Like newly budding plants during the transition into spring, you too have the ability to wake up and reveal your beautiful, yet hidden, nature. On this magnificent day, take a chance and do something new: resolve to become as compassionate as you can be. Before you make the commitment, however, let’s discuss what compassion is, why you should show compassion to others and how you can go about practicing it in your daily life.
What is compassion?
Philosophically, there are many competing schools of thought about how we derive compassion and what that ultimately means to us on a moral level. One of the most compelling moral positions on compassion, I believe, comes from Arthur Schopenhauer.
To Schopenhauer, there are good people and just people; the good person avoids doing harm to others while the just person goes a step further to find that the suffering she witnesses in others affects her as closely as her own. As a result, she actively seeks to help others who are suffering. Thus, according to Schopenhauer, the highest point of ethical conduct is when someone is willing to sacrifice her own well-being for the sake of helping alleviate the suffering of another (given that the suffering she endures is outweighed by the benefits of helping the person in need).
That is to say, to practice compassion is to acknowledge the suffering in others as akin to your own and then doing something, within your capacity and rationality, to help them out.
Why should we show compassion to others?
Compassion is far more than a type of reactionary kindness; it is a very valuable skill that can lead you to happiness as well as transform your whole life.
In fact, imaging studies have shown that the pleasure centers in our brain are just as active when we witness charitable giving as they are when we receive charity. Beyond that, it has been shown, even in children as young as two years old, that helping others in need actually makes us happier than helping ourselves.
Practicing compassion will make you more attractive to others, too. This is because sympathy and kindness, which are foundational for compassionate actions, are rated as the most important qualities for a potential lover to have. Who would have thought that the best fashion is to practice compassion?
Also, a compassionate act can elevate others around you and will inevitably become contagious. It’s simple: someone witnesses your compassion in action, they become warm with joy, and then they go and do something kind for someone who is suffering.
Lastly, helping alleviate the suffering of others can help pull you away from anxiety and depression. As an added bonus, practicing compassion will make you feel like you have more time and money in your life than you may have previously believed.
Here’s the paradox: by practicing compassion and giving back, you will find that you have more than what you started out with. Let that sink in for a minute!
How to become more compassionate:
There are tons of ways to practice compassion in your daily life. Remember, small steps lead to large changes – so start with what works best for you and build upon it. Here are some ways to get started today:
- Volunteer at a local shelter or nonprofit organization
- Practice random acts of kindness
- Spread some unconditional love around by offering advice, hugs, gentle words and understanding to others
- Send a heartfelt message to someone (bonus points if it’s handwritten!)
- Become an advocate and speak up for others
- Communicate with people by making eye contact, actively listening and showing them that you hear what they are saying
- Show your empathy by asking what you can do to help
- Practice appropriate touch – a gentle touch of the hand can turn someones day around
- Become a source of encouragement and provide others with positive feedback
- Donate anything that you can, whether it’s goods, services or time
Take the opportunity to blossom like a budding rose in the spring by practicing compassion; it’ll nourish you to the core while making your environment much prettier and enjoyable. You have the power to change the world while inspiring others, if you try!