Over the years, compassion has become a trait on the decline. For whatever reason, humans have become disconnected with feeling for others. However, today we can prove that lack of compassion may lead to a short-lived life. Evidence suggests that when humans connect in a meaningful way with other people or animals, it can actually increase the levels of mental and physical well-being.
The proof is in the pudding—Sarah Konrath from the University of Michigan and Stephanie Brown from Stony Brook University, have generated research that demonstrates just how compassion may increase our life span. Their research goes on to specify that it is not just about doing good deeds, but also doing them for good reasons—altruistic ones instead of self-serving.
Merriam Webster’s definition of compassion is a “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” So, here are 5 ways for you to practice compassion, ultimately making you a better human being and possibly increasing your life span:
Practice kindness. Crack a smile, ask someone how their day went, open the door for someone who has their hands full, lend an ear—these are just small gestures that can positively improve someone’s day. You’ll eventually find that these small acts of kindness quickly become part of your daily rituals and be part of who you are. That’s the goal.
Practice Empathy. Imagine someone you love is hurt and is suffering. Imagine what or how they are feeling and imagine this in detail. Transfer that feeling to a stranger, to someone you don’t know or love. Remind yourself of this feeling every time someone you don’t know experiences pain or sadness. Find empathy in everything you do, every day.
Ease someone’s suffering. Once you've nailed empathy, it's time to do something about it. Try helping someone get out of the difficult position they're in. Once you've practiced feeling others' pain, think about how you can set them free from that pain. This is an integral part of practicing compassion.
Find commonalities. We tend to focus too much on what makes us different from one another, as opposed to what makes us so similar. We all bleed the same color, we all strive for love, health and happiness. So why do we waste so much energy on expressing our differences? If you start a sentence with, “just like me, this person...” you’ll soon realize we all have a lot more in common than we lead ourselves to believe.
Help out the mean people. This has to be the most difficult. Assuming that no human is inherently evil, is sometimes a difficult task. This last step could have gone with step number 1, but it's important to realize that being kind isn't only meant for those who are kind to us. It is definitely more challenging to be kind towards those who mistreat us. Try to understand that the root of their actions probably have nothing to do with you, but about what they have gone through. What life did they live? What kind of day did they have? What do they go home to? We all have our battles and even though we don't all become bitter and angry from our life experiences, some people do and we they need our compassion too.
Peace & love,
Anna & Nishia