Compassion is the desire to alleviate suffering by expressing fundamental loving kindness toward yourself and others. We need compassion because life is hard, unfair, and impermanent—for all of us.
There are now studies confirming practicing compassion improves health, well-being, and relationships. Compassion makes us feel good by activating pleasure circuits in the brain. It can reduce heart disease by boosting the positive effects on the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate, and it helps make people more resilient to stress. Employees who receive compassion at work see themselves, their coworkers and their organizations in a more positive light, feel more joy and contentment, and are more committed to their jobs.
When I led a 30-Day Mindfulness Challenge at Lutheran Hospital last month one of the more popular practices among the healthcare providers was a meditation on compassion called loving kindness meditation.
Here are 5 ways you can practice compassion today:
1. Loving Kindness Meditation. This meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a loving kindness and friendliness toward yourself and others. You can find it here.
2. Restorative Yoga. This therapeutic form of yoga uses props to support your body to relax and stretch passively. You can lay on the floor with your legs up the wall, forward bend with a pillow or blanket on your lap, or lay on your back with a bolster or rolled up blanket between your shoulder blades. Try one for 5-10 minutes.
3. Just Like Me. When you see someone holding up the security line at the airport because of their lack of travel experience or a driver obviously lost and going very slow, instead of getting frustrated, say to yourself, just like me. We have all been there.
4. Boundaries. Showing compassion for yourself means loving yourself enough to say no to others at times. Thich Nat Hanh said, we cannot fully love and understand others until we can fully love and understand ourselves.
5. Acts of Kindness. The next time you see a troubled coworker, greet them with a smile, let someone in a long grocery line go ahead of you or pay for the coffee for the stranger behind you at Starbuck’s.
Compassion can be practiced everywhere and it is contagious. Use it in traffic jams, difficult conversations, family gatherings, and projects at work. These practices will not only calm your mind and keep you connected to your kind and loving heart, they will help us all be more grateful and compassionate in everything we do.