One of the Best-Kept Secrets to Happiness: Compassion
Strengthening your sense of compassion will make you feel happier. By helping to relieve the suffering of others, you bring joy to your own life.
Here are some reasons why compassion matters, as well as practical suggestions.
The Importance of Compassion
1. Everyone is interdependent. If you're like most people, you have a hard time even feeding yourself without relying on the efforts of others. After all, do you grow the vegetables, raise the beef, and grow the potatoes? Of course not! We depend on others for many things including our basic needs, health care, and education.
2. Protect yourself from depression. Focusing on helping others is a fast and powerful way to make yourself feel better. Even small acts of kindness promote a healthy sense of self-esteem.
3. Get more perspective on your suffering. It's easy to get caught up in your own experiences. However, when you divert your mind away from your everyday worries, they seem less overwhelming. Broadening your thinking helps you recognize that everyone - not just you - has their own trials and challenges.
4. Lighten common challenges by reaching out to those around you. Difficult times are part of life. Even if some circumstances are beyond your immediate control, you can find relief in assisting others. Support groups for specific concerns provide prime examples of the benefits of joining together to face common issues.
How to Practice Compassion
1. Observe suffering. Gradually train yourself to view unpleasant situations with a calm mind. You can start out small by trying to understand a toddler's frustration with expressing their anger in words, or by noticing when a co-worker is getting overwhelmed.
2. Put yourself in the other person's position. It can be difficult to feel compassionate during an argument. Try to take the other person's perspective. Look beyond any feelings of hostility. Seek common ground and opportunities for compromise.
3. Listen respectfully to others. Even if we hold different views, we can listen with an open mind to what others are saying. It's easier to sustain compassion when people feel like they've been treated fairly.
4. Be considerate of others' wishes. Being flexible goes hand in hand with being compassionate. If your top priority is to create a better situation for everybody, you'll be willing to consider alternative approaches instead of sticking to your familiar habits.
5. Focus on other people's good qualities. Often, we naturally feel compassion for people we love. By noticing others' positive attributes, you can extend affectionate feelings toward more people than just your "inner circle." You'll also be able to respond constructively in less comfortable situations.
6. Remind yourself of positive social interactions. If we focus on how our interactions with others are often enjoyable and beneficial, it's easier to feel more considerate of their feelings. Let other people's empathetic gestures inspire you to practice compassion.
7. Offer direct assistance when appropriate. Sometimes you can ask people directly what you can do to be of service. New neighbors may welcome your suggestions for finding their way around your community.
8. Provide indirect comfort when needed. Sometimes it's beneficial to help out more quietly. If someone seems sensitive about a recent breakup, take them out to lunch and just provide them with companionship and a listening ear.
Compassion can improve your life and deepen your happiness. When you reach out to others, you feel better about yourself. With these techniques, you can develop the courage to observe suffering and the wisdom to know how to alleviate pain.