and
mindfulness took place. It is also noteworthy that the current findings showed that female
participants tended to more frequently understand soothe as stemming from affiliations
(being soothed), whilst male participants tended to understand soothe as a process of self-
soothe. This finding was congruent with the gender difference illustrated in a previous
meta-analysis, where males showed slightly higher levels of self-compassion than females
(Yarnell et al., 2015). Another possible interpretation is that males may have an increased
belief in the importance of being self-reliant and hence may intuitively view ‘soothe’ in
relation to self-soothe rather than being soothed by others; this is consistent with recent
findings which showed that males have lower levels of compassion for others in the
Compassion Engagement and Action Scales (Gilbert et al., 2017). Altogether these
findings may suggest novel research directions in the future on investigating whether
voluntary desire for aloneness, as opposed to the involuntary state of being isolated,
creates a ‘mental space’ that facilitates self-compassion and mindful awareness of the
surroundings, and whether gender influences the cultivation of individuals’ soothing
experience.
Furthermore, physical sensations also appeared to play a role in both individuals’
understanding of soothe and their actual experiences of feeling soothed. They are
represented to play a fundamental role in offering participants’ a sense of emotional relief,
comfort, and warmth, which are then understood as soothe. This importance of physical
relief was again anchored when participants narrated their experiences of feeling soothed
via release of body tensions. From the theoretical point of view, this finding echoed with
the existing evidence on the psychological benefits of physical touch. Gilbert (2010)
posited that physical contact, kindness, and warmth are a powerful way of soothing.
When such tactile contact is with an object that contains thermal warmth, oxytocin is
released from its receptors, which are identified in the amygdala, the emotional, and
behavioural centre of the ‘social brain’ (Zak, Kurzban, & Matzner, 2004). Since physical
touch was the most frequently mentioned bodily sensation that gave rise to the feeling of
soothe via a sense of warmth in our sample, our findings provided qualitative accounts
complementary to these neuroscientific findings.
The major difference between the thematic findings of the two research questions was
participants’ lack of awareness of the soothing power of nature. While recalling the actual
experiences of feeling soothed, venturing out into the nature emerged as the most
recurring theme. Surprisingly, the importance of nature was not mentioned when
participants were asked to verbalize their understanding of soothe. The closest narratives
possible were the occasional remarks of tranquillity and solitary that inform participants’
16 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
understanding of soothe via a sense of inner peace and contentment. This suggested that
the soothing power of nature may be below the conscious awareness of participants. The
notion of nature being a mental oasis is not a novel concept as it has previously been
highlighted in the Attention Restoration Theory and Stress Recovery Theory (Joye, Pals,
Steg, & Evans, 2013; Kaplan, 1995; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Ulrich, 1983). In support of
these theories, a study involving more than 250,000 participants based on the second
Dutch national survey of general practice (DNSGP-2) showed that the percentage of green
space in people’s living environment was positively associated with their self-rated health
(Maas, Verheij, Groenewegen, Vries, & Spreeuwenberg, 2006). Another study of a large
cross-sectional population from the 2008 Scottish Health Survey also demonstrated that
physical activity in natural environments has a greater association with reduced risk of
mental ill health compared with physical activity in other environments (Mitchell, 2013).
In a laboratory setting, individuals were found to report viewing natural environments as a
more positive experience than viewing urban environments (Joye et al., 2013). In field
experiments, Hartig, Evans, Jamner, Davis, and G
arling (2003) showed greater stress
reduction, increased positive affect, and decreased anger among participants who
engaged in walking in a natural reserve than those in an urban surrounding. Similarly, a
study in 24 forests across Japan exploring the effect of ‘Shinrin-yoku’ ‘forest bath’ evinced
that exposures to forest environments promoted more positive physiological changes
than city environments (Park, Tsunetsugu, Kasetani, Kagawa, & Miyazaki, 2010).
Notwithstanding, research on the benefits of natural environments has been faced with
challenges of translating their findings into practice and inform further research (Bell, van
Zon, Van Herzele, & Hartig, 2011). The present study, elucidating the latent soothing
effect of nature, therefore contributed to bridging the gap between the two research areas
and suggested that future research may look into the association between the benefits of
natural environments and compassion in relation to mental well-being.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that public engagement is at the heart of Project Soothe.
We have explored new ways to collect data and represent research findings through
public exhibitions and science festival events. For example, results of this study have been
transformed into a poem by a local poet (see http://www.projectsoothe.com/poem/ and
Appendix B).
Limitations
The sample in the present study consisted of more female than male, which limited our
search for gender differences. The extent to which factors such as participants’ ethnicity,
and socio-economic and cultural background influenced their responses also remained
unclear. Although the use of survey is useful for collecting a large sample size, the inability
to clarify participants’ answers on the survey items meant that occasions when the
researcher had to interpret their responses were inevitable. Conducting interviews in the
future may help collecting more in-depth narratives.
Conclusion
This qualitative analysis explored how individuals understand the concept of ‘soothe’ and
illustrated the themes underlying individuals’ subjective soothing experiences in
everyday life such as the importance of solitude, affiliation, mindfulness, connection
with nature, and physical sensations These findings have implications for the develop-
ment of compassion-based interventions. Specifically, they may help practitioners
Project Soothe 17
support individuals to develop self-soothing strategies by tapping into their understanding
and experience of feeling soothed in everyday contexts.
Funding/Acknowledgements
Project Soothe has received funding from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, as well
as internal grants by the University of Edinburgh. The authors would like to thank Angela
McLaughlin and Fiona Ashworth for their general support for Project Soothe, Ron Butlin
for writing a poem based on our research findings, and participants who took part in this
study.
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20 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Appendix A:
Coding frames
Coding frame 1: How is the feeling of soothe interpreted?
Code-name nDefinition Example
Category 1:
Emotions
Explicit statement
about the emotions
involved when
people interpret the
meaning of ‘soothe’
Calmness 61 Feeling soothed means
feeling calm
[Feeling soothed is] feeling calm, content, relaxed.
