Compassionate Happiness Essay

1083 words - 5 pages

An individual is told they have to volunteer as an assignment. Unwillingly, they proceed to the local shelter to help wash dishes and cook for the homeless thinking: “I don’t have time for this”, and “this doesn’t help me”. Little do they know, they are unconsciously helping their self in more ways than one. That person leaves the shelter feeling refreshed and reconnected. They feel more mindful, compassionate, and confident. After volunteering they have an overall mood and attitude change. Why is this? Because even though they didn’t have the intention of being compassionate, they feel happier for doing so. This isn’t mere coincidence though, multiple studies show that compassion often times leads to happiness for many reasons. It may shift focus from negative to positive events, raise ones self-esteem and confidence, and even increase a sense of abundance in your life. So how do you become happier? Show more compassion!
Compassion leading to authentic happiness has been studied by psychologists and neuroscientist leading to similar results. Neuroscientist Jordan Grafman (2006) of the National Institute of Health conducted a brain-imaging study on the subject. He observed the brains “pleasure centers” of patients while they watched someone give money to a charity versus when they were given money themselves. The study found that the brain receptors for pleasure were equally active when people watched versus received it themselves. Simply observing an act of kindness creates a state of elevation. The feeling is contagious, inspiring other people to be compassionate and happy as well. In a similar experiment that touched the subject further Professor Michael Norton’s experiment published in Science by Harvard Business School tested the happiness of individuals who spent a sum of money on themselves versus someone else. In the poll done during the experiment he found that those who spent money on others were noticeably significantly happier than those who had splurged on themselves, revealing that the act of giving is happier than the act of receiving.

It is difficult to argue that that compassion leads to anything less than happiness. But what are the reasons we are faced with these feelings after showing kindness towards others? Is it an evolutionary trait? Animals in nature have been seen doing compelling acts of kindness for each other with no eminence of their own. Natural compassion in humans has been widely debated, however even infants engage in helpful behavior. And when faced with a tough situation, the first impulse of most adults is to help others (Miller, D., 1999). PhD Emma Seppala (2012), Psychology Today writer, noted that compassion shifts our “self-focus”. Self-focus is ones preoccupation with themselves, somewhat of a “me, myself, and I” complex. Research shows that this is often linked to depression and anxiety. People will wallow in their own self-doubt and insecurities, bringing themselves down...

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