What does self-compassion have to do with diabetes?

In past blogs I have written about self-compassion and diabetes separately. However, today I’d like to merge the two topics and pose the question: What does self-compassion have to do with diabetes?

If you’re interested in reading the longer, more scientific response, click here for my paper, which was recently published in Mindfulness.

For the short and sweet answer, keep reading.

If you know much about diabetes, you will know it is a very complex metabolic condition. There are actually two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2, and while they are very different in many ways, they do share some similarities. For one thing, they both suck to live with and nobody with either type of diabetes asked nor deserves to have it. Yet, a lot of emphasis is put on people living with diabetes to ‘control’ their condition. The problem with this is that even despite best efforts, sometimes diabetes management goes off track or is hard to manage. For many people, this can lead to feelings of self-blame and even feeling like they have failed.

Taking care of diabetes is hard work, and it’s not uncommon for people to criticise themselves when things don’t go well. Unfortunately, this just makes matters worse – it’s hard to take care of yourself when you’re beating up on yourself. New research suggests that a self-compassion intervention may be one way to manage these difficult feelings among adults with diabetes. But before we could really test this out, we needed to learn a bit more about this new field.

In our study, we wanted to examine whether there was any link between self-compassion and various diabetes outcomes. In short, the answer is YES. We found that among adults with severe emotional distress (specific to diabetes), they showed lower levels of self-compassion. Furthermore, those with lower self-compassion had poorer health outcomes (e.g. poorer diet, less exercise).

One self-compassion intervention trial has shown promising results, with a reduction in depression and diabetes-related distress, as well as improvements in clinical outcomes.

A self-compassion intervention can improve emotional health, increase motivation, and even improve metabolic outcomes among adults with diabetes.

To read more about self-compassion, including tips on how to practice self-compassion, visit www.self-compassion.org. This website provides an up-to-date list of all self-compassion publications.

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