(Female, 45)
[Feeling soothed is feeling] calm and content in
both body and mind. (Male, 48)
[Feeling soothed is] feeling comforted, warm, calm,
at ease, feeling deeply content, feeling connected,
feeling in contact. (Female, 50)
[Feeling soothed is feeling] calm, quiet, still,
mindful, in the moment... (Female, 48)
[Feeling soothed is] calming yourself down when
you are angry/over excited or making yourself
feel better when you are sad. (Female, 23)
Relaxation 50 Feeling soothed means
feeling relaxed
[Feeling soothed is feeling] relaxed, nurtured, safe.
(Female, 48)
[Feeling soothed is] feeling calm and comfortable,
relaxed but aware. (Female, 35)
[Feeling soothed is feeling] relaxed, calm and
content (especially after feeling anxious or
worried). (Female, 34)
[Feeling soothed is] having levels of stress or upset
reduced; being comforted; feeling more calm/
relaxed/peaceful. (Female, 61)
[Feeling soothed is] to be able to calm down and
relax after a state of distress. (Female, 32)
Soothe to me means to become calmer or how to
relax. Feeling soothed to me means being able to
breathe more slowly and evenly with a reduction
in negative or anxious thoughts. (Female, 43)
[Feeling soothed is] feeling calm and relaxed.
Usually interpersonal e.g. parent soothing a
child, feeling soothed after talking a difficulty
though a friend. (Female, 27)
Inner peace 25 Feeling soothed means
feeling at peace
Feeling an inner embracing sense of peace/
tranquillity and comfort. (Female, 27)
... [Feeling soothed] means bringing myself to
being at peace with myself. It involves bringing my
awareness to my body, paying close attention to
how it feels and if there are any feelings of
Continued
Project Soothe 21
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nDefinition Example
emotional discomfort or pain, being able to use
the tools that are available to me such as my
breathing or mindfulness or other techniques I
have learned for releasing painful or traumatic
feelings and being able to come back to a place of
calm. (Female, 50)
Getting a warm feeling of inner peace and serenity
when getting overwhelmed by negative
emotions. (Female, 26)
Safeness 19 Feeling soothed means
feeling safe, secure, and
protected
[Feeling soothed means] feeling comforted, safe, at
ease. (Female, 29)
[Feeling soothed means] calm, safe, free from pain,
gentle. (Female, 37)
[Feeling soothed means] feeling relaxed and safe;
contentedness. Having been troubled and the
experiencing the troubles dissipate. (Female, 27)
Warmth 12 Feeling soothed means
feeling warm, nurtured,
and contained
[Feeling soothed means] calm, content, free of
worries, warm, hugged, cosy, soft, gentle,
comfortable, at home, uplifting, rocking...
(Female, 34)
[Feeling soothed means] a state of aloneness or
detachment from my surroundings where I feel
calm, warm, safe and secure. (Female, 62)
[Feeling soothed means] feeling comforted, warm,
calm, at ease, feeling deeply content, feeling
connected, feeling in contact. (Female, 45)
Contentment 18 Feeling soothed means
feeling content and
satisfied with the
current state of life
[Feeling soothed means] feeling relaxed and safe;
contentedness. Having been troubled and then
experiencing troubles dissipate. (Female, 27)
[Feeling soothed means feeling] safe, content to be
alive at that moment... (Female, 51)
[Feeling soothed means] I’m not worried, flustered
or stressed about anything I’m just very calm and
contented. (Female, 21)
Well-being 2 Feeling soothed means
to feel a sense of well-
being
[Feeling soothed means] a feeling of calmness,
security and wellbeing. (Female, 42)
Comfort 6 Feeling soothed means
feeling comfortable
[Feeling soothed means] feeling calm and
comfortable, relaxed but aware. (Female, 35)
[Feeling soothed means] feeling comfortable and
peaceful. (Female, 24)
Ease 28 Feeling soothed means
feeling at ease without
having any worries or
stress
[Feeling soothed is to be] at ease. (Female, 27;
Male, 62; Female, 25; Female, 23; Female, 30;
Female, 26; Female, 34; Female, 29; Female, 45;
Female, 36; Female, 23; Female, 21)
[Feeling soothed is to be] relaxed, lying down, [and
have] no worries. (Male, did not mention age)
[Feeling soothed is] to feel calm, without anxiety,
Continued
22 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nDefinition Example
to have a feeling of peace and well-being. (Female,
46)
[Feeling soothed is] not agitated or highly-strung.
Calm. A feeling that the body’s chemicals are
balanced. (Female, 46)
Emotional
relief
9 Feeling soothed means
feeling emotionally
relieved after stressful
situations
...[Feeling soothed means] emotional needs being
validated and met...more on an emotional level,
a feeling. (Female, 27)
[Feeling soothed means] a diminishment of
excitement, particularly negative excitement. A
balm. (Male, 44)
Usually soothed means a relief after pressure,
ecstasy, a pain or a shock to me. (Female, 28)
Affiliation 3 Feeling soothed means
feeling affiliated and
connected with others
[Feeling soothed means] emotional relief. We can
be soothed by others or by ourselves, from
sharing discomfort, imitating self-talk to recalling
pleasant memory... (Male, 24)
[Feeling soothed means] feeling comforted, warm,
calm, at ease, feeling deeply content, feeling
connected, feeling in contact. (Female, 45)
[Feeling soothed means] feeling calm and relaxed.
