The 5 side-effects of compassion
From an article by Dr David Hamilton
David Hamilton has a PhD in organic chemistry and helped develop drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Inspired by the placebo effect, he left the industry to write books and educate people in how they can improve their health without drugs. He is the ‘Kindness Tsar’ for Psychologies Magazine and an advocate for kindness and is working passionately to help inspire a kinder world. He writes:
We typically think of side-effects in the negative, as in the side-effects of drugs. But many of our positive behaviours also have side-effects. Here are 5 side-effects of compassion:
1) Compassion Wires the Brain
Compassion causes growth on the left side of the brain’s prefrontal cortex region, which is the bit above the eyes. The effect of this is that we find it easier to be compassionate and kind. Compassion begets compassion through creating actual changes in the brain.
2) Compassion is Good for the Heart
Compassion fosters warm emotional contact. When we connect with others in this way, we produce the hormone ‘oxytocin’. One of its key roles is in the maintenance of cardiovascular health. It dilates the arteries and reduces blood pressure and also helps clear out potentially disease-causing agents.
3) Compassion Slows Ageing
Research shows a strong correlation between compassion and ‘vagal tone’, which is a term that describes the health and fitness of the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve controls the body’s inflammatory response. As we increase vagal tone, we improve the body’s ability to reduce inflammation. As inflammation is one of the major agers of the body, compassion, through its affects on the vagus nerve, slows ageing.
4) Compassion Improves Relationships
Research shows that compassion improves relationships. It fosters emotional connections between two people. Compassion also breaks down barriers in relationships with people who challenge us. When we see someone suffering and we are moved to help, we forget reasons why we might have a difficulty with the person as our natural tendency to care takes over. In these moments, we see only good and express only good.
5) Compassion Motivates Kindness
When we see someone suffering we feel empathy. Empathy is ‘I feel with you’, as we imagine and share someone’s pain. Empathy evolves into compassion, which is ‘I feel for you’, as we not only share the pain but we want the person’s suffering eased. Compassion quickly evolves into kindness, where we are moved to do something to ease the person’s suffering.
Read the full article here.
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