“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dalai Lama
And the Dalai Lama knows a thing or two about well-being. You may have seen our recent articles on the importance of cultivating awareness of the present moment and gratitude. In today´s post we will talk a little about the benefits of living a compassionate life.
Compassion can be thought of as an umbrella term to describe qualities such as kindness, warmth, patience, wisdom, and acceptance. Studies have shown that cultivating our ability to show compassion to ourselves and to others has many benefits for our overall well-being. This includes reductions in feelings of self-criticism, shame and anxiety and increases in feelings of social connection*.
If you are curious to explore ways of cultivating compassion, why not try some of the following exercises.
- Compassion Meditations. A great place to start is to try some self-compassion meditations. Dr Kristen Neff has a wonderful range of free audio meditations which can be accessed here: https://self-compassion.org/
- Compassionate letter. Try writing a compassionate letter to yourself. Start by imagining how you would talk to someone for whom you care deeply. Focus on qualities of understanding, warmth, wisdom and patience. Write a letter to yourself that acknowledges your struggles or concerns and try to give yourself some words of support or encouragement.
- Compassionate behaviour. Life can be breathtakingly beautiful and it can be painful. We all struggle from time to time and it is important to take care of yourself when you are finding it tough going. Take a moment to check in with yourself and notice how you are feeling. Then think about something that you could do for yourself that acknowledges this feeling and shows care for your own well-being. If you are feeling lonely, try reaching out to connect with someone. If you are feeling tired, try to get some rest. If you are feeling low, try doing something that you find interesting or rewarding. What behaviour would help you in this moment?
- Act of compassion. Bring to mind someone for whom you care very deeply. How are they feeling? Are they struggling with anything at the moment? What could you do today that expresses your sense of care toward them? How does it feel for you to focus on your care for this person?
As well as being of benefit to overall well-being, self-compassion is particularly important in the context of addiction and recovery. Early recovery is likely to involve confrontation with some difficult memories and painful feelings. Longer-term recovery often unfolds imperfectly and challenges and set-backs are common. Relating to yourself with understanding, patience and warmth will help you to manage these challenges and continually recommit to your recovery and well-being.
*For an in-depth discussion of the benefits of compassion please refer to Dr Paul Gilbert´s writings on Compassion Focused Therapy.