Want to know the secret to true mind altering, soul smiling, mood boosting happiness? Okay! It’s called... are you ready for it? COMPASSION! And guess what?? We ALL possess that superpower. You might laugh, and tell me that I’m being a little extreme, but if you think about it, it really is a superpower! It’s something we are easily able to switch on and off as we please, but when we do let it out, it can… no, it DOES!… make all the difference. It can not only turn a whole person's day, week, or even life around, but it also helps alter our own moods as well. That’s pretty amazing and superpower-ish, if you ask me!
Now, what exactly IS compassion? Some of you may think you know exactly what compassion means, while others may think it’s just another form of being kind and empathetic. While that is a big part of compassion, it does go much deeper than that. Simply put, compassion is empathy put to action. Action is a must. In Latin, the word "compassion" actually means “co-suffering”. You don’t just feel bad for the other person, you literally feel their pain and would do anything to help them. And we ALL suffer. We go through life where we must face countless moments filled with pain. Some of us are stuck in loveless marriages or relationships. Some of us are stuck in a disheartening career. Others are facing addiction or serious health issues. It’s our job as caring individuals to help act on our empathy towards one another.
Easier said than done, right? The good news is that I have 6 quick tips of what exactly you can do to help bring more compassion into your life! These are tried, tested AND true (at least in my book! :)) So here they are! Starting with the most important...
Take Care of Yourself!
It is so hard to be compassionate for others when you just don’t care. If you don’t take the time to take care of yourself, you can find yourself in a deep, dark depression. If you don’t care about your own life and happiness, what makes you think you’ll be able to care for someone else’s? This can be extremely detrimental to your life as a parent, friend, child, significant other, or even just as a person in your own community. Some things you can do to help take control of your life could be :: meditation, staying on top of your health with regular doctor/dental visits, choosing to eat right, etc. I found that a simple 10 minute mediation session as soon as I wake up can significantly help get my day off on the right foot. This along with a healthy diet can really make you feel good about yourself throughout the day.
Anything & Everything. Just read, and do it avidly! When you read, you are forced to be placed inside the writers/characters mind. With that comes a deeper sense of empathy. And although empathy does not necessarily translate to guaranteed compassion (which is discussed down below), it is the first stepping stone. You cannot be compassionate if you are lacking in empathy. Which brings us to the next point.
We’ve all been in tough and uncomfortable situations. However, it’s what you do in these situations that makes all the difference. Don’t just stop at, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry”. Do something about it! Go one step further, no matter how uncomfortable things may be. It WILL make all the difference to that person, I promise that.
Get your mind out of the gutter guys, but seriously. We need to touch each other more. Touch is SO powerful. A simple hand on someone’s shoulder, a tight hug, or a pat on the back can mean so much to someone who is really feeling all alone. I really can’t relate to this all that much since I receive plenty of physical touch from multiple people dozens of times a day. I mean, I am a girl after-all, so people are expected to hug and kiss me, right? When I'm down, people will lend me a shoulder to lay on. When I am scared, I have a hand to hold. However, did you know that a single man can go days without coming in contact with a single touch? Unfortunately, it’s not “the norm” for men to let their guard down. They are really great at playing it cool and letting everyone around them think they are strong and that everything is alright. It’s also not “the norm” for men to touch other men other than a typical handshake. Men rarely hug each other hello and goodbye. They don’t hold other men when they are going through tough times and I’m PRETTY SURE they don’t snuggle up and feed each other chocolates and ice cream after a bad breakup. Feeling empathetic for them yet? I sure as hell am! So build that empathy into compassion, and touch a man the next time you see him! :)
Random Acts Of Kindness!
It only counts if no one is watching. Okay, no, that’s not true. But that’s honestly when I feel it matters most, when you do something out of the goodness of your heart without expecting anything in return (including praise!). You shouldn’t need the approval of other people in order for your actions to make you feel good about yourself.
Help Light Others Around You!
Be a positive example. Children aren’t the only one who needs positive role models, adults are just as susceptible! As a society, we are always trying to outdo one another, one up everyone. Instead of trying to compete with who has the biggest house, nicest car, and who can go on the fanciest vacations, let’s challenge each other to more idealistic matters. And I’m not talking about packing up and leaving the country to help feed a small village. Sometimes the smallest flames can set the biggest motion. If people see you performing small acts of kindness, they’ll see that as easily obtainable and as something they can also do (unlike packing up their kids & 3 dogs and moving to a Third World country). Inspire someone to be better!
And can I just take a quick moment to give you a few examples of how compassion can literally change someone’s life?
