An initial report on a research study titled, Kindness Matters: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindful Self-Compassion Intervention Improves Depression, Distress, and HbA1c Among Patients With Diabetes suggests that learning to be kinder to oneself (rather than being harshly self-critical) may have both emotional and metabolic benefits among patients with diabetes.

Evidence on psychological treatments that improve both mood and metabolic outcomes is limited. Greater self-compassion predicts better mental and physical health in both healthy and chronically ill populations. Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) training increased self-compassion and produced statistically and clinically significant reductions in depression and diabetes distress in the intervention group, with results maintained at 3-month follow-up. MSC participants also averaged a clinically and statistically meaningful decrease in HbA1c between baseline and follow-up of >10 mmol/mol (nearly 1%).

According to James Doty, MD Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine; Director, Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education:

While some clinicians don’t appreciate this reality, research has demonstrated that when a physician or nurse shows empathy for a patient — listening, connecting, and validating them — the patient is more likely to recover faster across a wide variety of medical conditions to even include surgery. The good news is that kindness isn’t just good for patients. Neuroscience shows that acting with kindness toward others stimulates the reward circuits in our brains, so giving and receiving kindness has a positive effect on physicians and nurses as well.

Across many studies, expressions of respect, acceptance, warmth, and open sharing of information contribute to less pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, as well as better health for those with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or asthma.