the compassionate path to happiness

the compassionate path to happiness

via Psychology Today by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

The desire to help other people can take many forms. In some cases, the help involves showing concern to a stranger. You can fight off the urge toward diffusion of responsibility, and lend a hand to someone who’s tripped on the crack on a crowded sidewalk. Perhaps you notice that someone seems lost and so, in a tactful way, you offer to provide instructions. Maybe someone doesn’t seem to need help now, but will if that very loose sneaker shoelace comes untied, as it could at any moment.

When it comes to helping people you know, that urge to help would be more likely to involve acting in a way that will benefit them in a larger sense. A younger sibling is going through a rough time at work, and so you arrange for the two of you to meet over a cup of coffee so you can offer some advice (if not direct help). A neighbor may seem to be struggling with hauling out a large bag of recycling, so you go over and help get the bundle where it needs to be.

Helping people may also be part of your job. In retail work, you may be paid to help customers find the best products or resolve a complaint. People who work in health care help alleviate the pain, both mental and physical, of their patients. Being able to listen and then do something to assist those in need is arguably one of the most rewarding features of their work, even though it can be taxing.

Research on helping behavior tends to focus on such qualities as empathy and altruism rather than compassion itself. In calling for the need for more research on compassion, Aino Saarinen and colleagues (2019) of the University of Oulu in Finland note that unlike empathy, which involves being able to share other people’s positive and negative feelings, compassion refers to “concern for other’s suffering and a desire to alleviate it” (p. 1). 

Within the framework of positive psychology, there is reason to expect that having a compassionate nature should theoretically promote well-being, but the area remains relatively unexplored in research. The Finnish authors note that correlational studies support the existence of a relationship between compassion-like concepts and higher life satisfaction, happiness, positive mood, and social connections. These compassion-like concepts include kindness, altruism, empathy, and altruism or prosociality. Higher self-compassion, or acceptance of oneself, is also related to better well-being, but compassion toward yourself is not exactly like compassion toward others, as the Finnish research team points out…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE