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The Compassion Project

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By: Emily Fascilla

Have Compassion: It’s Good for Your Health

Beyond our physiological needs (like food, water, and shelter) and our safety needs (like protection from violence and natural disasters), one of our basic human needs is love and belonging. Love and belonging are key components of an individual’s ability to maintain emotional health. The lack of these essentials has the power to make individuals more susceptible to anxiety and depression.  So how do we encourage love and belonging in our own lives? Turns out it has less to do with our ability to “fit in” or feel lovable – and more to do with our ability to have compassion for others.

Lara Aknin, a Psychology Professor at Simon Fraser University, has made it her life’s work to study altruism, well-being, social relationships, and happiness; specifically, how all of those things tie together.   In studies conducted in over 136 countries, research has found that caring for others, whether financially or through emotional support, has biological impacts that include slower heart rate, and releases of oxytocin (the “bonding hormone”) and can even reduce risk of heart rate. Various studies around the world highlight the biological and psychological benefits to living compassionately. Compassion leaves us and those who surround us happier, less vindictive, more optimistic, and less likely to have stress induced illnesses.

This month as we March toward health, let us remember that part of taking care of ourselves is taking care of others. Have compassion, in place of judgment. Practice support, in place of dismissiveness. Strengthen patience and grace with ourselves, when we feel burnt out. The research shows doing these things will not only boost our emotional health, but our physical health.

“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”  Buddha

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