People often confuse compassion with empathy or altruism. Even though compassion often includes both emphatic reactions and altruistic acts, it is a separate phenomenon and we should be honored as such.
Let’s consider the differences.
Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in other person's place, to see the world from their perspective. Altruism is an unselfish action that benefits someone else. An altruistic person doesn’t expect any compensation for the deed, the sole act of helping someone is reward by itself.
Compassion, on the other hand, is defined as emotional response when perceiving suffering which includes the authentic urge to help. It is the ability to understand the emotional state of another person or oneself without necessarily feeling the same. (1)
Being compassionate can help us understand people better. It changes our perspective when it comes to perceiving others. We go from assuming that person’s actions are the result of only his or her character – to realizing that many factors determine someone’s behavior.
Everyone has their reasons for acting the way they do. Having compassion usually drives us to see the best in people.
The Benefits of Compassion
After defining what compassion is let’s see how it can help you live a prosperous life.
Let’s start with your health. Having meaningful, compassionate connections with others is proven to help us maintain good mental and physical health; they speed up the recovery from diseases, lengthen our lifespan and strengthen our immune system.
This comes from the fact that the act of giving is even more pleasurable than the act of receiving. Researchers at the University of Columbia conducted the experiment where they gave people money. They divided participants into two groups. The first group was instructed to spend money by themselves, while the second was instructed to spend money on others. The results showed that people who spent their money on others felt significantly happier. Which means, giving to others promotes our sense of well-being.
As previously stated, compassion expands our perspective, making us think beyond our usual, “selfish” viewpoints. When we do something for others, our self-focus drops and shifts to others. This can help with decreasing risk of depression and anxiety.
Furthermore, compassion possesses a capability to change the world. Watching other people who act compassionately or take some sort of self-sacrifice for greater good inspires us to do the same. It is almost like compassion is contagious. Social scientists propose that acts of compassion, generosity, and kindness have a potential to cause chain reactions. (2)
In conclusion, compassion can boost your well-being and quality of your social relationships. It can make you happier, more confident and open minded. At last, it will offer you an enormous potential for love towards people and the world in general.
Those are some serious qualities of prosperity that we can enrich your life with.
How to Become More Compassionate?
If while reading this article you’ve realized that compassion is remarkable, but you think that you are not practicing it enough- don’t worry. It is not too late for you.
Like most of the skills in life, compassion can be learned. Here are a few essential activities and exercises which will bring to the foreground your true potential for compassion:
Basically, many meditations have the potential to help you become more mindful and self-aware. By developing these characteristics, you will understand yourself better and be able to stay in the moment. That should help you learn to notice other people’s feelings and needs, and give you more accurate “inner intuitive guidance” on how to approach them.
We often miss the chance to be compassionate because we are living inside our heads, clinging onto something from our past or our future. Not residing in the present makes us short-sighted for situations where compassion would be the most appropriate response.
However, there is one particular type of meditation that can benefit you. It is the Loving-Kindness Meditation. Practicing this will build your emotional resilience and support you in creating meaningful social connections, which will develop your skill to respond with compassion when faced with challenges. (3)
Develop Compassion for Yourself
Before you become compassionate in communication with other people, you have to learn how to be compassionate with yourself. Your feelings and needs matter. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t have the capacity to care for others.
If you have a problem, think of how would you approach your friend, parent, sibling (anyone you love deeply) if any of them told you they are dealing with the same situation. Be supportive to yourself, just as you would be to another person.
Take a break.
We live in crazy busy times and often forget to practice good self-care. We end up stress out, overwhelmed, over-worked and energy-depleted. Compassion teaches us that we deserve relaxation. When we feel overwhelmed we need to comfort ourselves with an activity that will bring us a sense of tension relief. We can hold our own hand, wrap ourselves in a comfy blanket, place our hands on our heart and breathe deeply…
We are all vulnerable. To have compassion for ourselves means to embrace the fact that we deserve our own kindness, acceptance and deep understanding. (4)
Learn How to Listen
Being compassionate requires a particular set of skills. The most important skill of all is the ability to truly listen. As communication is our most powerful way of expressing how we feel and what we need, mastering it will significantly improve the quality of our life.
Devote your full attention to the person you are talking to. Listen to what they are saying. Listen beyond the content of their speech. Notice the tone of their voice, where are they make a pause, where their breath changes. See the emotions behind the story. Take a closer look, notice the non-verbal communication, changes in face expression, position of the whole body, movement of shoulders and hands.
Every information is important if you want to be compassionate towards someone. Don’t offer solutions, just try to understand and be grateful that the person trusts you enough to talk to you about their issues. (5)
Do a little research about active listening and practice it every day.
Commit Acts of Kindness
If you are still insecure about how to show compassion, including acts of pure kindness in your everyday life and practicing them might be your way to start. Give your best to end the suffering of others, even in a tiny way.
Offer your seat on a bus to an older gentleman, smile at a stranger, or create some compassion in your day by simply sharing this article with someone who you think might benefit from it.
The more you practice to do such acts, the more naturally they will come to you. Also, you will be able to see the results of your compassion directly; this will motivate you to proceed with your practice. As you already know, it will make you happy and inspire others to do good deeds. (6)
If we face the truth, in modern society, not many people can say they are sincerely compassionate.
Make an exception, be one of those extraordinary people who commit to compassion and it will lead you to prosperity.
Let me know what is one compassionate thing you did today.
(Read this next: What are the Most Wonderful Perks of Vulnerability?)