Stimulate gratitude and compassion
The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2010
Type of paper: Primary Empirical Study
Sample size: 71
Open Access: No
This repeated measures psychophysiology experiment studied three responses to a past interpersonal offense (38 females and 33 males). We compared rumination with two offense reappraisal strategies. Compassion-focused reappraisal emphasized the offender's humanity, and interpreted the transgression as evidence of the offender's need for positive transformation. Benefit-focused reappraisal emphasized insights gained or strengths shown in facing the offense. Supporting the manipulations, compassion-focused reappraisal stimulated the most empathy and forgiveness, whereas benefit-focused reappraisal prompted the most benefit language and gratitude. Both reappraisals decreased aroused, negative emotion, and related facial muscle tension at the brow (corrugator). Both reappraisals increased happiness and positive emotion in ratings and linguistic analyses. Compassion stimulated the greatest social language, calmed tension under the eye (orbicularis oculi), and slowed heart beats (R–R intervals). A focus on benefits prompted the greatest joy, stimulated smiling (zygomatic) activity, and buffered the parasympathetic nervous system against rumination's adverse effects on heart rate variability (HRV).