His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, once said, “if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”.
True words. Compassion transforms humans. It contains everything we long for – kindness, caring, and love.
Compassion is a skill that will improve through regular practice. As you get better at showing compassion, you and those around you will experience its positive energy.
The effects of compassion are twofold. You help others when you display caring behavior, and through that, you boost your own happiness.
All it takes is the realization that your welfare does not only depend on your needs and wants.
With the mindset that other people’s feelings play a role, if you want to be happy, compassion will soon become second nature. No doubt that your continued empathy will have a rippling effect.
What is Compassion?
sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of other people
Or in other words, it is experiencing uneasiness and worry when we come across any pain and suffering – our own and that of others. We are then motivated to relieve this suffering.
Unfortunately, not everyone actually does something to alleviate other people’s pain and suffering.
The fact of the matter is humans are not solitary creatures; we’re not autonomous beings.
Trying to go against this works against us. If we’re compassionate, it is a win-win situation because such caring behavior is in agreement with our interconnectedness.
There are a lot of cynics out there who reject the idea of compassion as impractical and illogical. Science can, however, quickly disprove their cynicism.
Scientists are mapping the biological basis and evolutionary purpose of compassion. They even believe that empathy is crucial to our survival.
Furthermore, research shows that compassion improves not only your mental health but also has an impact on your physical well-being. It also plays a role in your success.
Bottom line, practice compassion if you want yourself and others to be happy in life.
Why Does Compassion Make Us Happy?
The Dalai Lama believes you can find the key to happiness in compassion. But why does caring for others make us happy?
Compassion diverts our attention away from our own suffering. The Dalai Lama believes that when we worry less about ourselves, our own pain is less intense.
When we’re going through a difficult time, the mind tends to zoom in on what is wrong in life. We become self-obsessed. But, when we show compassion to others, our negative emotions are replaced with kindness and caring.
Sometimes all it takes to snap you out of your own misery is to see that of others. Compassion reminds us that we’re not alone with our problems and also puts these problems into perspective.
While we may be worried about paying the bills, seeing real suffering has the ability to pull us back to the here and now.
It makes us realize that we’ve been paying too much attention to our individual problems that aren’t even such a big deal.
Compassion helps us to put our own suffering in life into perspective.
The connection that comes from showing others compassion enhances our happiness. Humans don’t go through life alone; we are social beings who need each other.
To be truly happy, we need positive connections with others. If your goal is to practice compassion because you want others to be happy, then you’re on the road to building meaningful relationships.
Caring for other people is inherently rewarding, but it is also enriching. When we are able to look past our own anxieties and focus on lessening the suffering of other people, we grow as humans.
Never underestimate the impact your kindness will have on people. Surely you remember a time someone was unexpectedly caring.
Did that not impact you in some way, or even lead to you affording other people the same compassion in similar situations?
Of course, in your caring for others, you should not forget about yourself. You need to be compassionate towards all beings, including yourself.
What is Compassion Training?
The Dalai Lama believes through reflection and training your own mind, you can become a more compassionate person an consequently a happier one.
To him, personal insight obtained through critical yet loving self-examination forms the basis of our ability to feel empathy.
In essence, compassion for others starts with treating ourselves with kindness. By recognizing that we are good enough, we are able to let deception, denial, and avoidance go and reconnect with ourselves and others.
Through practicing self-compassion, you will build emotional resilience. This will, in turn, make it easier for you to respond to other people in a caring manner. This will take time and space to cultivate, and you need to remove any time pressures.
It is recommended that you start a daily meditation practice where you can focus on your ability to feel empathy – not just towards other people but yourself too.
This form of meditation differs from other types of mindfulness meditation. It focuses your awareness on the lessening of the suffering of all sentient beings. Its aim is to dissolve any self-centeredness.
Compassion mediation, also knows as Karuna Mediation, has deep roots in Buddhist philosophy. Participants move toward compassionate thoughts through connecting with their own as well as others’ suffering.
In Buddhism, compassion and loving-kindness are part of the Four Sublime States. The Buddha advised people to make these sublime states characteristic of their being.
In doing so, it will be possible to create a great relationship with the world and everyone in it.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Compassion Meditation is ‘Tonglen,’ Tibetan for ‘giving and taking.’ It is the ancient spiritual method of cultivating compassion for all sentient beings. And, through that, healing can be experienced within your mind.
It involves using visualizations to promote compassion and disassociating yourself from age-old patterns of selfishness.
To practice Tonglen, one visualizes themselves taking in the suffering of others with each in-breath, and sending relief on the out-breath.
You can do this meditation as a formal practice or right on the spot when you feel someone needs a boost of happiness.
So, Where To Begin?
If you want other people to be happy, practice compassion; compassion is a verb. You have to get up and do something to show them that you care.
You don’t have to wait for someone to suffer greatly before you take the time to show them that you care.
Below are some quick and simple ways to practice compassion.
- Instead of sending an email to say thank you, rather send a hand-written note.
- Send someone a random card for no reason. Preferably one you made yourself.
- See a stranger? Buy them a lottery ticket!
- Add some coins to someone else’s parking meter.
- Buy someone you don’t know a coffee.
- If you spot weeds in your neighbor’s garden while you’re outside, pull them out.
- Randomly pay for the diapers and formula a mother in front of you wants to buy.
- Walk your friend’s dog.
- Compliment a stranger.
- Stop to help someone with a flat tire.
- Let someone jump the queue if they have fewer items than you.
- Take a friend out to the movies for no reason.
- Give up your seat for someone.
- Hold the door open for someone who does not expect it.
- Write notes of appreciation to your loved ones.
- Pick up rubbish in front of someone’s store or property.
- Give another driver your parking spot.
- Give a piece of fruit to the teller.
- Help your neighbor carry groceries inside.
- Smile often.
Remember, what goes around, comes around. By helping other people, you are helping yourself.
Personal Social Responsibility
We can’t just sit around and wait for those around us to make the world a better place. Each of us needs to do our part and take personal social responsibility (PSR).
PSR comes down to one thing: treat others like you want them to treat you. It is about recognizing that your behavior affects the happiness of other people.
By keeping in mind that: if you want others to be happy, practice compassion, you are accepting your PSR in life.
Kindness really is contagious, you practice caring behavior on a daily basis, the world will be a better place.
Showing empathy may seem like too small a thing to make a difference, but try it, and you’ll see the massive impact it can have.
The Dalai Lama was right: if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. It truly is a win-win situation.