Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Interventions Target Depressive Symptoms

A new study finds self-coldness predicts depressive symptoms and supports self-compassion as a buffer.


A study from researchers at The University of Groningen in the Netherlands, published in the journal Mindfulness, examines the role that self-compassion and self-coldness play in depressive symptoms. In their study, the researchers find that self-judgment and isolation are strong predictors of depressive symptoms and recommend interventions aimed at improving self-compassion through mindfulness.

“Self-coldness measures harsh judgment towards the self, feelings of isolation, and over identification with negative aspects of oneself or personal experience,” lead author Angélica López explains. “These concepts resemble self-criticism, loneliness, and rumination, three well-known and studied psychological processes that have proved to be detrimental for individuals’ wellbeing.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Responding to one’s suffering with self-compassion is characterized by treating one’s self with tenderness and understanding, seeing one’s failures as a part of the human condition, and maintaining mindfulness in painful experiences. The alternative is responding with self-coldness.

In a number of previous studies, self-compassion interventions have been shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms with effects lasting six months to one year. Past studies have also associated self-coldness with reduced improvements in psychological health. In a 2011 review of the self-compassion literature the researchers found that:

“Patients who are self-critical tend to make fewer improvements in short-term antidepressant medication (imipramine), placebo, or psychotherapy (interpersonal or cognitive– behavioral) treatment.”

The purpose of the current study was to explore the predictive ability of self-compassion on depressive symptoms and the moderating role that self-compassion has on the relationship between self-coldness and depressive symptoms.

The authors demonstrate self-coldness to be a strong predictor of depressive symptoms, with feelings of isolation being the strongest predictor followed by over-identification with negative feelings and experiences. The authors highlight previous research demonstrating the role self-compassion plays as a buffer between self-coldness and depressive symptoms.

“As proposed in previous studies, we found a significant interaction between self-compassion and self-coldness. Our results showed that cross-sectionally, self-coldness predicted depressive symptoms in individuals with either low or high self-compassion, with a somewhat stronger relationship among those low in self-compassion. In our longitudinal data, self-coldness predicted depressive symptoms only for those individuals low in self-compassion.”

While some have critiqued the positive psychology movement and its emphasis on self-compassion, others have framed self-compassion as a form of resistance to the neoliberal imperative for self-perfection. The importance that self-compassion interventions place on utilizing perspective taking and mindfulness through experiences of suffering contests the idea that one should aspire to a constant state of happiness.

With an increasing body of support, self-compassion and mindfulness interventions could play a key role as first-line interventions for the treatment of people diagnosed with depressive disorders. This study provides support to the growing body of literature calling for integrative approaches to mental health care.



López, A., Sanderman, R., & Schroevers, M. J. (2018). A Close Examination of the Relationship Between Self-Compassion and Depressive Symptoms. Mindfulness, 1-9. (Link)


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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Jessica Janze
MIA Research News Team: Jessica Janze is a doctoral student in the Counseling and School Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and has worked primarily with children impacted by psychological trauma. Jessica’s research interests include the impact of mindfulness in early education, emotional regulation, and the role contemplative practices play in mental health.


  1. “In their study, the researchers find that self-judgment and isolation are strong predictors of depressive symptoms and recommend interventions aimed at improving self-compassion through mindfulness.”

    The researchers are neglecting to mention the harm done by psychologists and psychiatrists, who are overly critical and defame people to their own families, with supposed “life long, incurable, genetic” DSM disorders. Disorders like “depression caused by self,” that have less than zero scientific validity or reliability or resemblance to reality.

    The problem is not “self-judgement” or “depression caused by self,” the problem is the psychological and psychiatric industry’s “lifelong, incurable, genetic” DSM lies and defamation of character of their clients to their clients’ families.

    By the way, this is evidence that the psychologists should also stop giving out bad advise like, “give up all your activities and concentrate on the meds.” The blame needs to be placed on the stupid DSM believers, the psychologists and psychiatrists, not on their clients. Wake up!

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  2. There doesn’t need to be ANY “blame” placed on ANYbody. Blame itself is a problem we don’t need.
    “Self-judgement”, along with loneliness, self-criticism, and rumination absolutely ARE the responsibility of the person, not the clinician. Yes, you’re correct, in that the psychs and their neuro-toxin drugs usually do more harm than good. That’s especially true with the pseudoscience of psychiatry.
    One of my best friends is very “depressed”, and admits as much. She’s an incest survivor, was given Electro-Cution Torture, (“ECT”), years of psych drugs, lots of “diagnostic labels”, etc.,
    And she’s her own worst enemy. She has internalized all her victimization, and now she victimizes herself.
    The local quacks at the “Community Mental Health Center” are complicit in her abuse of herself.
    So you tell us, “Someone Else”, *WHAT* should she do? What can anybody ELSE do to help her, as long as she refuses to help herself? Sure, you can say we need to “blame” the catalog of billing codes, the DSM, and “blame” the psychs, but how does that help my friend help herself? I say it doesn’t….

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