POSITIVE THINKING isn’t just the secret to success in the world of work and beyond – it may actually be good for your health.
That’s according to a new study from academics at Exeter University, working alongside experts from the University of Oxford.
The study, Soothing Your Heart and Feeling Connected: A New Experimental Paradigm to Study the Benefits of Self-Compassion, was published in Clinical Psychological Science.
A total of 135 healthy test subjects were monitored as part of the research.
They were divided into five distinct groups, each of which was played a series of distinctly different audio instructions.
Physical measurements of heart rate and sweat response were taken, with test subjects also quizzed on how they were feeling in general.
Questions focused on subjects like safety, kindness to themselves and their relationships with others.
Of the five groups, two received instructions encouraging them to be kind to others as part of a "self-focused loving kindness exercise" aimed at themselves and their loved ones.
The test’s results showed that this group not only felt greater self-comparison but also a better connection with others.
More importantly, their bodily response was in line with that of an individual feeling relaxed and safe.
Heart rates dropped and there was a variation in length of time between heartbeats, which is a positive sign of health. There was also a lower sweat response.
By contrast, the three other groups received instructions that induced a critical inner voice that induced a "positive, but competitive and self-enhancing mode".
In these instances, the instructions led to an increased heart rate and higher sweat response, both of which are associated with feelings of threat and distress.
Both groups reported experiencing greater self-compassion and decreased self-criticism, but only the self-compassion groups showed the positive bodily response.
Lead researcher Dr Anke Karl, of the University of Exeter, said:
"Previous research has found that self-compassion was related to higher levels of wellbeing and better mental health, but we didn't know why.
"Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments.
"By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing.
"We hope future research can use our method to investigate this in people with mental health problems such as recurrent depression."