The Science of Compassion – NYTimes.com

Some interesting insights into compassion. Quote:

What these results suggest is that the compassion we feel for others is not solely a function of what befalls them: if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves — even a relatively trivial one — the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly.

What does this mean for cultivating compassion in society? It means that effortful adherence to religious or philosophical dictums (often requiring meditation, prayer or moral education), though clearly valuable and capable of producing results, is not the only way to go. There is nothing special about tapping in synchrony; any such commonality will do. Increased compassion for one’s neighbor, for instance, can come from something as easy as encouraging yourself to think of him as (say) a fan of the same local restaurant instead of as a member of a different ethnicity.

Simply learning to mentally recategorize one another in terms of commonalities would generate greater empathy among all of us — and foster social harmony in a fairly effortless way.

The Science of Compassion – NYTimes.com.

And another article on how self-compassion, as distinct from self-pity or self-indulgence, and how that can improve your mental health and achieve your goals. Quote:

Research is showing that this gentle, nonjudgmental approach helps individuals bounce back even after major crises. For example, in a study in press atPsychological Science, scientists found that newly divorced people who spoke compassionately toward themselves adjusted significantly better in the following 10 months than those who spoke more harshly, with self-compassion outperforming self-esteem and even optimism as a predictor of good coping.

Contrary to what many people think, treating yourself kindly is also good for achieving your goals. “People believe that self-criticism helps to motivate them,” [Kristen] Neff says. Those low in self-compassion think that unless they are hard on themselves, they will not amount to much—but research reveals that being kind to yourself does not lower your standards. “With self-compassion, you reach just as high, but if you don’t reach your goals it’s okay because your sense of self-worth isn’t contingent on success,” she explains.

All of that is good news for the naturally self-compassionate, but what about the half of the population who tend to beat themselves up? Luckily, mounting research shows that you can cultivate your self-compassion through meditation and even simpler techniques. For example, pressing your hand against your heart or hiding this gesture in “a surreptitious hug” can give your self-compassion a momentary boost, Neff says.

Self-Compassion Fosters Mental Health

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