How to Build a Happier Life With Compassion: 5 Challenges
Let’s face it. We all want to be treated fairly by society and by those around us. In fact, research has shown that our brains are hardwired to respond negatively to injustice. We can’t, however, let the negative emotion from every small injustice accumulate within us. All that negativity will only breed dissatisfaction and resentment, ultimately leading to a life of unhappiness.
I used to hold grudges for a lifetime. Once I decided to open my heart to others, I learned that people are much more similar to myself than I thought. They, too, feel sad, vulnerable, lost, and are looking for happiness in their lives. After coming to this realization, I now have the strength to be kind to those who may not return that kindness. Instead of seeing malicious intentions in every interaction, I now see kindness and generosity. Not only has the world become a more positive, happier place, but I’ve become a happier person as well.
True compassion is more than being nice for a short period of time or only towards people you want to be nice to. Becoming a compassionate person takes perseverance, willpower, and a lot of hard work. When you start to see the world as a kinder, brighter, more forgiving, and happier place, it will all be worth it.
This is what you can do to start practicing compassion and taking control of your happiness.
Poll: Holding Grudges
Are you the type to hold grudges?
Keep asking yourself, “How would it feel to be in their shoes?” It’s easy to get so stuck in your worldview that you forget to consider other people’s feelings. So, it’s crucial that we continually remind ourselves to step away from our thoughts to cultivate our sense of empathy.
Challenge: Are you easily annoyed by the actions of others? Always frustrated by someone going on around you? Hate crying babies in public? Next time the piercing screams of a nearby baby interrupts your leisurely lunch, imagine yourself as the mother desperately trying to calm her baby down. You may find that instead of feeling annoyed, you’ll start to feel compassion instead.
Overlook Differences and Focus on Commonalities
The instinct to differentiate ourselves has been so ingrained into Western culture that it can be easy to forget the commonalities that connect us. The mentality of “every man for himself” is an obstacle to the development of compassion. So, while it’s important to strive to be the best and most distinguished in your community, it’s also crucial to recognize what you have in common with others around you. It’s connecting with others that will help us find happiness and meaning in our lives—not money, not our career, and not becoming “the best.”
Challenge: Whenever you’re in a situation where you think you couldn’t be more different than another person, push through and try to find a commonality. It could be anything. A favorite color, books you’ve read, hobbies, even the form of transit you take to work! You may find that you’re not so different after all, and like you, they’re also looking for a connection—someone to care.
Perform Acts of Kindness
You know that old saying: “Fake it till you make it?” This applies to practicing kindness. Even if you don’t feel like being kind, don’t want to or don’t understand why you need to help someone, do it anyway. When you’re not used to performing acts of kindness, just knowing when someone needs a bit of help and learning to recognize another’s distress is a positive step forward. True compassion and empathy will come with time.
Challenge: Do something kind every day. Smile and genuinely thank someone who deserves it. Buy a sandwich for someone who looks like they need it. Lend an ear to someone who looks lonely. You’ll find that as you continue to push yourself, kindness will soon become a habit.
Just as negativity is contagious, kindness and compassion can spread just as quickly.
Reflect on Your Actions
Compassion requires humbleness and self-reflection so it only makes sense that we need to learn how to recognize and learn from our mistakes. We need to recognize the time when we failed to act compassionately so we can do better next time.
Challenge: Think about every human interaction you’ve had during the day before going to bed every night. Ask yourself: Did you act compassionately whenever the opportunity presented itself? Could you have done better? What did you learn about yourself today? Self-reflection is crucial for continued growth and will help you grow into a more compassionate, self-aware individual.
Forgive and Let Go
If you go through life holding grudges and being resentful, you’ll never find happiness. It's only when you learn to forgive those who may have treated you unfairly that you can start to feel compassion towards them. If you’re able to act with compassion towards those who have been unkind to you, you’ll prove that you’re capable of living positively in spite of any negativity that may be trying to pull you down.
Challenge: If you feel like you’re being treated unfairly, walk away and calm down first instead of lashing out. Attempt to understand their point of view. As you come to understand where they're coming from, you may find that you share the same motivations. When that happens, compassion for that person will come naturally.
Poll: Chasing Happiness
Do you think you're a positive person?
Sometimes, you just don’t have it within yourself to feel compassion for a person, but don’t let that bring you down. You’re only human after all, and allowing others’ suffering into your heart is tough. Even the best of people will have trouble feeling compassionate at times. So, know your limits and give yourself a break.
Spreading the Love
Just as negativity is contagious, kindness and compassion can spread just as quickly. You’ll find that once your compassion grows and you continue to be kind to those around you, that positive energy will spread until your world changes for the better.
© 2018 KV Lo