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This Surprising Habit Can Boost Your Immune System

They (mainly J.LO), say love don’t cost a thing. So why are most of us penny pinchers when it comes to self-love? 

Being kind to ourselves isn’t something women invest in often, and that’s pretty unfortunate – that sh*t is powerful stuff. In fact, researchers from Oxford and Exeter Universities believe that self-compassion exercises could be the key to lowering our risk of disease.

For the study, first published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, 135 healthy students were divided into five groups and given two sets of 11 minute-long audio instructions to listen to.

One was a recording that encouraged self-love via a ‘compassionate body scan,’ in which people were guided to approach bodily sensations with an attitude of interest; and a ‘self-focused loving kindness exercise’ which directed them to focus on soothing thoughts about a loved one and themselves.

The second recording was designed to induce a critical inner voice, put the participants into a ‘positive but competitive and self-enhancing mode’ or an emotionally neutral shopping scenario.

Then, they were asked a serious of questions including: ‘how safe do you feel?’ ‘how likely are you to be nice to yourself?’ and, ‘how connected do you feel to others?’ while the team measured their heart rate and sweat responses.

Those who were part of the two groups instructed to be kinder to themselves reported feeling more self-compassion and connection with others. They also showed a bodily response that was consistent with relaxation and safety: their heart rates dropped by two to three beats per minute and they had a lower sweat response too.  

On the other hand, the instructions that induced a critical inner voice caused increased heart rate and a higher sweat response among the three other groups. This was consistent with feelings of threat and distress.

“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that’s important for regeneration and healing,” lead author Dr Hans Kirschner of Exeter University explained.

Researcher Dr Anke Karl added: “Previous research has found that self-compassion was related to higher levels of wellbeing and mental health, but we didn’t know why. Our study is helping us to understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could 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.”

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