How to Cultivate Compassion and Become an Altruistic Person?
Compassion is part of our everyday lives.
We love and care for our loved ones. Even when we are confronted with a stranger who is in pain, we instinctively feel for that person.
It is no coincidence that compassion constitutes a common ground where the ethical teachings of all major religions come together.
What Is Compassion?
Compassion is a sense of concern we feel when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to do something to alleviate that suffering.
When confronted with someone’s suffering, two things happen: We emotionally connect with the other’s suffering, and we respond instinctively by doing something or wishing to see that suffering relieved.
Compassion connects the feeling of empathy to acts of kindness and other expressions of altruistic tendencies.
Does Altruism Really Exist?
Our stories tend to be self-fulfilling.
When we see ourselves as selfish and aggressive creatures, we believe that everyone is for himself. We then start relating to others with apprehension and fear.
By the same token, if our story says that we are social, interdependent creatures with inborn instincts for compassion and kindness, we start seeing other people with a sense of connection.
Thanks to new brain imaging technologies and the discovery of brain plasticity (our brain’s capacity to change in response to our environment and experiences), researchers have proved that conscious mental training such as meditation can literally change our brain. (*)
We are motivated by empathy.
Empathy—our natural ability to understand other people’s feelings, allow us to feel compassion toward someone’s misfortune, without actually feeling what that person is feeling.
Studies from neuroscience show that there is a strong connection between our attitudes and our emotions and motivations on the other. So by changing your attitude toward someone, you can actually change the way we feel about them. (*)
What’s the Difference Between Empathy, Compassion, And Kindness?
Empathy is about understanding someone else’s feelings.
Compassion arises from empathy, but it’s a more empowered state.
Kindness is the expression of that compassion. It’s a form of altruism. It could be a simple smile from a colleague, a friend listening patiently, or a loving hug from a spouse.
Put simple, compassion is what allows our empathic reaction to manifest in kindness.
The Benefits of Compassion: Why Do We Need Compassion?
1. Compassion Induces the Helper’s High
Receiving kindness is affirming, but giving kindness can feel as good as receiving it – a phenomenon referred to as the helper’s high.
It fulfills our need for and appreciation ofconnection with other people.
2. Compassion Adds More Purpose to Your Life
Compassion and kindness can bring purpose to our lives, which boost our happiness
Helping others can make you feel useful, energized, and in control.
3. Compassion Reduces Stress
Although compassion depends on acknowledging the suffering of others, it doesn’t lead to more stress.
Studies show that the secret to happiness is to release the stress of judging and worrying about ourselves. When we shift our focus from ourselves to others, we see our suffering in perspective and feel our individual burden lift a little. (*)
Another way compassion helps reduce stress is through the understanding of others. When we feel compassion for others, we tend to feel less annoyed and offended by them.
Self-compassion allows us to be gentler and more patient with our own perceived failings, which reduces stress caused by judging ourselves harshly and feeling ashamed.
4. Compassion Cures Loneliness
Compassion contributes to better relationships by helping us connect with others. (*)
The importance of these connections cannot be overstated.
Therapies based on compassion training are showing promise for mental health conditions like social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, etc. (*)
How Can You Cultivate Compassion?
#1. Practice Putting Yourself Last
Everyone is as special as you are, and they too deserve the best. Start practicing putting others first.
This doesn’t mean to deprive yourself of everything, it simply means acknowledging when someone else might something more than you do, like letting people with fewer items go in front of you at the grocery store or giving up your seat at the bus for someone who might need it more.
#2. Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes
“Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes isn’t as much about the walk or the shoes; it’s to be able to think like they think, feel what they feel, and understand why they are who and where they are. Every step is about empathy.” – Toni Sorenson
Consider how people around you might be feeling in any given situation. When you try to imagine what others might be going through, your empathy increases and you become less selfish.
Before complaining about the waiter giving you the wrong order, consider how overwhelmed he must be working long hours on his feet.
#3. Keep In Mind That You’re Not More important than others
Selfish people are usually those who think they’re the center of the universe and that the world owes them something. But the truth is, no one is more important than others.
Whatever you think you deserve, you’ll need to put in time and effort to earn it.
#4. Determine How Bad Do You Need The Things You Want
We want different things. Sometimes these things can be contradictory, like wanting a job that allows us to travel all the time, while at the same time wishing for the lifestyle of someone who operates a home-based business that prevents him from traveling.
What we don’t realize is that we need little to be happy.
So whenever you find yourself wishing for something, stop and ask yourself, do you really need it?
Once you learn to focus on what you need and not on what you want, you’ll find yourself able to give more generously.
#5. Enjoy Giving Attention To Others
People love having the attention of others.
In fact, this is one of the best ways to get people to like you, which in order can give you great satisfaction not to mention that it’ll make you less and less selfish.
Ask people about their interests and listen intently while they do the talking. You’ll be amazed by how open they’ll become and how many people will be drawn to you.
#6. Accept Criticism Gracefully
While you shouldn’t care much about what other people think of you, you should recognize valid criticism when it comes.
Feedback from someone who cares about you is usually worth pondering upon. It’s an opportunity for you to change something and improve.
