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Why Our Brains Get Turned On By Compassion

The more we do something, the better we get at it. Our brains don't really know the difference between playing more guitar and getting to be a better musician and being more negatively judgmental and getting better at casting negative judgment. It only knows that when we practice something, we lay down new neuropathways and we get better at it. Before this weekend, I never knew how to play the song "Cups"; however, after a short 150 minutes of my life, it is ingrained in my mind well enough to perform for anyone who asks. Go ahead.....try it.

It is not surprising, then, that thinking and acting in a compassionate manner will inherently increase our compassionate thoughts and behaviors. It turns out that our brains may actually be more susceptible to learning and behaving compassionately. In short, human compassion is instinctual. We can actually decrease our stress levels by treating ourselves and others with compassion. Compassionate leaders can increase levels of trust in the workplace and trickle down when management treats its workers well. The best part about thinking and acting compassionately is that often the reward is greater for those acting compassionately than those receiving the act of compassion.

Looking for some opportunities to behave with kindness and compassionate this week?


Try the one week compassionate challenge. Choose three things from the list below and notice if it impacts your mood.

  1. Find someone that you do not typically interact with at work. Give them a genuine complement and pass that complement on to their supervisor as well.

  2. Do something kind for a friend that is completely out of the 'normal' kind range of things you might do for him/her.

  3. Reconnect with a friend that you have lost touch with and let them know how important their friendship is.

  4. Send an anonymous gift to a friend who is struggling.

  5. Write down any harsh judgments that you have during the day and try and find a way to restate that judgment in a compassionate manner.

  6. Be curious in an interaction when you may not typically be.

  7. Choose a cause you are passionate about and engage in a helpful act to support the cause.

  8. Take a friend, spouse or child out to dinner. Ask to speak to the manager to let them know how enjoyable your dinner/service was.

  9. Bring a gift/baked item to a volunteer service organization and thank them for their service.

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