Usually interpersonal e.g. parent soothing a
child, feeling soothed after talking a difficulty
through with a friend. (Female, 27)
Confidence 3 Feeling soothed means
feeling confident and
having a sense of
control
... [Feeling soothed] comes with confidence and
determination or a feeling of control [over] the
future or thorn in life. (Female, 28)
When I feel soothed I feel calm, confident and
comforted. (Female, 34)
Preparedness 5 Feeling soothed means
feeling a sense of
control over things that
will happen in the future
[Feeling soothed is] to feel relaxed and able to cope
with whatever is coming next. (Female, 34)
[Feeling soothed is a state of not worrying and
knowing I will be able to cope with the situation at
hand... (Female, 30)
[Feeling soothed is]... a kind of confidence and
determination or a feeling of control over the
future and the unknown, or the tricky problems
in life. (Female, 28)
[Feeling soothed]...comes with confidence and
determination or a feeling of control [over] the
future or thorn in life. (Female, 28)
Happiness 10 Feeling soothed means
feeling happy and
pleasant
[Feeling soothed means] relaxed, at peace,
positive, filled with love and positive emotions,
accepting, feeling happy and confident and valued
by myself. (Female, 41)
[Feeling soothed means] being relaxed and being
happy. (Male, did not mention age)
Continued
Project Soothe 23
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nDefinition Example
[Feeling soothed is] to feel calm and peaceful,
relaxed and happy. (Female, 26)
Self-
compassion
2 Feeling soothed means
accepting our
experience as it is and
embracing ourselves
with warmth and
tenderness.
[Feeling soothed is a] momentary sense that things
are in fact alright, brief respite from stresses and
responsibilities of daily living. (Female, 38)
[Feeling soothed is] calmed, nurtured, self-
compassion. (Female, 38)
Valued by
oneself
1 Feeling soothed means
feeling valued by
oneself.
[Feeling soothed is to be] valued by myself.
(Female, 41)
Solitary 2 Feeling soothed means
feeling solitary and
detached
[Feeling soothed is] a state of aloneness or
detachment from my surroundings where I feel
calm, warm, safe and secure. (Female, 62)
[Feeling soothed is] silence, colour blue, away from
people, city peripheries, good smell in the air
good, water-infused fresh smell. (Male, 26)
Tranquillity 6 Feeling soothed means
feeling tranquil
[Feeling soothed is] feeling tranquil, calm, relaxed,
being at peace. (Female, 30)
Feeling soothed brings to mind feelings of peace,
warmth, quiet, a certain stillness even in
movement, a feeling of being anchored and being
cared for, of tenderness. (Female, 46)
[Feeling soothed is] calm, quiet, still, mindful, in the
moment, any worries or concerns have gone,
certainly for that moment. (Female, 48)
Breathable 4 Feeling soothed means
feeling breathable
[Feeling soothed is to be] breathable. (Female, 42)
[Feeling soothed is] being able to breathe again. An
opportunity to merge with what’s around me
rather than block it out. Feeling safe. (Female, 34)
Feeling soothed to me means being able to breathe
more slowly and evenly with a reduction in
negative or anxious thoughts. (Female, 43)
Fatigue 1 Feeling soothed means
feeling fatigue after a
task is done
[Feeling soothed means] feeling warm and a nice
tired. (Female, 36)
Category 2:
Active
behaviours
Explicit statement
about the active
behaviours involved
when people
interpret the
meaning of ‘soothe’
Mindfulness 9 Feeling soothed means
to be present-focused,
being aware, and
mindful of the
surroundings
[Feeling soothed is] feeling calm and comfortable,
relaxed but aware. (Female, 35)
[Feeling soothed is] calm, contentment, in the
moment, present-focused, relaxed. (Male, 53)
[Feeling soothed is] a personal comfort and
attachment with your surroundings at that
Continued
24 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nDefinition Example
moment. (Male, 49)
[Feeling soothed is] being slowed down and able to
absorb an atmosphere or environment, with a
sense of time standing still and the ability to just
enjoy a moment. All of the senses being engaged.
(Female, 46)
[Feeling soothed is] calm, quiet, still, mindful, in the
moment. Any worries or concerns have gone,
certainly for that moment. (Female, 48)
Engagement of
senses
1 Feeling soothed means
to have all senses
engaged
[Feeling soothed is to have] all of the sense being
engaged. (Female, 46)
Reflection 1 Feeling soothed means
to be reflective of one’s
emotions
[Feeling soothed is] the movement away from
more dynamic, energized feelings towards more
reflective, calm feelings. (Male, 65)
Care-giving 1 Feeling soothed means
to offer care for others
[Feeling soothed is] to console, to comfort.
(Female, 50)
A calming-
down
process
16 Feeling soothed means
to calm down after
states of distress
[Feeling soothed is] a calming process. Something
comforting, caring, reassuring. (Female, 29)
[Feeling soothed is] transitioning from a state of
upset or anxiousness to one of feeling calm and at
peace. (Female, 71)
[Feeling soothed] means a relief and a belief after
pressure, a shock, ecstasy, or a sadness. (Female,
28)
[Feeling soothed is to be] calmed down from a
tense or irritating or frustrating situation...
(Female, 33)
[Feeling soothed is] feeling relaxed and contented
after a state of agitation and anxiety. (Female, 27)
Hideaway
from reality
1 Feeling soothed means
to hide away from the
reality
[Feeling soothed is]... about covering up, hiding,
not facing the truth perhaps. (Female, 34)
Category 3:
Passive
behaviours
Explicit statement
about the passive
behaviours involved
when people
interpret the
meaning of ‘soothe’
Being calmed
after stressful
situations
21 Feeling soothed means
being calmed, consoled,
and emotionally settled
after stressful situations
[Feeling soothed is] a sense of being calmed down
and distress reducing. It brings to mind feeling
warm... (Female, 27)
[Feeling soothed is] comforted, calmed, made to
feel less anxious, made to feel secure, made to
feel that I can stop worrying about whatever was
previously worrying or upsetting me. (Female,
45)
[Feeling soothed means] feeling calm and at ease...
Continued
Project Soothe 25
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nDefinition Example
something or someone has had a calming effect.
(Female, 34)
[Feeling soothed means to be] brought to a sense
of peace and control by a person or activity.
