“Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity” Pema Chödrön
Faraway from troubles, currently surrounded by lush rainforest in a tropical, coastal town, I am slowly learning of recent world events. I read news reports and Facebook posts, aware of my changing emotions: anger, compassion, guilt. For while so many people suffer, my recent days have been shaped by ease and serenity.
I feel a strong desire to help and do something useful, but where do I start? I do know that compassion has been a strong driving force in my life and, like so many others, it has inspired me to take positive action, which has enriched my life and made me happier as a result. Can a compassionate lifestyle really make us happier and healthier?
Research from UCLA and the University of Carolina evaluated cellular inflammation in 80 healthy adults who were screened for two types of happiness. The first type of happiness was derived from self-gratification and pain-avoidance, often referred to as 'hedonic' happiness. The second happiness, known as 'eudaimonic' happiness, focuses more on the long-term and the degree to which a person is fully functioning. It is a self-realised happiness that comes from having a sense of purpose and engaging in activities for the greater good.
The study revealed high cell-inflammation and an impaired resistance to viruses among the pleasure-seeking, hedonistically happy people. Although these people displayed happiness, their genes reacted in a similar way to people who experience depression and live under a lot of stress. Those who were happy through living a self-accepting, compassionate lifestyle exhibited low cell-inflammation and higher immunity to viruses.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion” Dalai Lama
Soft in its approach but powerful in its effect, it seems that we all benefit from a bit of compassion. Here are 5 simple practices that can be done daily to cultivate compassion.