When it comes to the diseases that impact our collective, we tend to instinctively look outward for cures and solutions. As an example, notice how we are waiting on a coronavirus vaccine to remedy the current pandemic.
What if you had access to a medicine that could strengthen our immunity, reduce risk of disease, and make us feel better? Wouldn’t you line up to take it?
It turns out such a medicine already exists. That medicine is called compassion.
In honor of World Compassion Day, here’s an overview of the healing powers of compassion.
What is Compassion?
the feeling that arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
It’s a mix of empathy, which allows us to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another, and action.
The Latin roots of compassion literally mean to suffer with.
The prefix com means to make common, as in communication and community.
Compassion is how we dissolve the artificial separation we feel when we get into fear states. Through compassion we remember that we are all connected.
Benefits of Compassion
This isn’t just woo. Scientists have begun to map the biological basis for compassion.
According to the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley, research shows that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up.
Other research shows that:
- Compassion can reduce risk of heart disease by boosting the positive effects of the Vagus Nerve, which helps to slow our heart rate.
- Compassion makes people more resilient to stress and strengthens the immune response.
- Compassionate people are more socially adept, making them less vulnerable to the negative health effects of loneliness
- Compassionate societies—those that take care of their most vulnerable members, assist other nations in need, and have children who perform more acts of kindness—are the happiest societies
Research also suggests that compassion is contagious. We best teach compassion to others by practicing it in public.
Compassion Starts Within
Compassion toward others is important, and also we must be compassionate toward ourselves.
Research shows that self-compassion decreases anxiety and helps us avoid self-destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation.
When we practice self-compassion, we are better able to notice our strengths and orient to what gives us joy. We have less conflict, less judgment, and more peace of mind.
And because compassion is contagious, practicing self-compassion gives us access a deeper well of compassion for others.
Best of all, compassion is free, and always available to us.