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Papers of the Week

Papers: 23 Nov 2019 - 29 Nov 2019


Human Studies

2020 Jul - Aug

J Pain



Investigating the Influence and a Potential Mechanism of Self-compassion on Experimental Pain: Evidence from a Compassionate Self-talk Protocol and Heart Rate Variability.


Previous studies have indicated a positive relationship between self-compassion and psychological and emotional well-being in chronic pain populations. However, evidence on the role and mechanisms of self-compassion in pain perception is largely limited. The current study was designed to investigate the effects and a potential mechanism of self-compassion on experimental pain. Thirty healthy participants underwent a compassionate self-talk protocol, which was followed by cold pain exposure during which high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) was evaluated. The compassionate self-talk protocol successfully generated compassionate statements among the participants. Our behavioral data showed lower pain ratings in the self-compassion compared to the control condition. Moreover, self-compassion manipulation resulted in higher HF-HRV during pain, which was associated with lower pain ratings. We present interesting findings that a short period of compassionate self-talk may decrease experimental pain as well as mechanistic evidence surrounding bodily control over pain-related arousal indicated by HF-HRV. PERSPECTIVE: This study presents the first line of evidence that a short period of compassionate self-talk may be sufficient to reduce experimental pain. We also demonstrate increased bodily control as a potential mechanism underlying this effect.