It's been suggested that you can improve the quality of your life by cultivating compassion. Compassion has been described as 1) a feeling of deep sympathy for another person, 2) to suffer together, or 3) concern for the misfortune of others.
Not only is compassion praised as a desired human quality, studies suggest that engaging compassion can increase the hormone DHEA and reduce cortisol, the hormone responsible for managing stress. It's also been suggested that people who live with a high degree of compassion tend to be happier and be actively engaged in service and volunteer work.
When people live a compassionate life they tend to be admired by friends and family. This sense of compassion tends to spill over into their relationships.
I'd like to suggest five ways to engage compassion:
- Follow-through with service work. Volunteering is helpful as you are engaged in an activity that's not about you. Oftentimes when we have a desire to use or drink we're focused on us, our situation, or a problem that has to do with us. Volunteering creates emotional space to give you a chance to make better decisions.
- Random acts of kindness. Doing something for someone without any expectation of something in return.
- One of the most powerful tools for developing compassion is loving kindness meditation. This involves the practice of deliberately engaging kindness by focusing on internal images of different people and directing compassion towards those individuals. This also involves sending loving thoughts to people you care about.
- Develop a ritual which includes meditation time in the morning or before you retire for the night. Focus on statements that allow you to engage ways that allow you to engage loving kindness towards others.
- Practice Commonalities. One favorite exercise comes from a great article from Ode Magazine — it’s a five-step exercise to try when you meet friends and strangers. Do it discreetly and try to do all the steps with the same person. With your attention geared to the other person, tell yourself:
Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.”
Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”