We often have a hard time relating compassionately to ourselves and others. Addressing what gets in the way of compassion can be the first step of self-care. Research overwhelmingly shows that practicing compassion is good for our physical and mental health and overall well-being. A life rich in compassion and altruism is shown to bring about greater purpose, decrease our stress, speed up recovery from disease, and even lengthen our lifespan.
- Barriers to Giving Compassion
- Some of us worry that we will get taken advantage, or others will become too dependent on us if we are too compassionate.
- We might fear that we can’t tolerate distress if we take in too much suffering.
- There is also a common belief that some people simply don’t deserve compassion.
- Barriers to Receiving Compassion
- We might worry that people will fail us if we need them to be compassionate.
- Some people also worry that they might only act like they care because they want something from us.
- Barriers to Self-Compassion
- We may avoid self-compassion, fearing it indicates weakness.
- Many also worry that if they begin to bring kindness to ourselves, we might become overwhelmed with sadness or grief.
- Self compassion is often avoided due to our busy lives, therefore we don’t prioritize our time to reflect and practice this important skill.
How can we bring greater compassion to ourselves and others? These steps might point you in the right direction.
- Recognize and accept
- It may require training ourselves not to be avoidant or distracted in the face of suffering.
- We may need to install healthy boundaries that that prevent us from being overwhelmed by others’ suffering.
- Self-compassion is a necessary first step for offering compassion to others.
- We can practice being more gentle, less judgmental, and kinder to ourselves.
- Share common humanity
- We all want to be well, happy, and safe – even those people whom we disagree.
- You can make an effort to reach out and connect with others in small ways – from starting a break room conversation to being fully present with a loved one on the phone.
- Be intentional about bringing moments of silence, reflection and gratitude into our days, and generate feelings of compassion towards ourselves and others.
Compassion can increase our sense of well-being as well as our connection to others. Just making the decision to be more compassionate can move us in the right direction. Explore the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education to learn more.