Happy people often attribute their happiness to the practice of calming the mind and finding peace from the chaotic world we live in. Gratitude and mindfulness can help with this but compassion has been shown to be just as impactful bringing joy into our lives and the lives of others.
Compassion, as defined by Wikipedia, is the response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Unlike empathy, it has the added purpose of alleviating the pain in others.
In psychologist Daniel Goleman’s 2007 TedTalk on compassion, he explained how our brain is naturally wired to help others, but only after interacting with them. The problem is that most of us are stuck in what he called an urban trance. We are so involved in the self, busy in thought, on our phones, heading to our next appointment, or planning for the next step that we don’t stop and notice the world around us.
If we are focused on ourselves, if we’re preoccupied, as we so often are throughout the day, we don’t fully notice the other. – Daniel Goleman
If we can come out of our heads and focus on the present moment, on helping others, then there is an amazing benefit to shift the attention from our own problems and self-focus to deeply feeling the struggles of another. Compassionate acts can put things into perspective and help us realize how big or small our problems may be. Some other added advantages:
Compassion can have emotional and spiritual benefits. It lowers depression, provides higher life satisfaction and not only helps bring joy to someone who is in need, but can just as well make you feel pretty good about yourself.
Those who consistently practiced compassion showed reduced signs of depression, anxiety, and stress levels. Also, a plus was slowed aging and improved emotional regulation in the body’s response to stress.
It Gets Easier
Compassion can be learned. Like exercising a muscle, practicing compassion becomes second nature over time because you’re building a new skill. Studies have shown participants who learned meditations to improve feelings of love and kindness were more happy over time and maintained those levels of happiness up to one year later.
When one is compassionate towards another, it acts as a chain reaction. You do a random act of kindness for someone and in turn that person does something nice for someone else.
Compassion or paying it forward has become a big buzz in the last few years. Perhaps because it is contagious. Closely linked to mindfulness and gratitude, when practiced altogether only good things can happen.
We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that. – Ellen DeGeneres