By: Emily Fehrman / Opinion Page Editor
I’m currently taking this Pyschology of Happiness class here, and our recent subject was compassion.
I felt the need to share what I’ve learned. Mainly, because you don’t see people acting out of compassion anymore.
Compassion is a gateway to happiness. It means to suffer together. It is described as the feeling when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feeling motivated to relieve that suffering.
Some people think of compassion and assume it means you have to be a touchy-feely person to show it to other people. But it isn’t all about the emotions. It’s about just listening to your friends cry about their horrible day, and instead of giving them a lecture of things they can do to fix the situation, just saying “I’m so sorry this happened, what can we do to help?”
It’s when you’re sick and your best friend shows up with medicine and soup.
It’s about being aware of others’ emotions and being self aware of how your actions affect others. Knowing that with one word you could either significanty improve someones day, or completely demolish it.
Showing compassion slows our heart rate, while secreteting the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, to the regions of the brain that is linked to empathy, caring and feelings of pleasure. This is what drives us as human beings. Along with kindness, and altruism.
One compassion training program has found that it makes people more resilient to stress. It lowers stress hormones in the blood and saliva, and strengthens the immune response. Compassion training may also help us worry less and be more open to our negative emotions.
Compassion could improve our mental health. It helps make caring parents – brain scans show that when people experience compassion, their brains activate in neural systems known to support parental nurturance and other caregiving behaviors.
Helps make better spouses – compassionate people are more optimistic and supportive when communicating with others.
It also helps make better friends – college friendships show that when one friend sets the goal to support the other compassionately, both friends experience greater satisfaction and growth in the relationship.
It makes better doctors – medical students who train in compassion feel less depressed and lonely, and avoid the typical declines in compassion that happen during medical school.
Compassionate people are more socially adept, making them less vulnerable to loneliness. Loneliness leads to stress and harms the immune system.
Compassion is vital for our survival as a species, and right now we’re severely lacking.