Be Nicer to Yourself, and Your A1C Will Thank You: Self-Compassion, Depression, and Diabetes
What to Know
When you have diabetes, self-care can be overwhelming at times. That can cause significant stress and lead you to harshly criticize yourself when you think you’ve done something wrong. Such stress and self-criticism are important warning signs, because mood disorders, such as depression, affect many people with diabetes and have been linked to poor blood glucose control and increased diabetes complications. Learning to be kinder and more compassionate to yourself may improve not only your mood but also your diabetes control.
A total of 63 people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes were recruited for the study. All were from New Zealand and were between the ages of 18 and 70. They were divided randomly into two groups. One group practiced mindful self-compassion, a type of meditation, for 2.5 hours per week for 8 weeks. The other group received their standard diabetes treatment. At intervals throughout the study, the researchers evaluated each participant’s self-compassion, symptoms of depression, diabetes-related distress, and A1C level (a measure of the average of blood glucose over the past two to three months).
The group that practiced mindful self-compassion saw benefits in both their mood and their physical health. Symptoms of depression and diabetes distress dropped, and A1C scores went down by 1%, a significant improvement. Those benefits lasted at least three months after the conclusion of the study.
If you have diabetes, learning to be kinder to yourself (rather than being harshly self-critical) may have positive effects on both your body and mind. Keep in mind, though, that this study was small and the participants had more emotional difficulties than the average person with diabetes. They may have responded more readily to this form of treatment.
Kindness matters: a randomized controlled trial of a mindful self-compassion intervention improves depression, distress, and HbA1c among patients with diabetes, by Anna M. Friis and colleagues. Diabetes Care 2016; 39:1963-1971. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc16-0416