(Male, 36)
Being
comforted
after stressful
situations
21 Feeling soothed means
being comforted after
stressful situations
[Feeling soothed is] comforted, calmed, made to
feel less anxious, made to feel secure, made to
feel that I can stop worrying about whatever was
previously worrying or upsetting me. (Female,
45)
[Feeling soothed is] feeling comforted, warm, calm,
at ease, deeply content, feeling connected, feeling
in contact. (Female, 45)
[Feeling soothed is] being comforted and calmed
during times of stress or distress. (Female, 45)
Being
reassured
after stressful
situations
4 Feeling soothed means
being reassured after
stressful situations
[Feeling soothed is] a calming process. Something
comforting, caring, reassuring. (Female, 29)
[Feeling soothed is] to be calmed and reassured,
and made to feel that everything is going to be
okay. (Female, 29)
Having distress
reduced or
dissipated
16 Feeling soothed means
having anxiety and
distress reduced or
dissipated
[Feeling soothed means] having levels of stress or
upset reduced, being comforted; feeling more
calm/relaxed/peaceful. (Female, 61)
[Feeling soothed is] to be calmed in a de-stressing,
relaxing manner. (Male, 43)
[Feeling soothed is]... brief respite from stresses
and responsibilities of daily living. (Female, 38)
Feeling soothed is] calm, de-stressing, not worried.
(Female, 42)
[Feeling soothed is]... de-escalation of anxiety/
stress. (Female, 36)
Made to feel
relaxed
3 Feeling soothed means
being made to feel
relaxed after stressful
situations
[Feeling soothed is to be] relaxed after a stressful
thought or situation. (Female, 27)
[Feeling soothed is to be] calmed or made to feel
better when upset/stressed, distressed/anxious
hugged, consoled. (Female, 45)
Made to feel
secure
4 Feeling soothed means
being made to feel
secure
[Feeling soothed is] made to feel secure, made to
feel that I can stop worrying about whatever was
previously worrying or upsetting me. (Female,
45)
[Feeling soothed is]... feeling secure and
comforted. (Female, 35)
[Feeling soothed is] calm, safe, secure. (Female, 42)
Made to slow
down
1 Feeling soothed means
being made to slow
down
[Feeling soothed is] being slowed down and able to
absorb an atmosphere or environment, with a
sense of time standing still and the ability to just
enjoy a moment. All of the senses being engaged.
(Female, 46)
Continued
26 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nDefinition Example
Being loved 3 Feeling soothed means
being loved by
somebody
[Feeling soothed is]... loved in a situation when I
am being ignored or forgotten... embraced or
held when I am being or have been neglected...
(Female, 33)
Being cared for 6 Feeling soothed means
being cared by
somebody.
Feeling soothed is feeling embraced by someone’s
love, someone’s care, empathy and compassion.
(Female, 27)
[Feeling soothed is]... the feeling of being the
object or receiver of care...which is comforting
with a calming effect (Female, 30)
Being
reminded of
good things
1 Feeling soothed means
being reminded of good
things by somebody
[Feeling soothed is being]... reminded of good
things in the world. (Female, 27)
Being taken
care of like a
baby
4 Feeling soothed means
being taken care of like
a baby
[Feeling soothed is] swaddled like a baby. (Female,
56)
[Feeling soothed is] relaxed, calm, chilled. A baby
being soothed by its parent. (Female, 22)
[Feeling soothed is] feeling calm and relaxed,
usually interpersonal e.g. parent soothing a
child...(Female, 27)
Being touched 1 Feeling soothed means
being touched
[Feeling soothed is] being touched, heard,
understood, accepted. (Female, 47)
Being hugged 2 Feeling soothed means
being hugged
[Feeling soothed is calmed or made to feel better
when upset/stressed, distressed/anxious
hugged, consoled. (Female, 45)
Being heard 1 Feeling soothed means
one’s voice is being
heard
[Feeling soothed is] being touched, heard,
understood, accepted. (Female, 47)
Being
understood
1 Feeling soothed means
being understood
[Feeling soothed is] being touched, heard,
understood, accepted. (Female, 47)
Being accepted 2 Feeling soothed means
one is being accepted
[Feeling soothed is] being touched, heard,
understood, accepted. (Female, 47)
Being
distracted
from distress
1 Feeling soothed means
being distracted from
distress
[Feeling soothed is] a distraction from distress or
simply a pleasant moment on its own. (Female,
29)
Category 3:
Physical
sensations
Explicit statement
about the physical
comfort involved
when people
interpret the
meaning of ‘soothe’
Tenderness 5 Feeling soothed means
feeling gentle, soft, and
tender
[Feeling soothed is] calm, softness, no agitation,
care, comfort, relaxed and open. (Female, 36)
Feeling soothed brings to mind feelings of peace,
warmth, quiet, a certain stillness even in
movement, a feeling of being anchored and of
being cared for, of tenderness. (Female, 46)
Continued
Project Soothe 27
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nDefinition Example
[Feeling soothed is] gentled, calmed with
affection... (Male, 44)
Lightness 2 Feeling soothed means
feeling the lightness of
the body
[Feeling soothed is] feeling relaxed and having a
light body. (Female, 30)
Moist 1 Feeling soothed means
feeling moisturized
[Feeling soothed is] moist. (Female, did not
mention age)
Colour 1 Feeling soothed means
looking at a particular
colour
[Feeling soothed is] silence, colour blue, away from
people, city peripheries, good smell in the air -
good, water-infused fresh smell. (Male, 26)
Putting cream
onto the
mind
1 Feeling soothed means
putting cream onto the
mind
[Feeling soothed is] a sense of being calmed down
and distress reducing. It brings to mind feeling
warm like putting cream on skin to reduce
inflammation and redness, only for your mind.
(Female, 27)
Lying down 1 Feeling soothed means
lying down
[Feeling soothed is] relaxed, lying down, no
worries. (Male, did not mention age)
Physical
pleasure
3 Feeling soothed means
feeling physically
comfortable
If I feel soothed I feel relaxed, my mind is at ease and
I am physically comfortable.(Female, 23)
Coding frame 2: How is the feeling of soothe cultivated in everyday life contexts?
