• Fears of compassion magnify the harmful effects of threat of COVID-19 on mental health and social safeness across 21 countries

      Matos, Marcela; McEwan, Kirsten; Basran, Jaskaran; Gilbert, Paul; University of Derby (Wiley, 2021-04-20)
      The COVID-19 pandemic is a massive global health crisis with damaging consequences to mental health and social relationships. Exploring factors that may heighten or buffer the risk of mental health problems in this context is thus critical. Whilst compassion may be a protective factor, in contrast fears of compassion increase vulnerability to psychosocial distress and may amplify the impact of the pandemic on mental health. This study explores the magnifying effects of fears of compassion on the impact of perceived threat of COVID-19 on depression, anxiety and stress, and social safeness. Adult participants from the general population (N = 4057) were recruited across 21 countries worldwide, and completed self-report measures of perceived threat of COVID-19, fears of compassion (for self, from others, for others), depression, anxiety, stress and social safeness. Perceived threat of COVID-19 predicted increased depression, anxiety and stress. The three flows of fears of compassion predicted higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress and lower social safeness. All fears of compassion moderated (heightened) the impact of perceived threat of COVID-19 on psychological distress. Only fears of compassion from others moderated the effects of likelihood of contracting COVID-19 on social safeness. These effects were consistent across all countries. Fears of compassion have a universal magnifying effect on the damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and social safeness. Compassion focused interventions and communications could be implemented to reduce resistances to compassion and promote mental wellbeing during and following the pandemic.
    • A pragmatic controlled trial of forest bathing compared with compassionate mind training in the UK: impacts on self- reported wellbeing and heart rate variability

      McEwan, Kirsten; Giles, David; Clarke, Fiona; Kotera, Yasuhiro; Evans, Gary; Terebenina, Olga; Minou, Lina; Teeling, Claire; Basran, Jaskaran; Wood, Wendy; et al. (MDPI, 2021-01-28)
      Forest Bathing, where individuals use mindfulness to engage with nature, has been re-ported to increase heart rate variability and benefit wellbeing. To date, most Forest Bathing studies have been conducted in Asia. Accordingly, this paper reports the first pragmatic controlled trial of Forest Bathing in the United Kingdom, comparing Forest Bathing with a control comprising an es-tablished wellbeing intervention also known to increase heart rate variability called Compassion-ate Mind Training. Sixty-one university staff and students (50 females, 11 males) were allocated to (i) Forest Bathing, (ii) Compassionate Mind Training or (iii) Forest Bathing combined with Com-passionate Mind Training. Wellbeing and heart rate variability were measured at baseline, post-intervention and three-months follow-up. There were improvements in positive emotions, mood disturbance, rumination, nature connection and compassion and 57% of participants showed an increase in heart rate variability (RMSSD -parasympathetic activity). There were no significant differences between conditions, showing that Forest Bathing had an equivalence with an established wellbeing intervention. The findings will help healthcare providers and policy makers to understand the effects of Forest Bathing and implement it as a feasible social prescription to improve wellbeing. Future research needs to involve clinical populations and to assess the effects of Forest Bathing in a fully powered randomised controlled trial (RCT) .