The Role of Self-Compassion in the Relationships Among Personality Traits, Health Behaviors, and Daily Mood



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Two studies examined the daily and longitudinal interrelationships among personality traits, self-compassion, sleep quality, positive and negative mood, and exercise. One-hundred-three college students completed a pre-test, daily reports for 8 days, and two follow-up surveys two weeks apart. Study 1 examined trait self-compassion as a mediator of the relationship between personality traits and health behaviors and perceptions. There were significant indirect relationships through trait self-compassion, specifically from extraversion to sleep quality cross-sectionally and from extraversion and neuroticism to exercise satisfaction longitudinally. Neuroticism was negatively related to vigorous exercise longitudinally while both neuroticism and extraversion were positively related to moderate exercise cross-sectionally. Study 2 examined daily self-compassion as a moderator of the relationship between health behaviors and mood. Self-reported moderate and vigorous exercise were related to more evening positive mood. Additionally, self-reported sleep satisfaction and duration were related to more positive mood and less negative mood the next morning. Daily self-compassion was a moderator of the relationship between self-reported moderate and vigorous exercise and evening negative mood, such that individuals who were lower in their personal average of self-compassion showed the greatest mood improvements following moderate and vigorous exercise while individuals who were high in their personal average of self-compassion showed increases in negative mood as they engaged in more intense exercise. Nonetheless, individuals who were high in their personal average of self-compassion showed the lowest negative mood. The results suggest that it may be particularly helpful for college students who experience daily high negative mood and who are high on neuroticism, to increase self-compassion. Practicing daily self-compassion could help improve daily mood, and overtime, increase exercise satisfaction and improve sleep quality.