Code-name nExample
Category 1: Venturing
out in nature
89
Feeling calm and warm when
being mindful at the
surrounding nature
82 [I was] out walking on a country lane. A number of kittens and cats
appeared from farm buildings, two came to say hello. [I was
soothed by] the quietness of the lane, bird song and amused at the
playfulness of the youngest kittens. [I was] concerned that they
might be in danger if a car came along the lane, but mostly relaxed
by the innocence and sweetness of animals. (Female, 46)
[I felt a sense of] intense calmness and awesome feeling [when]
standing at the very front of the ship, in the middle of any ocean, on
a clear, but moonless night, and looking up at the vastness of the
universe. [I was soothed by the] flying fish, dolphins, motion of the
waves, sunrises, sunsets, the silence of the ocean with only the
sound of the waves the ship made. (Male, 62)
[I was] going to work, getting out of my car and the sun was shining. [I
felt soothed when I] breathed the fresh air, looked at the daffodils
and heard [the] birds singing. [I was also made soothe when taking]
deep breath and pause for the moment. (Female, 60)
[I was] sitting in the garden very early in the morning, just after dawn.
The only sound was the birds in the bushes, and there were small
Continued
28 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nExample
rabbits in the garden eating the flowers. I could smell the fresh
coffee that I was drinking. [I felt] a feeling of belonging and personal
satisfaction emphasized the calmness of the surroundings a new
day, a new start. (Male, 49)
Whilst travelling I visited the Mongolian steppes... I was
surrounded by mountains, glacial rocks and valleys...as far as the
eye could see...I walked alone and climbed up a large rock pile to
watch the sunset. Then I climbed down again and watched the full
moon rise red over the mountains. The only sounds were a faint
hum from the camp and the crickets and wind in the grass. [I felt a]
total sense of freedom. It was utterly beautiful and unspoiled by
man. [I was] in awe and amazed as the moon rose... [I felt]
content... This is one of my very favourite memories and always
makes me feel relaxed. (Female, 30)
[I was] on a cruise boat going down the Yangtze River in China...[I
was soothed by] the smell of the water and feel... as it was quite
misty. There were beautiful towering cliffs either side of us, some
of which had monkeys running up and down, on others you could
see waterfalls coming down to the main river or some steep
winding paths with local people drawing carts on. Sometimes you
could hear them calling to each other above the noise of the river.
My partner and I [were] holding hands as we went through, just in
awe of what we were seeing. (Female, 30)
[I was surrounded by] a loch, countryside, a hill and my partner. [I
was soothed by] the sunshine, warmth on [my] face, watching the
water/wildlife on the loch, dogs playing around the loch, holding
hands/holding my partner, sounds of birds, children playing/
families around. [I was also soothed by] closing my eyes and feeling
the sun on my face. (Female, 25)
Feeling relaxed when there
are no other people
around (tranquillity)
8 [I was watching] sunrise on the Malvern Hills in January. [I felt soothed
by the] silence, apart from odd bird singing, no one around, cold
crisp air, but beautiful sunlight, no bees no flies...stillness but with
the odd rabbit hopping past. Down below the town was covered in
mist just felt calming, beautiful and perfect. (Female, 36)
I was out walking in the hills near my home. There was silence,
beautiful scenery, sunshine. [I was soothed by] the solitude. [I felt]
peaceful and calm. (Female, 49)
Feeling pleased to be able to
‘own’ and ‘capture’ the
moment
2 I was at my favourite beach [looking at the] sand, sea and reflected
lights. I felt calm, appreciation and soothed because I had a camera
with me to create an image. (Female, 58)
[I was] at a park with a loch. [There were] trees, light and reflections.
[I was] walking and [felt] peaceful and soothed again having a
camera to create images with. (Female, 58)
Category 2: Being in a
familiar surrounding
71
Feeling affiliated, safe, and
contended with familiar
53 [I was] at home watching a favourite film. [My] familiarity with the
film [made me feel that] there was nothing to fear. (Female, 56)
[I was] in bed. [It was] dark and quiet. [I felt soothed by] feeling the
Continued
Project Soothe 29
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nExample
people in a familiar
environment
warmth from bed covers and electric blanket [and] touch from
hugging [the] teddy bear. (Female, 28)
[I was] at home, reading. [I felt soothed by] the low side lighting in
living room, house very quiet, husband nearby. [I felt] content.
(Female, 30)
[I was in] Maggies Centre meeting room for my art class. [It was a]
closed group with just a few people who had been attending for
8 weeks...Familiar people in similar situation. (Female, 44)
[I felt soothed when I was] being with people who accepted me
because we were all autistic. (Female, 35)
[I was] at home, comfortable, with my partner. [I was soothed by]
soft things, gentle sounds, nothing extreme or harsh. [I was also
soothed by] my partner’s presence. [I felt a sense of] calmness and
relaxation. (Female, 26)
[I felt soothed when I was] lying on my sofa cuddling with my toddler
son. Skin on skin... The soft warmth of his body. (Male, 44)
Feeling affiliated, relieved,
and connected with
animals/pets
9 I was at home. [I was soothed by] my cat’s fur under my fingers,
warmth of her sitting on my knee... [I felt] relaxed. (Female, 34)
[I had] my cat lying asleep on my bed. I saw the cat relaxed and I felt
her soft fur. [I felt soothed by] the peacefulness of the room. [I was
also] calm and grateful. (Female, 49)
[I was] at home, watching the cats sleep, feeling their warmth. [I felt a
sense of] comfort, allegiance, a feeling of space away from the
world. (Female, 46)
[I was] at home working. I saw my cats sleeping on a bed. I touched
and smelt their fur. [I was soothed by] their warmth, feeling secure,
happy and comforted. (Female, 46)
Feeling engaged and focused
on a task without being
disturbed
9 [I was] sitting on the sofa at home, letting go of responsibilities and
reading what I like. [I felt soothed by] the absence of noise. [I felt]
happy and satisfied. (Male, 34)
[I was] sitting reading a book under the sun. [I felt soothed by the]
birds, warmth and pages of the book. [I felt a sense of] enjoyment
of the story and reading it without being disturbed. (Female, 50)
[I was] at home, hearing my favourite piece of music on classic FM,
sitting on the chair and listening properly not doing anything else. [I
felt] happy, content and peaceful. (Female, 60)
Category 3: Being
solitary and detached
90
Feeling warm to be
surrounded only by the
nature
80 [I was] sitting in the garden very early in the morning, just after dawn.