Let’s take your grandma for example. Let’s say she’s widowed (bless her soul) and lives alone. Any human with a heart would be able to see that this is a very lonely situation. You know she rarely gets visitors and you can empathize with the fact that she must be so lonely, so afraid at times. However, like any other family member, she can be a pain in the ass. Oops, I said it, Grandma can be (and is) a thorn in your side more times than not. Now, just because she can be a tad annoying, doesn’t mean that you don’t love her! So this feeds into you feeling guilty about not being able to visit her on a daily basis. However, you obviously don’t feel that guilty, since you still go about your day. You work, you run errands, you shuttle the kids to and from games, then you come home, cook dinner, clean the house, get the kids bathed and collapse into bed. As you start to fall asleep, a thought of poor lonely grandma passes through your mind on your way to dreamland. If you want to take this situation from empathetic to compassionate, let’s talk about how you could help ease some of her loneliness despite your crazy schedule. If you aren’t able to physically set aside time to visit her even just once a week, why not hire a companion who could go and read to her a few times a week. Or how about when you’re cooking dinner, you call her to discuss your days with each other. You can now replace that guilt with the joy of knowing that you are doing something to help alleviate the pain of her loneliness.
It’s pretty easy to show compassion to someone you love, but how about showing compassion to a complete stranger? Let’s pretend there’s a new girl at work. She comes in, she’s new to not only the company, but to the trade in general. You can tell that she’s nervous and you empathize with her since you can remember back to when you started. How new and scary everything was. So you smile and give her a few pointers about how she should NOT drink the “freshly brewed coffee…. like ever.” and she should probably steer clear of the bagels while she’s at it. However, maybe you should go just a bit further, no? Find her after her shift is over and tell her how wonderful she did her first day. Let her in on a few more little tips, like how on Thursday’s, she should take an extra shot of espresso and be prepared for more work than usual, and tell her that you look forward to seeing her again tomorrow. This may not seem like much to you, but my oh my, how you just boosted her confidence by taking just a few moments out of your day to really make her feel welcomed.
One more! Let’s talk animals! You knew this was coming. I’ve been an animal lover since before I was even born, and I feel that compassion for animals is essential. I mean, most of us are naturally empathetic towards animals. We all love them. We share their pictures on Instagram and if we happen to see a photo of an animal being tortured, it makes us furious. I mean, let’s be honest. When a guy and his horse gets shot down in Game of Thrones, that gasp we let out, typically isn’t for the person. It’s for those poor unsuspecting horses! Right? No? Am I the only one? Anyways, back to the point! When we notice some kind of animal abuse going on, we typically try to do something about it. Yet, we still eat meat. We still buy products that have been tested on animals. Some people will actually even feel guilty about this (like when my son named our Thanksgiving turkey “Frankie” 😳! Yet we still ended up eating Frankie. Like ALL of Frankie). But we tell ourselves that it's ok because we obviously love our animals, and we donate food and blankets to local shelters! But compassion goes much further than this. True compassion would be if we decided to stop eating animals (or if we at least made a conscious effort to purchase our meats from local free-roaming farms as opposed to slaughter houses with inhumane conditions. We would take an extra few seconds to check the label to see if our shampoo and deodorant were tested on animals. It’s the small steps that lead to true progress. We are not just caring, we are also DOING! And when you are a compassionate human being with animals, it actually makes it that much easier to be compassionate with other people. I mean, it makes sense! Aren’t the true animal lovers usually the happiest, most compassionate people out there? Think about it.
Can you see how compassion can lead to happiness yet? Not only for you as the giver, but for the receivers as well. Be it other people, animals or even our planet! Just honestly guys, make sure you do you first and foremost! Love and care for yourself so that you can care for others. And don’t be afraid to fail! None of us are perfect. We will fail, we do have flaws, we must tuck away our pride and allow ourselves to receive compassion from others as well. You also can’t expect to ALWAYS be compassionate. Give yourself a break sometimes, we aren’t saints.
Use it or don’t, that’s up to you. You’re in charge! However, just know that the power of happiness is determined within by simply being able to turn it on or off. And why wouldn’t we all want to choose positive over negative, courage over fear? Both come from being compassionate. But again, this isn’t something you should do just because you expect something in return. True happiness will come from selfless acts. Acts that help benefit others. From this you will both receive joy and happiness, which, as corny as it sounds, is the greatest gift of all. The best thing you can give to yourself is the power to be truly happy.
To end, I’d just like to remind us all of a Dalai Lama quote, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” HAPPINESS COMES FROM COMPASSION! Acting on our empathy and turning it into compassion literally triggers the happy, pleasure sensors in our brain. Yes, we can receive MORE pleasure from giving than we do receiving. More compassion will equate in a happier world around us.
Practice it, take a break from it, and practice it some more. It’s all about balance. But we do need to consciously remind ourselves to stay kind, compassionate and forgiving. This will help us avoid anxiety and the need to always try to achieve perfection. No one, and I repeat NO ONE, is perfect, however, we can always strive to be better.
Many many hugs!