Compassion makes you feel better. I saw this first hand when I worked in an outpatient program with people diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders – schizophrenia, manic depressive disorder and major depression. Many had been hospitalized more than once.
My goal was to help patients manage their illness, so they could stay out of the hospital and live a more normal life. Besides many of the things the program offered to help them, including medication, I believed if I could help them be happier, have more positives in their lives, some of the stressors they felt would be offset and help them stay well.
I had read a research project using compassion exercises and decided to try it. It worked well in the research and I hoped it worked for the patients. Here’s what I did:
Week 1: I asked the patients to spend an hour being really good to themselves, something to pamper themselves. It didn’t matter what they chose as long as they personally enjoyed it. When they shared everyone expressed liking their experiences and felt happy they participated.
Week 2: The patients were to take the same amount of time – an hour – and do something nice for somebody else, something to brighten someone else’s day. It didn’t matter who they chose or what they did as long as it was something kind and giving. When they shared this experience they were even happier! All reported they felt better doing something nice for somebody else for an hour than doing something for themselves.
Caring for others, having compassion, can make you happier. You don’t have to wait weeks between. Do something nice for yourself for an hour one day. The next day do something nice for another person. It doesn’t even have to be for an hour. Try it and see for yourself. And let us know how it goes.
According to brain science Buddhist monks are some of the happiest people in the world. They are don’t leave their monasteries and do things for others, but meditate on compassion. Research shows compassion meditation changes the brain and makes it happier!
Don’t have an hour to do something nice for someone else? Spend 10 – 20 minutes and meditate on compassion . . . Remember – It’s a hack NOT a substitution for the real thing.