The only sound was the birds in the bushes, and there were small
rabbits in the garden eating the flowers. I could smell the fresh
coffee that I was drinking. [I felt] a feeling of belonging and personal
satisfaction emphasized the calmness of the surroundings a new
day, a new start. (Male, 49)
I was on holiday in Scotland, rowing in a boat on the loch on a fine
day. The landscape around the loch, the sun on the water, the
sound of the oars in the water, the sturdy feel of the boat and the
warmth of the sun soothed me. [I felt a sense of] peace, stillness, a
Continued
30 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nExample
feeling of slowing down, a feeling of timelessness [and] happiness.
(Female, 46)
Whilst travelling I visited the Mongolian steppes... I was
surrounded by mountains, glacial rocks and valleys...as far as the
eye could see...I walked alone and climbed up a large rock pile to
watch the sunset. Then I climbed down again and watched the full
moon rise red over the mountains. The only sounds were a faint
hum from the camp and the crickets and wind in the grass. [I felt a]
total sense of freedom. It was utterly beautiful and unspoiled by
man. [I was] in awe and amazed as the moon rose... [I felt]
content... This is one of my very favourite memories and always
makes me feel relaxed. (Female, 30)
Feeling relaxed when there
are no other people
around (tranquillity)
8 [I was watching] sunrise on the Malvern Hills in January. [I felt soothed
by the] silence, apart from odd bird singing, no one around, cold
crisp air, but beautiful sunlight, no bees no flies...stillness but with
the odd rabbit hopping past. Down below the town was covered in
mist just felt calming, beautiful and perfect. (Female, 36)
I was in the royal botanic garden. I was surrounded by the beautifully
landscaped grounds. [I felt soothed when] I saw a rich living
collection of green plants and smelt the great fresh air in the tranquil
garden. I was there alone. Maybe this helped me to concentrate on
feeling and enjoying the beautiful sense. [I felt] happy, relaxed and
delighted at that time. (Female, 24)
I was out walking in the hills near my home. There was silence,
beautiful scenery, sunshine. [I was soothed by] the solitude. [I felt]
peaceful and calm. (Female, 49)
Feeling calm and grateful
witnessing someone/
something is cared for
2 I was walking home after work. I saw a garden filled with beautiful
flowers and a vegetable plot that was clearly well tended. It was
spotting with rain and there was the metallic smell of new rain on
pavements. I felt calm after a day of work and enjoyment in the
evidence of someone’s care and love for their garden. (Female, 46)
I was walking through a park and saw spring flowers, daffodils,
crocuses and trees...I felt relaxed and pleased that we have well
maintained and protected park spaces. (Male, 43)
Category 4: Being
affiliated and
connected
75
Feeling affiliated, safe, and
contended with familiar
people/pets in a familiar
environment
54 [I was] coming home from work. [I had] a long hug from husband.
Seeing his smile before hugged. [I was soothed by] his warmth and
steadiness of pressure in his hug, familiar smell of his skin and
deodorant. (Female, 45)
[I was] being with partner at home. [I felt soothed by] being cared for
with a sense of protection. Calm home, little activity. [I was also
soothed by] someone’s support, embrace. [I felt] happy and loved.
(Female, 26)
[I felt soothed when I was] being with people who accepted me
because we were all autistic. (Female, 35)
Continued
Project Soothe 31
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nExample
Feeling connected,
encouraged, and secure
through interpersonal
conversations
12 I was at home in our bedroom with my husband...I was laying down
and we had an intimate conversation. I was listening to my husband
talk about his feelings. I felt loved, joyful, peaceful and empowered.
(Female, 31)
[I was] on the phone with my mum heard her voice. [I was] talking
through difficulties/ things I’d been thinking about and soothed to
have someone listen. (Female, 27)
[I was] talking calmly...and the feeling that my family is there for me
when I am upset made me feel soothed. (Female, 30)
[I was] going to pick up my dog. [I was soothed by] my friend’s
embrace [and the] soft jacket material. [My friend’s] low, soft
voice, long pauses in speaking...and attentive listening [also made
me feel soothed]. (Female, 33)
Feeling affiliated, relieved,
and connected with
animals/pets
9 I was in my warm beautiful home with my dog on my lap warm soft
and calming. [I knew] I was safe and well in the moment, just here.
A feeling of gratitude. (Female, 44)
[I was] at home with my cat’s fur under my fingers, [feeling] the
warmth of her sitting on my knee, music playing and relaxed.
(Female, 34)
I was at home working. I saw my cats sleeping on a bed. I touched and
smelt their fur. Their warmth [soothed me]. I felt secure, happy
and comforted. (Female, 46)
Category 5: Physical and
mental relaxation
47
Feeling mentally soothed
when the body is relaxed
22 [I felt soothed] when I was swimming in the water, being able to
move easily (I have arthritis and this can be hard and painful
sometimes)...[I felt] happy, relived, free and excited to] be able to
move easily and without pain, and feeling happy to be able to
exercise and use my muscles. (Female, 27)
[Soothe was]... the feeling of being pleasantly tired after a run [in
the countryside]. Peace, connectedness. (Female, 33)
The lady [in the massage] took my feet and wrapped them in a warm
towel and held them...that moment was extremely soothing and
moving - such delicate care for my feet. [I felt] relieved, relaxed,
safe, comfortable and connected. (Female, 36)
[I was] at the end of a long jog/run in the countryside. [I was soothed
by] the trees, a sense of being out in the open, the feeling of being
pleasantly tired after a run. [I also felt] peaceful and connected.
