Last updated on 13th May 2017
The first evening of this residential was back on Tuesday and it's now Saturday morning. I've already written an initial post "Mindful self-compassion residential: first morning, doubts & overview". So how am I feeling about the workshop now after three full days ... with just one to go? Happy, touched, engaged, questioning, quietly inspired. My initial doubts & impatience with the fact that such a widely taught training hasn't been backed up with better research still holds. It wouldn't have taken a huge initiative to have set up a straight comparison trial between Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). How would they compare? Would they have similar effects? Would some kinds of participants have benefitted more from one than another - see, for example, recent work on gene variants in "Common variant in OXTR predicts growth in positive emotions from loving-kindness training".
If I had to guess, I suspect that the formal meditation variants in MSC would be a little more engaging than the more "vanilla flavour" practices in MBSR, and that this could translate into participants keeping the meditations going a bit more consistently. I think that MSC does target self-criticism & shame better than MBSR or MBCT do, and this could possibly translate into improved depressive relapse prevention. And I suspect that the many emotionally powerful "informal exercises" in MSC produce more group engagement than with MBSR, which could translate into lower group dropout. I think several of the MSC "informal exercises" are excellent and could have helpful effects quite separately from the "formal" meditation exercises. Finally, I think that, for many people MSC, is likely to be just more fun to participate in than the potentially emotionally & interpersonally "drier" MBCT.
I don't think Barbara Fredrickson's head-to-head research comparing loving kindness meditation with mindfulness has been published yet, but she spoke about this work way back at the Positive Psychology Conference in Amsterdam in 2014. She reported that loving kindness training somewhat increased positive emotions (relative to mindfulness training) and that this positive emotion boost was associated with a reduction in "adversity-related patterns of gene expression". The loving kindness group also completed more hours of home practice than the mindfulness group, possibly because they had found the loving kindness practice more enjoyable (and less frustrating) to do? These are just early hypotheses, but despite this they are still intriguing.
More to follow ...