Vakgroep Psychologie, Gezondheid & Technologie

Self-compassion and health behaviours

Additional information:

Type of assignment:                   BSc. thesis

Internal/external:                         Internal
How many students?                  2
Supervision:                                Individually / in (sub)groups

Includes data collection?            Yes

Type of research:                        Quantitative research

Number of ECTS?                       15 ECTS


Research assignment:

Self-compassion is an upcoming concept in psychology. Neff  (2003) states that self-compassion is composed of three main components: (1) self-kindness, i.e. the ability of treating oneself with kindness instead of with harsh self-criticism, in times of suffering or failure,  (2) common humanity, i.e. realizing that suffering and failure are part of the human experience and (3) mindfulness, referring to the mindful acceptance of negative emotions, as they are, instead of suppressing these or over-identifying with them). Gilbert (2010) sees self-compassion as just one part a the broader concept of compassion. Gilbert describes compassion is “the awareness of the suffering of others/the self) and the motivation to alleviate it”. In Gilbert’s theory self-compassion and distinguishes between compassion for the self, compassion for others and (being open to) compassion from others. 

Studies have shown that self-compassion is positively related to mental wellbeing (including positive mood, life satisfaction & happiness etc.) and negatively to feelings of distress (including anxiety, depression, negative mood etc).  Recently, some studies (Terry et al 2013, Brown et al 2016 and Dunne et al 2018) have shown that self-compassion is also associated with physical health and various health related behaviours, such as eating vegetables, getting adequate sleep, smoking, and exercise. 

In the current study you are going to deepen our knowledge about self-compassion and physical health. You will collect data in a group and you will focus on one of the following sub-questions (or any other question of your choice):

To what extend is self-compassion associated with physical wellbeing and (different) health behaviours?

Is the impact of self-compassion on physical health mediated by health behaviours? 

To what extent are these relations different for males and females? Higher and lower educated? Younger vs older people?

Which of the available instruments to measure self-compassion is stronger correlated to physical health, health behaviours and mental wellbeing? 

Which dimensions of self-compassion are stronger related to physical health: the positive dimensions of self-compassion (self compassion, self-reassurance) or  the negative dimensions (self-criticism, self-attacking/self-hate)

To what extend are compassion (and empathy) and self-compassion correlated?

Or any other question of your interest…

Who do we look for?:

Students that are: 
- interested in the topic of compassion and self-compassion

- motivated to conduct a quantitative study
- motivated to collect their own data

- motivated to integrate their own topics of interest in the current research assignment 


Stans Drossaert



Dunne S, Sheffield D, Chilcot J (2018) .Self-compassion, physical health and the mediating role of health-promoting behaviours. Journal of Health Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 7, 06.2018, p. 993-999.


Terry ML, Leary MR, Mehta S and Henderson K (2013) Self-compassionate reactions to health threats. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 39: 911–92


Brown L, Bryant C, Brown V, Bei B and Judd F (2015) Self-compassion, attitudes to ageing and indicators of health and well-being among midlife women. Aging and Mental Health: 1-9.