(Female, 33)
Feeling engaged and focused
on a task without being
disturbed
9 [I was] at home, looking at the view over the harvested fields with
the daylight fading. [I felt soothed when looking at] the autumnal
colours being vibrant in the low sunlight, the fields having been
harvested with the bales casting long shadows and the fresh breeze
coming through the open window. [I was also soothed by] the
music played in the background. [I felt] happy and a sense of
wistfulness in understanding the passage of time. (Male, 49)
I listened to a short mindfulness audio tape which helped me to focus
on my breath... it helped me to focus on an image... through
Continued
32 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
Table . (Continued)
Code-name nExample
visualization... it soothed me so that I could take the next step
from a place of calm. I was [originally] shocked [because of an
unexpected news] but then got a sense of strength and calm after
listening to the audio tape. (Female, 50)
I was indoor in my bedroom on my bed sitting upright listening to a
guided meditation...I had my eyes closed, heard the song to start
meditation and then the relaxing tones of the meditation
instructor. [I] concentrated on my breathing and listened to the
tone of the voice instructing us...[I felt] acceptance of where I was
at. (Female, 43)
Feeling relaxed when there
are no other people
around (tranquillity)
8 I was in the royal botanic garden. I was surrounded by the beautifully
landscaped grounds. [I felt soothed when] I saw a rich living
collection of green plants and smelt the great fresh air in the
tranquil garden. I was there alone. Maybe this helped me to
concentrate on feeling and enjoying the beautiful sense. [I felt]
happy, relaxed and delighted at that time. (Female, 24)
I was out walking in the hills near my home. There was silence,
beautiful scenery, sunshine. [I was soothed by] the solitude. [I felt]
peaceful and calm. (Female, 49)
Feeling calm in a tranquil
surrounding after finishing
a task
3 [I was] in bed, relaxed and with music on. I listened to my favourite
style of music after completing a lot of my work. [I was soothed
when] knowing that all my work and tasks were done. I was both
happy and optimistic. (Male, did not mention age)
[I was] at my house in the living room. My small puppy [was] laying on
my shoulder sleeping while I was watching TV. [I felt soothed by]
being alongside my partner, being comfortable and warm, knowing
all the jobs were done for the day. [I felt] content, happy, relaxed
and loved (for the puppy!). (Female, 29)
I was at home in my hall. As I closed the front door after my
commute home from work, I could feel the carpet beneath my
feet, I could see the garden through the hall window. There was no
sound from TV or kitchen. There was no traffic outside, the
weather was very still. Stillness all around me inside the house and
outside. [I felt soothed when knowing] I had nothing urgent that I
had to do in relation to work or business. I had already decided to
do nothing except prepare dinner. (Female, 48)
Feeling empowered,
engaged, and hopeful when
there is a mission in hand
2 [I felt soothed] that morning in the kitchen when my brain was still
engaged after Fri meeting digesting the info and thinking about the
vision and strategy for the new project. I saw pictures of what I can
deliver and understood my colleague’s approach. I felt at peace
afterwards and disengages my brain after doing a good job.
(Female, 41)
I was working in my garden. [I was soothed by] the plants I was
planting in pots, the feel and smell of the potting compost as I
packed it round the new plants... [I was also soothed by] the
warmth of the sun on my back, the quiet and ability to focus on the
job in hand without distractions. (Female, 62)
Project Soothe 33
Appendix B:
Poem based on the current research findings
34 Michelle C. L. Mok et al.
... As previously explained, compassionate affect is predicted by imagery vividness in both visual and bodily sensation modalities (Naismith et al., 2019). Mok et al. (2020) identified the importance of physical sensations on the cultivation of soothing. Przyrembel and Singer (2018) found that during CBM, participants reported feeling warmth and warm sensations in the chest and heart. ...
... The second component was labeled "somatic perception" and included compassion phenomena referred to warmth, comfort, sympathy, presence, self-reassurance gestures, and compassionate self-instructions. This factor captures the somatosensory component of compassion practice and is also in line with previous studies which gave importance to the somatic aspects of compassion (Jakubiak & Feeney, 2016;Mok et al., 2020;Naismith, Kerr, et al., 2019;Przyrembel & Singer, 2018). ...
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Objectives The authors report on the initial development and validation of the Compassion Practice Quality Scale (CPQS), a measure to assess the quality of compassion-based meditation (CBM). It is conceptualized and operationalized via two factors measuring mental imagery and somatic perception/response.Methods The total sample was composed of 205 university students who underwent a CBM and completed pre-test/post-test assessment of compassion and related constructs. Results from a series of preliminary psychometric analyses of the CPQS were examined, including factor analysis, internal consistency, and convergent/discriminant validity.ResultsThe data supported a 12-item and 10-item (without reference to gestures and self-instructions) CPQS of which imagery and somatic perception emerged as two significant reliable subscales, with Cronbach’s alpha values of .90 and .88 respectively. Practice quality factors assessed by the CPQS correlated in expected ways with fear of compassion, imagery variables, and self-criticism, as well as predicted compassion outcome (i.e., feeling positive attitudes toward others).Conclusions Our findings contribute to identifying two key components of high-quality meditation in CBM (i.e., mental imagery and somatic perception/response) for use in pedagogical development and further research and to offer a reliable self-report measure to assess them for the first time.
... The second factor captured items related to the ability to be compassionate and feeling connected, empathetic, caring and wanting to help. Being compassionate regulates our autonomic nervous system (Kirby et al., 2017) while regulation occurs through the ability to self-soothe (Mok et al., 2019) and communicating safety. In therapy, compassion is increasingly seen as central to promote safety and develop/ reengage self-soothing strategies (Gilbert, 2017). ...
