How compassion can boost your happiness

Giving or receiving compassion can make you healthier and happier. Experience the joy through acts of kindness.

By Amit Sood, M.D.

Think about the last time you encountered someone who was upset. How did you react? Were you able to see the situation from the other person's perspective and offer support? Or did you respond with anger or judgment? If you reacted the first way, you responded with compassion — and that's a good thing, since compassion can make you happier and healthier.

Compassion is your ability to experience others' feelings — from joy to sorrow — with a desire to help. Not only does compassion decrease suffering by helping those in need, but also it can boost your bond with others. Plus, you may find that the pursuit of compassion makes you happier than the pursuit of happiness.

Why? Giving or receiving compassion can:

  • Make you healthier. The reason: The happier you are, the easier it is to commit to healthy habits.
  • Improve your mental health by decreasing your stress levels.
  • Temporarily shift your attention away from your own challenges and put things into perspective.
  • Enhance your spiritual well-being.

Want to experience the joy of compassion? Try any of these random acts of kindness:

  • Pay for a stranger's toll or bill.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line.
  • Spend time with people in a nursing home.
  • Volunteer at a free medical clinic or children's hospital.
  • Join a group to adopt a highway.
  • Pray for a stranger or loved one.

The joy you'll feel after committing a random act of kindness will give you a sense of elation that money just can't buy.

Adapted from the "Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness," By Amit Sood, M.D. Learn more about the book at https://store.mayoclinic.com/products/bookDetails.cfm?mpid=174 and about Dr. Sood's Resilient Living program at http://www.stressfree.org.

Experiments

  1. Perform a random act of kindness for a friend, colleague or stranger. Notice a difference in your mood or stress levels afterward.
  2. The next time you encounter a difficult person or circumstance, try responding with compassion. Ask yourself, "Why is this person suffering?"
  3. Meditate every morning for a week to help you respond more calmly to negative experiences.
Dec. 01, 2016 See more In-depth