Research is sometimes associated with low motivation, poor performance,

Research Proposal

 

            This research proposal will outline a study designed to answer the following question. How does a self-compassion training programme effect motivations to engage in positive health behaviours for those with self-reported low motivations?

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Research suggests that self-compassionG1  is associated with increased happiness, wellbeing and positive affect (Barnard & Curry, 2011). Self-compassionG2  has also been linked to suffering less and thriving more (Barnard & Curry, 2011), while Ryan & Deci, (2001) suggest it is an important ingredientG3  for eudaimonic happiness. Studies have also found that self-compassion is a trait that can be trained. It was found that a three-weekG4  self-compassion training course leads to G5 significantly greater reports of increased self-efficacy and optimism as well as decreased negative affect (Smeets, Neff, Alberts & Peters, 2014).G6 G7 G8 

 

            Self-compassion is often misunderstood in relation to motivation and is sometimes associated with low motivation, poor performance, self-indulgenceG9  and giving one’sG10  self permission to be lazy. However, a number of studies suggest that self-compassion may be an important trait to motivate and inspire self-care and wellbeing G11 (Neff, 2015). Self-compassionG12  may encourage self-care and motivation to look after ones physical and mental health and lead to viewing oneself with understanding and G13 kindnessG14  as opposed to criticism, leading to high levels of positive affect and a motivation for self-improvement (Neff, 2015). Numerous studies in the past have linked self-esteem to motivation to improve positive health behaviours, however more recent research has highlighted self-esteem as a trait linked to extrinsic motivation where self-criticism, comparison to others and placing high importance on what others think can be problematic (Neff, 2011). Neff (2011) suggests that self-compassion may be a psychologically healthier motivator with less negative affect than self-esteem. It could be concluded that if positive health behaviours are viewed as an act of self-compassion, it may act as a more powerful long-term motivator with more associated positive affect. G15 

 

Neff, Hsieh, Dejitterat, (2005) have stated that those higher in trait self-compassion are more intrinsically motivated, striving to grow and improve. Breines & Chen, (2012) also found that those who responded to personal weakness and failure with acceptance and self-compassion reported increased motivations to improve. A study exploring the link between self-compassion and health found evidence to point towards the potential effectivenessG16 G17 G18  of self-compassion interventions, improving peoples management of their health (Terry & Leary, 2011). A further study found evidence to support the need for further researchG19  to explore the effects of self-compassion training for promoting positive health behaviours such as exercise, healthy eating, stress managementG20  and adequateG21  sleep (Sirois, Kitner & Hirsch, 2015). Magnus, Kowalski & McHugh, (2010). Terry, Leary, Mehta, & Henderson, (2013) found that people who were rated as high in self-compassion were more motivated to attend to their health more readily and avoid unhealthy behavioursG22 . Similarly, a literature review exploring the relationship between self-compassion and self-regulation suggested that self-compassion interventions may G23 help to enhance self-regulation and positive health behaviours (Terry & Leary, 2011).G24 G25 G26 G27 G28 

 

            A small number of studies have begun to look at the effects of self-compassion interventions on negative health behaviours.  Kelly, Zuroff, Foa, & Gilbert, (2010) carried out a study to determine if a self-compassion intervention could reduce smoking in people who wanted to quit. The study revealed mixed results, but self-compassion was linked to decreasedG29  smoking, although the link may be correlational. A further study looking at the effectiveness of a self-compassion intervention on guilty and restrictive eaters found that self-compassion helped restrictive eaters to G30 G31 

stop overeating as a symptom of regulating emotion after breaking their diets and instead helped them to curb and monitor their eating (Adams & Leary, 2007). Magnus, Kowalski & McHugh, (2010) found that self-compassion was positively related to intrinsic motivations to exercise and suggested that self-compassion interventions may be a potential area of study to encourage positive health behaviours such as engaging in physicalG32 G33  activity. G34 G35 

 

In order to understand the subjective experiences of self-compassion as a concept Berry, Kowalski, Ferguson & McHugh, (2010) carried out a phenomenology study to look at the relationshipG36  between exercise and body self-compassion. The women in the study discussed their wishes to be healthyG37  and take ownership of their bodies and stated this as a reason for exercising. A further study found that postpartum women who used a self-compassionate perspective in relation to their physical bodies were more motivated to engage in positive health behaviours such as walking, running and being mindful, in responseG38  to a desire to look after themselves with compassion (Woekel & Ebbeck, 2013). It can be argued that exploring the subjectiveG39 , lived experience of self-compassion is a worthwhile area of research. If we can further understand why and how self-compassion can potentially motivate people to engage in positive health behaviours, the findings may be able to help design more effective interventions that could potentially be generalised and rolled out to the wider community. G40 G41 

 

            The aim of the proposed study is to look at the phenomenological experience of a self-compassion training programme in relation to motivations to engage in positive health behaviours. The researcher aims to try and understand if, how and why a self-compassionG42  intervention effects motivation to look after one’sG43  health from the individuals perspective. It is hoped that by gaining further insight into the first person perspective and lived experience it may lead to a deeper understanding regarding the G44 relationshipG45  between self-compassion and health motivations and potentially lead to the design of more effective interventions in the future. G46 

 

Method

 

Participants

            The study will aim to recruit between 5 – 25 mixed gender, mixed ethnicity participants. Participants will be recruited by approaching local gyms and weight-watchers groups asking for volunteers. The study will specify that participants need to rate themselves as having low motivation to engage in positive health behaviours, such as healthy eating and exercise, with a wish to increase their motivation levels. Participants will need to be within travelling distance to Cambridge where the self-compassion training and subsequent interviews will take place.