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Reports an error in "A new measure of feeling safe: Developing psychometric properties of the Neuroception of Psychological Safety Scale (NPSS)" by Liza Morton, Nicola Cogan, Jacek Kolacz, Calum Calderwood, Marek Nikolic, Thomas Bacon, Emily Pathe, Damien Williams and Stephen W. Porges (Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, Advanced Online Publication, Jul 18, 2022, np). In the original article, the first name of Jacek Kolacz was misspelled as "Jakec" in the author byline and twice in the acknowledgments. In addition, the affiliations of Jacek Kolacz and Stephen W. Porges were incorrect. All versions of this article have been corrected. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2022-82545-001). Objective: Psychological safety is increasingly recognized as central to mental health, wellbeing and posttraumatic growth. To date, there is no psychometrically supported measure of psychological safety combining psychological, physiological and social components. The current research aimed to develop and establish the neuroception of psychological safety scale (NPSS), informed by Polyvagal Theory. Method: The study comprised of 3 stages: (a) item generation, (b) item reduction, and (c) assessment of factor structure and internal consistency. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis was conducted from 2 samples who completed a survey online (exploratory n = 342, confirmatory n = 455). Results: Initially, 107 items were generated. Item reduction and exploratory factor analysis resulted in a 29-item NPSS with subscales of compassion, social engagement and body sensations. The NPSS was found to have a consistent factor structure and internal consistency. Conclusion: The NPSS is a novel measure of psychological safety which can be used across a range of health and social care settings. This research provides a platform for further work to support and enhance understandings of the science of safety through the measurement of psychological, relational and physiological components of safety. The NPSS will help shape new approaches to evaluating trauma treatments, relational issues and mental health concerns. Research to establish the convergent, discriminant and concurrent validity of the NPSS and to explore its use with diverse community and clinical populations is underway. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... The second factor captured items related to the ability to be compassionate and feeling connected, empathetic, caring and wanting to help. Being compassionate regulates our autonomic nervous system (Kirby et al., 2017) while regulation occurs through the ability to self-soothe (Mok et al., 2019) and communicating safety. In therapy, compassion is increasingly seen as central to promote safety and develop/ reengage self-soothing strategies (Gilbert, 2017). ...
Article
Objective: Psychological safety is increasingly recognized as central to mental health, wellbeing and posttraumatic growth. To date, there is no psychometrically supported measure of psychological safety combining psychological, physiological and social components. The current research aimed to develop and establish the neuroception of psychological safety scale (NPSS), informed by Polyvagal Theory. Method: The study comprised of 3 stages: (a) item generation, (b) item reduction, and (c) assessment of factor structure and internal consistency. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis was conducted from 2 samples who completed a survey online (exploratory n = 342, confirmatory n = 455). Results: Initially, 107 items were generated. Item reduction and exploratory factor analysis resulted in a 29-item NPSS with subscales of compassion, social engagement and body sensations. The NPSS was found to have a consistent factor structure and internal consistency. Conclusion: The NPSS is a novel measure of psychological safety which can be used across a range of health and social care settings. This research provides a platform for further work to support and enhance understandings of the science of safety through the measurement of psychological, relational and physiological components of safety. The NPSS will help shape new approaches to evaluating trauma treatments, relational issues and mental health concerns. Research to establish the convergent, discriminant and concurrent validity of the NPSS and to explore its use with diverse community and clinical populations is underway. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... The second factor captured items related to the ability to be compassionate and feeling connected, empathetic, caring and wanting to help. Being compassionate regulates our autonomic nervous system (Kirby et al., 2017) while regulation occurs through the ability to self-soothe (Mok et al., 2019) and communicating safety. In therapy, compassion is increasingly seen as central to promote safety and develop/ reengage self-soothing strategies (Gilbert, 2017). ...
Preprint
Objective: Psychological safety is increasingly recognised as central to mental health, wellbeing and post-traumatic growth. To date, there is no psychometrically supported measure of psychological safety combining psychological, physiological and social components. The current research aimed to develop and establish the neuroception of psychological safety scale (NPSS), informed by Polyvagal Theory. Method: The study comprised of three stages: (1) item generation, (2) item reduction, and (3) assessment of factor structure and internal consistency. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis was conducted from two samples who completed a survey online (exploratory n = 342, confirmatory n = 455). Results: Initially, 107 items were generated. Item reduction and exploratory factor analysis resulted in a 29-item NPSS with subscales of compassion, social engagement and body sensations. The NPSS was found to have a consistent factor structure and internal consistency. Conclusion: The NPSS is a novel measure of psychological safety which can be used across a range of health and social care settings. This research provides a platform for further work to support and enhance understandings of the science of safety through the measurement of psychological, relational and physiological components of safety. The NPSS will help shape new approaches to evaluating trauma treatments, relational issues and mental health concerns. Research to establish the convergent, discriminant and concurrent validity of the NPSS and to explore its use with diverse community and clinical populations is underway.
... Although two actions were negative, they were associated with reward in earlier life experiences, and therefore still held some soothing value even though they were at the expense of physical health. Other research has found soothing behaviour can be in the form of not facing something unpleasant (Mok et al., 2019). ...
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Human Nature and Suffering is a profound comment on the human condition, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Paul Gilbert explores the implications of humans as evolved social animals, suggesting that evolution has given rise to a varied set of social competencies, which form the basis of our personal knowledge and understanding. Gilbert shows how our primitive competencies become modified by experience - both satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily. He highlights how cultural factors may modify and activate many of these primitive competencies, leading to pathology proneness and behaviours that are collectively survival threatening. These varied themes are brought together to indicate how the social construction of self arises from the organization of knowledge encoded within the competencies. This Classic Edition features a new introduction from the author, bringing Gilbert’s early work to a new audience. The book will be of interest to clinicians, researchers and historians in the field of psychology.
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