Self-Compassion as an Antidote for Depression and Anxiety

Dr Kristan Neff, who has been conducting research on self-compassion for the past decade has found that people who are compassionate to themselves rather than self critical are much less likely to be depressed, anxious and stressed, as well as far more likely to be happy, resilient and optimistic.

The reasons for this can in part be explain through the physiology of what happens when we soothe our own pain. When we are able to do this, we tap into our mammalian caregiving system, which leads to the release of the hormone oxytocin. Research has found that increased levels of oxytocin increases feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness,and facilitates the ability to feel warmth and compassion for ourselves. On the other hand, when we are self critical, we trigger the fight-or-flight response, which leads to an increase in blood pressure, adrenaline and cortisol, preparing the body to response physically to threat by either fighting or running away. However when the threat is internal (e.g. giving yourself negative messages), these responses are not appropriate and therefore the system can not be switched off. The result is that high levels of the hormones stay in the system with negative and toxic effects. Research has shown that self compassion when feeling under threat can lower cortisol levels, allowing the body and mind to heal.

Dr Neff however warms against taking a critical stance against our critical attitudes towards ourselves as she maintains that this attitude has developed as a strategy to keep ourselves safe. So rather than trying to suppress these thoughts which will lead to them increasing, we […]

By |March 7th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Relationship anxiety may lower immunity

Anxiety about our close relationships may function as a chronic stressor that may lead to lowered immunity. Married couples were asked to complete questionnaires about their relationship and key stress related hormones and immune cells were collected in a research study published in the journal Psychological Science.  The researchers found that people who had high levels of attachment (separation) anxiety produced more cortisol (a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress) and had fewer T cells (which form an important part of the immune system) than those who were less anxiously attached. People who are on the high end of the attachment anxiety spectrum are excessively concerned about being rejected, have a tendency to constantly seek reassurance that they are loved, and are more likely to interpret ambiguous events in a relationship as negative.

Attachment anxiety is considered to develop during early childhood. At a very young age, children learn whether or not their primary caregivers will respond when the children are in distress. If caregivers are responsive, children learn they can rely on other people. If care is inconsistent or neglectful, children can develop feelings of insecurity that might manifest as attachment anxiety later in life. For more on attachment please see attachment related blog posts.

Click here to read the original research article.



By |February 18th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Breath Awareness Exercise

A guided breath awareness exercise by Dr Daniel Siegel to help you develop focused attention and mindful awareness.

Neuroception: a key concept for understanding anxiety and depression

Neuroception is a term coined by Professor Stephen Porges and refers to the neural circuit that evaluates risk from cues in the environment. In the stress literature the term perception is often used to describe how it is our perception of threat, rather than an objective evaluation of the stressor that leads to feelings of anxiety. E.g. a potential job interview may lead to feelings of anxiety although it does not pose any real threat to our safety. However Professor Porges states that perception is an inaccurate way to describe the process as the evaluation of environmental cues often occurs outside of conscious awareness.  Faulty neuroception, the inaccurate evaluation of risk where there is no threat, therefore may lie at the root of many difficulties such as anxiety and depression disorders, as well as schizophrenia, autism and reactive attachment disorder. A person may therefore be unable to inhibit defense systems in a safe environment, or they may be unable to activate defense systems in a risky one, or a combination of both.

For more information read Neuroception: a subconscious system for detecting threats and safety



Attachment: What is it and how important is it?

Attachment is the emotional bond of infant to parent or caregiver. It is described as a pattern of emotional and behavioural interaction that develops over time, especially in contexts where infants express a need for attention, comfort, support or security. Parents’ ability to perceive, interpret and react promptly to their infants needs and attention, in turn influence the quality of their attachment relationships. Based on Bowlby’s attachment theory, the relationship developed with primary caregivers is the most influential in children’s lives. A secure relationship fosters not only positive developmental outcomes over time, but also influences the quality of future relationships with peers and partners.

Secure parent-child relationships help children to a) regulate their emotion in stressful situations, b) explore their environment with confidence, and c) foster their cognitive, emotional and language development. Furthermore, children who are securely attached are predisposed to display positive social behaviours (e.g., empathy and cooperative behaviours) helping them to develop future positive relationships. On the other hand, insecure and disorganized attachment put children at increasing risk of problem behaviours and psychopathologies. Examples include preschool and school-aged aggression, depression and emotional dysregulation.

Becoming a better parent – a must see for all parents.

Dr Dan Siegel explains the importance of making sense of our childhoods and how we were parented, as this process has the possibility of transforming how we parent through the way we relate to our children.

Creating connection with your child – tip from Dr Marshall Rosenberg

Celebrating what works for your children is another opportunity for empathic connection.
Take time to listen for: (1) the feelings they are having as a result of their accomplishments, and (2) the needs they have met by doing what they have done.
You might say, “Wow, you seem really happy and proud of yourself for staying with that puzzle until you figured it out!” An empathic response like this not only serves the connection between you and your child; it also supports your child in building skills to look inside himself for the acknowledgment that he is meeting his needs rather than looking outside himself to others for their evaluation or approval.

How you can change your brain – Dr Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel explains how focusing our attention can change the physical structure of the brain, improving relationships and decreasing self limiting behaviour patterns.

By |January 15th, 2013|Brain development|0 Comments

Creating optimal attachments – for parents

Dr Dan Siegel describes parenting styles that facilitates the development of secure attachments in children.

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By |July 31st, 2012|Videos|2 Comments