In a post today on the Huffington Post, Firdaus Dhabhar, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford, explores how practicing compassion could prove effective in reducing or eliminating chronic stress. He writes:
Self-compassion practiced wisely could help reduce your own chronic stress, while compassion toward others could reduce chronic stress for the compassion-giver as well as the compassion-receiver.
Part of self-compassion could involve making time for yourself to engage in activities that reduce chronic stress. Such activities could include, meditation, yoga, dance, music, reading, drawing, painting, gardening, walking, consistent moderate exercise, hiking, hanging out with friends, etc. It's important to recognize that stress-reducing activities involve different strokes for different folks. You need to find what feels right and works best for yourself.
It is easy to understand how showing genuine compassion and helping someone who is suffering could reduce the sufferer's chronic stress. However, an additional benefit of being compassionate may also involve reducing your own stress. For example, you could be disappointed, concerned, or angry -- i.e., stressed -- about the poor performance of someone on your team. Directly taking punitive action would increase your team member's stress, and would also likely increase your own stress levels. If, however, you show compassion and intelligently work with your team member to come up with an effective solution for improving performance, then the compassionate approach is likely to reduce chronic stress not only for your team member but also for yourself.
Tomorrow, Dhabhar will present his work at "The Science of Compassion: Origins, Measures and Interventions" conference in Telluride, Colo. The event, which was organized by Stanford medical school's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, showcases the latest scientific research on compassion, altruism, social connection and service.
Previously: How being compassionate can influence your health, 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