Were you aware there is science behind compassion?
First off, what exactly is compassion? According to the Compassionate Action Network, compassion is a feeling that arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. They go on to say that compassion actually improves our lives by reducing the risk of heart disease (by boosting the positive effects of the vagus nerve) and making us more resilient to stress, which strengthens the immune system.
Compassion may be reinforced through specific exercises and practices. This leads me to believe that our environment and how we interact within it also influences this critical emotion. For one example, feeling compassion leading to helping others activates the brain’s reward center simply because it feels good. There is a chemical reaction that makes us want to do it more. On the other hand, always looking out for yourself and supressing a desire to help those who need it will stifle compassion.
Imagine a world where everyone helps each other instead of only worrying about what suits their own interests. Just driving alone would become a brand new experience! Accidents would be plummet. Road rage would become a thing of the past. Drivers could exchange smiles and waves intead of rude gestures. Everyone would signal when they need to change lanes, and the cars in that lane would slow down to let them in. Mind boggling.
Driving is a small example of the larger microcosm of human survival. If we all allowed our actions and decisions to be influenced by compassion, and learned how to act upon it in a positive way, would it still be possible to kill each other? Would there still be homelessness and famine? Lonliness and depression?
And if we eliminated those blights would that not free ourselves to collaborate on and accomplish great scientific feats that in turn would benefit us all even more?
While you are crafting your New Year resolution strategies please consider working toward becoming more compassionate, and building up the strength and courage to act upon this critical emotion. It may just save us all.