compassion and empathy

Compassion and Empathy

Compassion and empathy are two words which have found their way more and more into our everyday language.  Do we really understand what they mean and are we practicing these values?

I am still learning and integrating these two words and certainly at times I have to work really hard to bring in these emotions.

Certainly there are specific therapies that now focus on compassion such as Compassion Focused Therapy but we don’t need to go to a workshop or class to achieve compassion.

If we want to bring these aspects into our lives we need understand what they are first.  Recently I read a description that highlights the subtle difference between empathy and compassion.  In his book  “Same Soul – Many Lives” Dr B Weiss states that empathy is an intellectual approach in trying to understand another person’s feelings.  Compassion is more instinctual and comes from the heart so you can be compassionate without being empathic.

Trying to understand another person’s feeling can increase our awareness of others situations which we may have no prior knowledge or understanding of.  It can often be suggested to “walk in another’s shoes” – to understand and appreciate how the other person is feeling.

Compassion is often a spontaneous feeling and comes from the heart with actions that are based in kindness.  Both empathy and compassion take us on the eventual path of unconditional love.

It can be incredibly hard to put these into practice at times especially when you have been hurt by others but we always have choices in how we react and we choose our attitude.  It can take a lot of mental strength, awareness and inner calm to show compassion but by doing so can drastically change the whole situation.  Often it is not about changing the other person but it is about changing ourselves.  If you come from a place of compassion then you are less likely to feel anger or frustration, stress will be reduced and you can let go of grudges and bring in forgiveness.   This in turn may have a positive effect on the other person and thus changing the energy between you both.

It may mean taking time out to think and reflect quietly about a situation and then going back with a compassionate and/or empathic response.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:-

  • How would I feel if I were in their shoes?
  • What is contributing to them acting/behaving as they do?
  • If I was at my most compassionate self how would I see the situation and how would I want to respond?

Compassion and empathy are not just for others but are equally important for ourselves.  The starting point is always with ourselves and by being compassionate i.e. being kind and understanding, these two emotions and values can greatly enhance our lives and lead to the ultimate goal of unconditional love.

Happiness

Happiness!

Happiness is now a measurement that can define a country.  The latest survey this year, came out with ratings for the “happiest” countries.  The Scandinavian countries once again coming out on top with Finland at number one.  Although Britain is in 19th place it is still not a good indictment of our country.
Happiness is subjective but the fact that Denmark has consistently been in the top 3 over the past 5 years suggests they are doing something right as a nation.   One explanation is “hygge” pronounced “hoo-ga” with the closest explanation as being one of coziness.

The sense of being together and belonging creates coziness.  It’s when we allow ourselves to relax in a state that feels warm and comforting that we can recognise a sense of happiness.  These moments and opportunities do not always need money to be achieved.  In fact it has been proven that over the decades although our income has increased our levels of happiness have not.
It is our responsibility to seek out our own happiness and when we are in this emotional state we can affect other peoples’ levels of wellbeing and happiness too.

So how can we experience hygge?  First of all we have to be mindful to it.  Appreciate the moment; savour the sense of whatever we are doing in order to absorb those warm feelings.  If our minds are closed or focused on what’s not right or what is wrong then we will miss those times of happiness.  I have mentioned before about “destination addiction” – Andy Cope, if we are constantly thinking that we will be happy, relaxed, chilled only when it is Friday or on holiday that we are missing out on the present.  Animals and young children are much more able to create their moments of happiness as they live in the present moment.
However, we can all make our own hygge.

Connect with people, whether that is family or friends, at home in the work place or out socially – talk to people.  It has been proven that being with people that are supportive, fun, encouraging greatly improves mental wellbeing. Take up hobbies and do things just for fun.  Be a child again and put on the wellies and splash through puddles!

There are a load more suggestion to create your hygge moments in my book ” A Guide to Commonsense WellBeing”

Here are a few of my hygge moments:-

Walking along the Pembrokeshire coastal path looking out over the Irish Sea.
Snuggling up to watch a good film on a dark and wet winter afternoon.
Being aware of the garden bursting into life in Spring.
Dancing.
Being part of a team, working together to achieve a goal.

The list can go on and on!  For the rest of the year seek out, be mindful and saviour your hygge moments.  Place them in your memory jar so you can recapture the feeling of happiness.
I would love to hear about your hygge moments.