More than 640 people who were mildly depressed took part in the study by York University which tracked the results of online compassion training. Researchers asked the participants, who were on average in their mid-30s, to take part in one of three online compassion intervention exercises including a control condition. They were asked to complete their exercise and report back via an online platform every other day for three weeks.
Two months later, disagreeable participants who performed acts of kindness in close relationships showed the greatest reductions in depression and
"Everybody needs people,” says lead author Myriam Mongrain, Professor of Psychology in York’s Faculty of Health. "As a result of their hostility and lack of cooperation, disagreeable types risk getting rejected or ostracized. There is a lot of conflict in their relationships, and they suffer the consequences. We found that providing concrete suggestions to those individuals, giving them ways in which they could express empathic concern in their close relationships was tremendously helpful.”
Highly disagreeable people often lack empathy, even in their close relationships, said Mongrain.
"Implementing these new behaviors might have left them feeling affirmed and liked in their close social circle. This might have been the anti-depressant ingredient in this group,” she said.
Mongrain adds the findings are particularly noteworthy given that the interventions were administered online and only required 10-15 minutes every other day. In other words, it was easy to implement, could be administered worldwide and had profound effects for some individuals.