The development of the compassionate self, associated with practices such as slow and deeper breathing, compassionate voice tones and facial expressions and compassionate focusing, is central to Compassion-Focused Therapy. This study explores the impact of a 2-week compassionate mind training (CMT) program on emotional, self-evaluative and psychopathology measures and on heart rate variability (HRV). Participants (general population and college students) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: CMT (n = 56) and wait-list control (n = 37). Participants in the CMT condition were instructed to practice CMT exercises during 2 weeks. Self-report measures of compassion, positive affect, fears of compassion, self-criticism, shame, depression, anxiety and stress and HRV were collected at pre- and post-interventions in both conditions. Compared to the control group, the experimental group showed significant increases in positive emotions, associated with feeling relaxed and also safe and content, but not activated, and in self-compassion, compassion for others and compassion from others. There were significant reductions in shame, self-criticism, fears of compassion and stress. Only the experimental group reported significant improvement in HRV. Developing awareness of the evolved nature and inherent difficulties of our minds allied with practicing CMT exercises has beneficial effects on participants’ psychological and physiological well-being.
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