A guide to cultivating compassion in your life

Compassion is an important emotion. In Latin, ‘com’ means ‘with’ and ‘pati’ means ‘suffer’. It is the emotional-driven act of suffering with others; it’s the feeling you get when you see someone else in pain and you are compelled to help them. The Tibetan term for compassion is ‘nying je’ which, as the Dalai Lama explains, “connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit and warm-heartedness.”



Compassion is an emotion that has played a big part in human survival. We are social creatures and supporting someone in need helps the group and increases social bonding. Acts of compassion have also been found to relieve stress and increase feelings of well-being in those who are compassionate to others, so it has benefits for the helper not just the person in need. In fact, one study found that the same feel-good part of the brain is triggered when people make charitable donations as when they receive a monetary reward.

 

However, as humans we can suffer from something known as compassion fatigue. The key to keeping your compassionate muscle strong is to be non-judgemental, helping people from a place of kindness and not a moral high ground. And it’s not just compassion towards others that is important, we should be compassionate towards ourselves too. When things go wrong, rather than think negatively or berate ourselves, we should let kindness prevail. But, depending on your mindset, that could be easier said than done. Two professors Kristin Neff and Christopher Gerner also identified three things that can affect self-compassion - self-criticism, self-isolation and self-absorption.

 

Below we reveal how to be more compassionate towards others, as well as yourself. Plus, how Rituals is compassionate too.

 

HOW TO BE MORE COMPASSIONATE

Walk in their shoes

Do you know someone who is going through a tough time? Take a moment to imagine how you would feel if you were experiencing the same challenge. Ask yourself - what you would want others to do for you in that situation? Be the person that reaches out and makes a difference, it could be a phone call to let them know you care and have the time to listen to them talk, or it could be running errands for them. Whatever the gesture, big or small, be there for them.

 

Challenge your default reactions

We’ve all been in the situation where a stranger is rude to us, But rather than react, be it internally or externally, take a moment to think about the situation. Was their reaction out of turn? Or exaggerated? They might be having a stressful day, so don’t let their mood affect yours. And remember, people are more alike than you think. The next time you’re dealing with a tricky customer or annoying family member, repeat to yourself “you are like me”. In your mind, list out all the ways that you are similar, this simple exercise will help to lessen the gap between you and them.

 

 how to cultivate compassion, woman holding prayer beads

 

Treat yourself with compassion

We all carry out small acts of compassion and kindness every day, but how often do you channel them towards yourself? Think about how kind and complimentary you are to your partner or friend. You also deserve that exact same care and compassion. Take a moment to write down three things you love most about yourself, now find a mirror, look into your eyes while saying them out loud and mean it.

 

Give volunteering a try

Volunteering is a wonderful way to flex your compassionate muscle. Find something you are passionate about or enjoy and pledge that you will devote a set number of hours each week or month to helping out. It could be painting sets for your local theatre group or spending an hour a week chatting with an elderly person who lives alone. Helping others isn’t only good for them, it helps to boost your own well-being and relieve stress too.

 

Spend time with others

As the study we talked about earlier revealed, self-isolation can thwart self-compassion. While alone time, out of choice, can be a wonderful thing such as time spent with a good book or meditating, too much unwanted alone time isn’t so good for us social human beings. Make time each week to see friends or chat with your family on the phone. Take the time to share your stories but also to actively listen to what’s going on in their lives and to lend a compassionate ear if they need it.

 

RITUALS CARES

For almost a decade, Rituals has been a proud supporter of Tiny Miracles. An initiative that enables the world’s poorest communities to break their own poverty cycle in Mumbai, India. Rituals contributes funding to all five pillars of the Tiny Miracles approach – education, health care, awareness, income generation and happiness. Want to help? Buy one of the Rituals Goodie Bags. Handmade by women in the slums of Mumbai, this initiative enables mothers to learn new skills, earn a steady income and contribute towards their own brighter future. With each bag you receive a beautiful gift, a unique bracelet, made for you by the women in India.