Call us today! 01 340029 |

Wellbeing Center Logo

The Mental Health Benefits of Compassion

However, as we age, all of us face challenging circumstances and feel emotional pain at one time or another. These experiences can stand in the way of our natural compassion. That’s because it’s hard to feel love and compassion for others when we feel empty ourselves.

The good news is that compassion is like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice. And more good news: it has proven mental health benefits.


What Is Compassion?

Compassion is defined as the ability to understand the emotional state of another person. Moreover, it encompasses understanding our own emotional state.

As a result, compassion motivates us to help and support others—and ourselves. It inspires us to do what we can to ease another person’s suffering. In fact, compassion literally means, “to suffer together.”

Many people confuse compassion with empathy. And they are closely related. Empathy refers to our ability to imagine ourselves in someone else’s place. Therefore, we experience the emotions of the other person. Compassion goes beyond empathy. Consequently, compassion involves feeling the desire to help.


Living a Compassionate Life

We can learn to become more compassionate in the ways that we think and act. Living a compassionate life includes the following:

  • Letting go of judgment
  • Becoming more accepting of others
  • Appreciating how other people feel
  • Trying to help in difficult situations
  • Acting as a sympathetic listener
  • Renouncing anger and aggression
  • Working to maintain a harmonious, peaceful atmosphere at home and at work.

Along with cultivating more compassionate behavior, we can strengthen our “compassion muscle” in other ways.


The Link Between Mindfulness and Compassion

The link between mindfulness and compassion is clear. Mindfulness means that you are experiencing greater awareness of what’s happening in the present moment. Thus, you notice everything that is happening around and inside you. As a result, you can more easily access your emotions, including compassion.


Why compassion is good for you

Research has documented the positive impact of compassion. Here are some of the evidence-based effects of compassion.

Compassionate action—such as giving money to charity—activates pleasure circuits in the brain. In addition, it stimulates the release of oxytocin, known as “the love hormone.”


Moreover, engaging in acts of kindness toward others has been shown to increase well-being. In one study, participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves.


Extending compassion toward others shifts the brain toward a more positive orientation. As a result, when we are compassionate, we tend to notice the positive things happening around us.


Helping others is contagious. Thus, witnessing acts of kindness and compassion inspires others to be their best selves.


Why Self-Compassion Matters

In addition to offering compassion to others, you need to offer it to yourselves. Research on self-compassion shows that it has multiple positive benefits, including

  • Increased happiness
  • Greater optimism
  • More positive mood
  • Decreased stress
  • Stronger personal initiative
  • A sense of curiosity and exploration
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Better ability to relate to others.


How to Cultivate Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is different than self-esteem. Self-esteem depends on your accomplishments and on others’ opinions of you. However, self-compassion involves a consistent attitude of acceptance and kindness toward yourselves, no matter what.

To practice self-compassion, begin by noticing how you talk to yourself. If you notice that your thoughts are usually critical, negative, or judging, examine how you can shift them. Imagine speaking to yourself as you would speak to someone you love and want to comfort.