The Dalai Lama once said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
These two sentences reflect a simple truth. Popular belief is that you are completely responsible for your happiness. However, it appears that the best way to achieve true happiness involves your interactions and relationship with others.
Clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone,Ph.D., states, “When we have feelings of caring or love for other people, we feel better. We all think we want to be loved, but what actually feels good to us is feeling love- and part of what makes us feel more love for other people is doing kind, compassionate things for them.”
Are you someone who is not normally thought of as very empathetic? There is good news. Studies have found this is a habit that can be developed. So, are you wondering if you are or are not empathetic? Let’s look at 8 signs that you are a truly compassionate person.
- •YOU TEACH OTHERS.
Compassionate people have no desire to keep their knowledge to themselves. Instead, they prefer to share their knowledge with others. This desire lies in the origin of all empathetic habits. As Jen Groover,anauthor and motivational speaker explained, “True compassion exists when you give your strength, guidance and wisdom to empower another so that you can see who you really are and live in a greater capacity and expect nothing in return. True grace exists when the “teachers” realize that the gift was really theirs – to be able to teach another.”
- •YOU DO NOT PUT IMPORTANCE ON MONEY
A study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, found that while money doesn’t buy happiness, it also doesn’t buy compassion. Researchers found that as an individual’s social class improves, his compassion for others decreases. This confirms past research reported in the journal, Scientific America, whichfound that being in a higher social class also adversely impacts a person’s ability to pay attention while interacting with others.
- •YOU TAKE ACTION BASED ON YOUR EMPATHY.
“When we take actions that are caring and loving, we feel more love in return. This is why compassionate people act on their kindness, whether it’s through volunteering or just being a shoulder to lean on — and overall they’re much happier for it.”If you’re going after happiness, you don’t get as happy as you would if you’re going after generosity,”states Firestone. She went on to say,”A hedonistic way of pursuing happiness really doesn’t work for most people.”This doesn’t have to be a big gesture; it can be very small.
- •YOU ARE KIND TO YOURSELF
Not to be confused with self-esteem, practicing self-love is an essential component to breaking bad habits in other aspects of our lives. Firestone states, “We often think the way to change bad behaviors is to beat ourselves up, but self-compassion is actually the first step in changing any behavior you want to change.”
This is supported by a study performed at the University of California, Berkeley that found individuals who practice self-compassion are more inspired to reach for their goals and to better themselves.
According to Firestone,”It’s hard to feel for other people something we don’t feel for ourselves.”
- •YOU SHOW GRATITUDE
Counting the positives in your life and showing appreciation for themisa clear cut sign of a compassionate person. This includesdemonstrating an appreciation to yourself.
Firestone reports, “Doing things that light us up and make us feel good — people think of that as being selfish, but often that leads us to better behavior toward other people,”
- •YOU ARE ATTENTIVE.
Compassionate individuals don’t just stand there blankly while someone is telling them something, nor do they type away on the cellphone or constantly check their watch. They put themselves in the moment. They are physically and emotionally present during the interaction. In addition, they offer their empathetic answer to the story that is being relayed to them.
Showing awareness is central to compassion because it gives you the opportunity to direct your attention toward others, rather than on your own thoughts.
“Mindfulness allows us to develop a different relationship to our feelings. Feelings or thoughts may come up, but with mindfulness we can sort of see them as clouds floating by. Not getting caught up in our thoughts is really helpful.” explains Firestone.
- •YOU SEARCH FOR COMMONALITIES WITH OTHERS.
Compassionate people know the feeling of being down on their luck and they utilize these experiences to cultivate a more empathetic personality, whether through networking or volunteering.
This is backed by scientific research. David Desteno, Ph.D., Northeastern University psychologyprofessor andstudy researcher wrote in The New York Times,”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.”
Firestone expanded on this idea saying, “Compassionate people are very outward-focused because they think and feel about other people. They have that ability to feel others’ feelings, so they’re very socially connected.”
- •YOU HAVE HIGH EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Those who are aware of their own compassion also seem to be tapped into their own feelings. Firestone explains,”It’s partly … being able to see what’s going on in your mind and other people’s minds. “I think when we can do that we have more compassion toward other people.”
Firestone continued by saying, “I think when we can do that we have more compassion toward other people.”
Regardless of whether or not you have shown any great amount of compassion in your life, you have most likely been on the receiving end of it. Empathetic people are able to acknowledge these kind acts and actively show their appreciation for them.
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