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From helping us lead more fulfilled lives to inspiring to make a difference in the world, compassion brings out the best in us. Cultivating compassion for other human beings helps ease our fears and insecurities, giving us the strength to cope with life’s challenges.
“The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes,“ according to the Dalai Lama. “Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease.“ While compassion is often associated with altruistic behavior, generosity, and charitable donations, taking small steps to show compassion for others in daily life can make a world of difference in someone’s day. Here are some simple ways to help you cultivate compassion for yourself and others.
Sometimes, all it takes is some encouragement to show someone what they’re capable of. If a friend or family member is feeling down, one of the best ways to show compassion is by offering support.
Especially during COVID-19, maintaining a solid support network is essential. Living through COVID-19 can be stressful, especially for highly vulnerable people, including older adults and individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions. The benefits of social support are both far-reaching and long-lasting, and research shows that social interaction can boost self-esteem, improve one’s outlook on life, help combat loneliness, and even boost immunity.
To practice compassion for others, make a list of the people in your life and schedule a conversation, video call, or upcoming time together. If you have any educators, caregivers, or essential workers in your life, take some time to remind them how much you appreciate them and recognize their efforts. If you’re not sure what to say, try highlighting some strengths you see in the other person or expressing your support in them and their abilities.
According to Dr. Paul Ekman, compassion is “a response to the suffering of another person.“ While this kind of suffering could range from physical suffering to general dissatisfaction with life, our concern and empathy for others are considered forms of compassion.
To extend your empathy to others, it can help to visualize the feeling of compassion through compassion meditation. Compassion meditation can be in the form of mindful thinking in a dark room, or it can involve a guided loving-kindness meditation app or video.
As you sit in a quiet, calming environment, take note of your self-compassion and how you guard yourself in the face of sorrow and suffering. Next, think about someone close to you. Picture them and your compassion for them, and let yourself be aware of their sorrows and suffering. Practicing a loving-kindness meditation helps you open your heart to others, share in their suffering, and meet it with compassion.
As the golden rule goes, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” To truly show compassion for others, it’s essential to start with yourself.
According to psychologist Kristin Neff, self-compassion is an openness to feelings that cause suffering, attentiveness and affection toward oneself, tolerance of failures and inadequacies, and acceptance of negative experiences.
While it might be tempting to fall into a cycle of self-criticism, practicing self-forgiveness and nurturing your strengths can help you prioritize your psychological health and attend to your needs. If you’re not sure how to get started, psychotherapy can help you build resilience, find strength, and give you the resources you need to combat compassion fatigue and burnout.
If you’re looking to cultivate compassion and altruism for others in your community, we’re here to help. At WithTherapy, we promote mental and emotional well-being by encouraging individuals to exercise self-compassion toward themselves and practice compassionate behavior toward others. One of the licensed psychologists on the WithTherapy platform will help you explore ways to relate to yourself and others with greater humanism and compassion.