Compassion is defined as a feeling that arises when you are confronted with someone else’s suffering, and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
Many mistake empathy for compassion but they are not the same, however the concepts are similar. While empathy refers to our ability to take the perspective of, and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.
Research has shown that when we feel a moment of compassion our heart rate slows, we secrete the bonding hormone oxytocin and regions of the brain linked to empathy and the feelings of pleasure arise, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for another person.
Being compassionate and practicing it can improve your health and well-being, including your personal and social relationships. It is believed by many scientists that compassion may even be vital to the survival of our species and its advantages can be increased through targeted exercises and practices.
Some benefits of compassion include:
- Compassion makes us feel good: compassionate action activates pleasure circuits in the brain, leading to an increase in self-reported happiness.
- Being compassionate through kind and loving actions can reduce the risk of heart disease by boosting the positive effects of the Vagus nerve, which has a relaxation effect on the heart.
- Treating colleagues with more compassion in the workplace results in individuals, co-workers, and the organization becoming more positive and impacts individual performance and business results.