The most precious gift we have is our life and still it seems like some people tend to forget it. They close their hearts, their minds and their loving interaction with themselves, other beings and our beautiful home called Mother Earth.
There can be many reasons for that like experiencing the opposite of kindness, love, empathy, joy and compassion. With the effect that life becomes hard, hateful, bitter, lonely, cold, etc. where the ripple effect of these experiences seems to grow and the downward spirals of emotions appear heavier and heavier.
This, my dear is not healthy for anybody, not in our personal lives, not for our societies nor for the world. The good thing is we can change it and prevent it so we can live happier and more harmonious lives full of powerful & life-giving energy.
One of the key ingredients to do so is to practice compassion and yes what a wonderful world it would be for all if we humans generated a little more compassion inwards and outwards.
The power of power of being compassionate is about imagining the suffering of others at a deep level which consequently is likely to motivate action.
And compassion isn’t just beneficial for the person being helped – nurturing compassion has some remarkable psychological effects on the person showing and giving compassion.
Here are 7 psychology studies which show some of the effects of exercising your humanity muscle.
1. Compassion Can Be Learned & Expanded
Compassion can (and should) be learned, trained, expanded and nurtured.
That´s for an example been demonstrated in a study; “Compassion Training Alters Alturism and Neural Responses to Suffering” by Weng et al. (2013), who gave participants a one-day course in loving kindness meditation.
This helps foster benevolent and loving feelings towards the self and others.
After the training, people felt better in themselves, were more compassionate towards others and there was more activation in the areas of the brain associated with love, affiliation and positive emotions.
This was true even when they were shown videos of people in distress which previously had caused negative emotions.
The lead author of the study, Helen Weng said:
“It’s kind of like weight training. Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.”
2. Being Compassionate Motivates You to Act in Powerful Ways
In a study; “Meditation Increases Compassionate Responses to Suffering” By Condon et al., (2013), participants who had been meditating were given an undercover test of their compassion.
They were sat in a staged waiting area with two actors when another actor entered on crutches, pretending to be in great pain. The two actors sat next to the participants both ignored the person who was in pain, sending the unconscious signal not to intervene.
Those who had been meditating, though, were 50% more likely to help the person in pain than a control group who had not been meditating.
One of the study’s authors, David DeSteno, said:
“The truly surprising aspect of this finding is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous – to help another who was suffering – even in the face of a norm not to do so.”
3. Being Compassionate Makes You Happier & Healthier
Along with being beneficial to others, experiencing more compassion benefits your own psychological and physical health.
A study “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources” by Frederickson et al. (2008), had participants direct their loving compassion towards themselves over a week, then in the next week towards their loved ones.
The researchers found that those participants who had been randomly assigned to meditate compassionately showed increased levels of daily happiness compared with a control group.
Not only this, but those meditating compassionately also experienced less depression, had higher satisfaction with life and was in better physical shape.
4. Being Compassionate Boost Your Immune Response
The power of being compassionate also reaches into your physical body’s immune and stress response systems.
A study; “Effect of Compassion Meditation on Neuroendocrine, Innate Immune and Behavioral Responses to Psychosocial Stress” by Pace et al. (2009), found that participants who’d been doing more compassionate meditation had stronger immune responses to a stressor, as measured physiologically by interleukin and cortisol levels.
5. Being Compassionate Shows Empathic Neural Response
Neuroscientists have found that increased loving compassion can be measured in our living brain.
In a study; “Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise” by Lutz et al. (2008), expert and novice meditators generated a mental state of loving-kindness-compassion while their brains were scanned. At certain points while participants were in the brain scanner the experimenters fed in sounds of distress.
While the participants were concentrating on being compassionate, the brain regions responsible for the processing of emotions were enhanced compared with when they were at rest.
In addition, the areas associated with empathy and understanding other people’s minds were also more active.
6. Being Compassionate Increase Empathy
Since compassionate thought boosts activity in the empathic centers of the brain, it also boosts empathic accuracy.
In a study; “Compassion meditation enhances empathic accuracy and related neural activity” by Mascaro et al., (2013), where they gave participants a test of empathy called the ‘Mind in the Eyes Test’ which involves guessing emotions from only a pair of eyes.
Those who’d completed a short course on compassion did better on the test, showing that their empathic accuracy was enhanced.
7. Being Compassionate Makes You Less Afraid of Suffering
The pain of others is distressing and in some cases it can be a natural reaction to avoid people in pain.
But being more compassionate can change this, causing negative avoiding emotions to be replaced with positive compassionate emotions.
In the study; “Functional Neural Plasticity and Associated Changes in Positive Affect After Compassion Training” by Klimecki et al. (2013), this was what they found when they gave participants compassion training and then exposed them to a video about people in distress.
After the training people responded neurally with more love, affiliation and positive emotions to suffering.
All of these studies shows and proves that being compassionate towards oneself and others makes us more powerful, more empathic, more kind, more healthy, and more happy (for the benefit of all).
The following quote from the Dalai Lama couldn’t be truer:
With Love & Compassion
- Christine ?
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