In a recent thought-provoking piece on the Huffington Post, James Doty, MD, director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford, takes a closer look at research showing compassion and social connectedness can positively influence personal health. He writes:
Research by expert well-being psychologists Ed Diener and Martin Seligman indicates that social connectedness is a predictor of longer life, faster recovery from disease, higher levels of happiness and well-being, and a greater sense of purpose and meaning. One large-scale study showed that lack of social connectedness predicts vulnerability to disease and death above and beyond traditional risk factors such as smoking, blood pressure, obesity and lack of physical activity.
While many pay attention to their diet and go to the gym regularly to improve their health, they don't think of social connectedness this way. Just like physical fitness, compassion can be cultivated and maintained. Chuck Raison and colleagues at Emory University have demonstrated that a regular compassion meditation practice reduces negative neuroendocrine, inflammatory and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Exercising compassion not only strengthens one's compassion but brings countless benefits to oneself and others. In fact, Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia and others have shown that, not only are we the recipient of compassion's benefits but others are inspired when they see compassionate actions and in turn become more likely to help others in a positive feedback loop.
Previously: The health benefits of compassion and tips for dealing with unpleasant people, interactions and Dalai Lama and Stanford researchers explore science of compassion and altruism
Photo by Jesslee Cuizon