While it appears to be hardwired in our brains, compassion can be developed for better relationships and experiences in our everyday lives. As you commit to practicing compassion, your relationships become more intimate. Negative feelings begin to lessen, and your mind becomes clearer and quieter.
Here are five ways to cultivate compassion in your everyday life.
- Find a moment to breathe and be in the moment: Mindfulness is simply being in the here and now with curious, open attention. The side effect of focusing on the moment—the beauty of the sky, the sounds that are coming and going, the feeling of your breath rising and falling—is stress reduction. Another way to find a moment of calm is to stop what you’re doing and take 3-6 long, slow deep breaths. It’s hard to be there for others when we are pressed for time or stressed. Take a moment to release tension. Drop into your life!
- Notice that you are Interdependent, not independent. Unless you can grow your own food, make your own clothes, build your own shelter, and meet other basic needs, you need others. When you realize that it takes farmers, migrant workers, construction workers, road workers, truck builders and drivers, grocers, packaging experts, and others just to bring you a grape or a banana which you can’t grow yourself, you might realize that you are surrounded by gifts made by the efforts of others. Without them, you would not have the life you do. Everyone matters.
- Increase gratitude: Gratitude is a way to be reminded of the good in our lives. It brings focus outside of ourselves and reminds us of the people and things around us that are the source of goodness to us. Gratitude makes us more generous, compassionate, and optimistic.
- Practice self-compassion: It’s not selfish. The airlines tell us to put your own mask on before you try to help the person next to you. Many of us have a harsh inner self-critic who brings us down. Science tells us that the inner critic is demotivational and causes us to self-sabotage. It is important for us to accept that we are human, fallible, and imperfect like everyone else on this planet. If you have a strong inner self-critic, you will find it hard to extend compassion to others when they reveal their humanness. It is crucial to start by letting go of your inner critic to practice more compassion towards others.
- Expand your perspective: Life is hard and full of challenges and setbacks. Anything that you do or that has been done to you is universal. There are no new human stories. The understanding that others are struggling or are in a tough situation—just like you– strengthens your awareness of others and can help your empathy grow. Everyone is doing their best in each moment… whether tired, confused, overwhelmed, or something else. Cut yourself and others slack… judgment only hurts you.
Being self-compassionate is a lifelong skill with lasting benefits. Learning how to become more compassionate towards yourself and others can result in benefits, such as increased happiness, optimism, curiosity, increased motivation to improve oneself, and better resilience during stressful events. Other noticeable benefits include reduced mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
If you are interested in learning more or taking Cognitively Based Compassion Training, click here.