 

Materials/Apparatus

            A qualified trainer will be required to deliver the 8-week self-compassion training. A video recorder will also be required to record interviews. Paper diaries will be given to all participantsG47  to complete. A viewing station will be required to view and transcribe all interviews.

 

Design

The design of this study will be a qualitative phenomenological study. This approach has been chosen in an attempt to understand how the participantsG48  interpret the self-compassionG49  training in relation to motivation and positive health behaviours and to understand their perceptions and perspectives. Phenomenological studies allow for a deeper understanding of subjective experience, allowing insight into to what motivates people and their actions, leaving no space for assumptions (G50 Coolican, 2009). This method has been chosen to allow the researcher to try to fully understand the subjective, individual experience of an 8-weekG51  self-compassionG52  course on those with low motivation to engage in positive health behaviours. The compassion training will be delivered in a group setting on a weekly basis and will use the empirically validated Mindful Self-Compassion programme (MSC) model, which has been shown to increase self-compassion, mindfulness, life satisfaction as well as decreasing depression, stress and anxiety (Neff & Germer, 2013).G53  The phenomenological study will look at the participantsG54  own perspective to provide insight and gain a deeperG55  understanding of their lived experience. To gather the data diaries will be given to each participant at the beginning of the study and pre and post training interviews will be conducted and recorded. The interviews will be conducted in a semi-structuredG56  format to allow for predetermined, but open-ended questionsG57 , enabling the researcher to divert from a planned set of questions in response to the participant’sG58 G59  answers. G60 G61 

 

 

Procedure

            The study will advertise for participantsG62  who describe themselves as low in motivation (and wishing to change that) to engage in positive health behaviours, such as healthy eating and exercising to take part in an 8-weekG63  self-compassion training course. Once recruited participantsG64  will take part in pre and post-trainingG65  individual interviews of a semi-structured style, which will be recorded on a video recorder. At the pre-interview stage, G66 participants will be briefed on the interview structures and the content of theG67  self-compassion training. They will also be given individual diaries to complete to monitor their feelings towards motivation to engage in positive health behaviours throughout the 8-weekG68  course. Pre-trainingG69  interviews will be designed to explore what each participantsG70  lived experience is with a self-reported lack of motivation to engage in positive health behaviours. Describing what a perceivedG71  lack of motivation means to them, why they believe they lack the motivation to live a healthier lifestyleG72  and how it affectsG73  them personally. The participants willG74  then complete an 8-week self-compassion training courseG75  deliveredG76  in group sessions for 2 hours per week on a weekly basis. Once the training has been completed participantsG77  will be called back in for post-training G78 individual interviews. Each person will be asked to describe their experience of the course and any changes they have noticed during and after the course, particularlyG79  in relation to motivation to engage in positive health behaviours. In order to try to understand each participantsG80  individual lived experience, the researcher will G81 be careful not to be too directive in the interview stages to avoid any potential bias coming through the researcher may have toward the potential relationship between self-compassion and positive health behaviours. G82 G83 G84 G85 

 

Data Analysis

All videotaped interviews will be transcribed prior to analysis and gathered together along with the diaries from each participant. An emergent strategy will be employed to allow for the data to change and emerge over the period of analysis. The phenomenological analyses process will follow a similar method of analysis described by G86 Kleiman (2004). All transcripts and diaries will be read to get a complete well-rounded view. G87 Transcripts will be re-read, coded and divided into meaningful and similar categories. This process will be repeated until clear themes begin to emerge. Once the data has been fully analysed a critical analysis will look to verify that the raw data can verify the results.

 

Ethical Considerations

This study will strive to comply with the British Psychological Society’s guidelines (Coolican, 2009).  Participation will be voluntary and subjects will be fully informed of the research and any risks, enabling informed consent. Participants will have the right to withdraw at any time and their welfare will be considered and monitored at every step of the study. Data will be kept as confidential and stored securelyG88 G89 . G90 The study will be explained in full to participantsG91  and no deception will be involved. Any potential candidates will be excluded from the study if they are currently suffering from any mental health issues as the study is not designed for a clinical population. All participantsG92  will be fully debriefedG93  after the study. The researcherG94  will be mindful of the participant’sG95 G96  welfare at all times, remain professional, act with integrity and sensitivity. G97 

 

Strengths and Limitations

            Qualitative research has been criticised for its small sample sizes, being potentially biased and lacking in scientific rigour. Another critique lies with the researcher conducting the study. The quality and validity of the study depend on the researcher’sG98  skill set and their ability to control for personal biases when conducting interviews and when analysing and interpreting data. However qualitative research allows for a detailed, in-dG99 epth understandingG100  of the subject matter and is based on the lived human experience, which is some instancesG101  can provide more compelling data than quantitative studies (Anderson, 2010)G102 G103 

 

Impact and Beneficiaries

The limited studies that have looked at the positive effects associated with self-compassion interventions in relation to positive health behaviours have reported some promising findings, however, G104 the research is still limited and therefore warrants further investigation. With growing numbers of global obesity and type 2 diabetes (Zimmet, 2017) it could be argued that testing and designing potential interventions to help with this epidemic is a vital endeavourG105 . To allow for a deeper understanding of the potential links between self-compassion and motivation to engage in positive health behaviours qualitative studies can collect data to analyse multiple aspects of the meaning and effectiveness of self-compassion interventions and help to understand how to best design and deliver said interventions in the future, if indeed a link can be established between self-compassion and increased motivation to engage in positive health behaviours.G106 

 

 

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