#7. Be Grateful
One of the reasons that make people act selfishly, is their constant need to acquire more. In other words, they’ve failed to acknowledge all the blessings in their life. No matter how much they buy and acquire, it’s just never enough.
Counting your blessings will help you feel more content with what you already have. Start a gratitude journal in which you write at least 3 things you’re grateful for every day.
#8. Help Without Expecting Anything In Return
Helping others willingly and without expecting anything in return helps you feel good about yourself and you become less selfish. Here some suggestions to help you be more giving:
- Take the time to listen to a friend in distress. Listening can be a great gift and can make the person you’re listening to feel a whole lot better.
- Volunteer your time. Volunteering can be an eye-opening experience. Seeing others who are less fortunate will make you feel more grateful for the life you’re living. It’ll also make you feel better and increase your empathy toward others.
- Learn to share. Sharing the things you love will double your joy. It’ll show you how little you really need, and how better it is to share the good things in life with others.
50 Random Act of Kindness Ideas to Make someone’s Day
Making someone’s day is one of the best ways that can make your day.
Kindness is contagious. Making someone else smile, will definitely put a smile on your face too.
Below is a list of random acts of kindness, that might not be original and most of them might be things you do whenever you had the chance, but this is a reminder for me and you to carry out kindness daily.
1. Offer to baby-sit for a single mom.
2. Take care of your neighbor’s dog when he goes for a vacation.
3. Smile often and say “good morning” and “Have a good day” to people you rid the elevator with.
4. Genuinely greet waiters and leave a good tip every now and then.
5. If you buy something new, donate something old.
6. Offer your seat in public transportation for elderlies, pregnant women, and the disabled.
7. Be especially patient with kids and elderly.
8. Bring your co-worker a coffee.
9. Help elderlies carry groceries.
10. Call or write a teacher who helped you or inspired you.
11. Help your friend or neighbor pack when they’re moving.
12. Share your food with neighbors.
13. On hot days, offer sanitation workers water.
14. When talking with someone, put your phone away and give him your undivided attention.
15. Compliment someone to their boss or a child to his parents.
16. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
17. Offer carpool for those who work with you and live near to you.
18. Be kind to the customer service on the phone.
19. Offer to return the grocery cart to the store for someone who’s loading his groceries in their car.
20. Compliment your friend when he wears something new.
21. Sign up to get 30 free “You Matter” cards. Give them out to people who need to know that they matter, from a member of the family who’s struggling with his own sense of self-worth to the barista that seems to have a bad day.
22. When you’re going to the store, check with your neighbors if they needed you to pick up something for them.
23. Put a surprise note with your spouse’s or kid’s lunch.
24. After a wedding or a party, donate all the flowers to a nursing home or a hospital.
25. Say “Thank you” more often and send cards to those who made a difference in your day.
26. Don’t forget to call your friends on their birthday and wish them a happy one. It’s easier nowadays, with social media, to keep track of people’s birthdays.
27. Save someone’s life by joining the bone marrow registry. Certain types of patients with blood cancers can survive only if doctors find a bone marrow match for a transplant.
All you’ll have to do is send in a swab from your mouth. Then you’re added to the bone marrow registry. If you’re lucky enough to be a match, you’ll have the opportunity to save a life by donating bone marrow or blood cells. You’re usually sore for a day or two afterward. How it works.
28. Take an extra umbrella to work, so you can lend it out when it rains.
29. Learn how to listen to others and do it more. Sometimes people don’t need solutions, all they need is someone who’s willing to listen and show empathy.
30. Write a positive online review of a business you like.
31. If you like something on the internet, don’t hesitate to give a like and leave a positive comment, it makes a difference.
32. If people are gossiping about someone, don’t be part of it, and if you can chime in with something nice to say about that person, do it.
33. Encourage others to pursue their dreams when they tell you about them. It’s almost impossible to find someone who believes in us, so encourage them can make a big difference.
34. Remember others’ names, it makes others feel good about themselves.
35. Loan money to a third-world entrepreneur through Kiva. 99% of the loans are paid back and this money can change the lives of these families.
36. Teach someone something. We all can teach something however small it might be, it can make a difference.
37. Invite someone to dinner, especially during the holidays. It’s difficult to spend the holidays alone.
38. Call your parents more often.
39. When you see a homeless person, buy him food or give him some clothes.
40. Stop to let a pedestrian cross the street and let other cars merge in front of you whenever you can.
41. Hold the elevator when someone else comes.
42. Bring in snacks for your work colleagues.
43. Allow someone to help you, people enjoy an act of kindness.
44. Donate a small sum of money to a charity you love. Even that can make a difference.
45. Spend a few minutes on Free Rice, a United Nations Food Program that donates rice to hungry people. For each answer you get right, they send the cash equivalent of 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program. You can learn vocabulary, French, Chemistry and even answer SAT prep questions.
46. Search the web using Ecosia, Ecosia uses the money generated from search ads to plant trees in Africa, bringing water, plants, and animals back to drought-ridden areas.
47. Pick up litter from public places.
48. Volunteer at a shelter.
49. Make everyone feel included.
50. Above all be kind to yourself, write down 3 to 5 things you like about yourself.
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