Karen Armstrong

Over the last decade compassion has become a major research area in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. It is defined as feeling for the ot.her and being ready to help her/him cease the pain. It is an affective state such that it instinctually motivates us to help the one in need. We react as if compassion is part of our nature. Neuroscientists say yes! It is in our nature, and the neurons are readily wired for the compassionate archetype. However, the individual differences measured on the scale of compassionate behavior are explained by how much it is cultivated in one’s everyday life.

Why should we cultivate and bring more compassion in our lives?

Here is the answer provided by the research findings in psychology and neuroscience:

  • Compassion sparks feelings of well-being and joyfulness.
  • It positively affects the Vagus nerve which consequently lowers the risk of heart problems.
  • Regulates the stress hormones and enables the person to better cope with stress and be resiliant.
  • Compassionate persons focus less on the negative aspects of their life; they tend to be more grateful, and more happy.
  • There is more room for growth and contentment in compassionate relationships.

All the findings support the view that compassion is contagious –it spreads around very quickly. One who experiences compassion is also ready to extend it. One small act of compassion a day can have a lasting effect for many many years.

One of the most sincere and heartwarming talks on compassion: Karen Armstrong’s “Charter for Compassion” – a reward winning TED Talk.

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