It’s been coming for a month now: increasing red hearts in various retail establishments, culminating in brilliant crimson displays of chocolate boxes, cards and stuffed animals. Perhaps the heart-shaped Valentine focus of February can start to seem a little cloying!
But there’s something to all these hearts everywhere…science shows that our actual hearts, the ones that pump blood tirelessly around our bodies our whole lives, benefit from acts of kindness and compassion toward ourselves and other humans. So let’s get our hearts out on our sleeves in the name of science!
Compassion – What is it?
According to Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center:
Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help. Altruism, in turn, is the kind, selfless behavior often prompted by feelings of compassion, though one can feel compassion without acting on it, and altruism isn’t always motivated by compassion.
Got it! So how do I get started?
Luckily, the internet is full of ways to invite more compassion into our lives, for the benefit of all of us!
- Check out Montessori Rocks’ list of 10 ways to show compassion, organized into an easy-to-remember acrostic poem!
- Try writing love letters to people around the world who need some positive energy through More Love Letters!
- The best way to show compassion to others is to start with practicing self-compassion – here are some great ideas from Harvard Medical School!
- Here are some concrete ways to grow compassion and relationships from California College San Diego.
Ready to get out there and fill February with compassion? Share your plan with us in the comments, or tag us on social media: @austinisdsel!