7 Benefits of Compassion According to Science

Among the benefits of compassion that have been proven by science we find that it decreases depression and can improve symptoms of work stress.
7 Benefits of Compassion According to Science

Written by Aylin Stefany Rodriguez Vinasco, 10 July, 2021

Last update: 10 July, 2021

These seven benefits of compassion span physical, emotional and mental aspects, and have been proven by science. Many people confuse compassion with empathy, as they assimilate it with the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the other person. However, there are big differences.

Some studies suggest that compassion is an innate feeling that’s essential to human relationships. In addition, people interpret it as a “painful emotion” that originates specifically from other people’s misfortune or pain. In any case, it’s seen as essential to preserve the existence of life.

Empathy is, according to different research, the perception we have about someone in relation to their feelings, thoughts, and actions, understanding that their actions originate as a reaction to these things.

The difference between the two feelings is that compassion goes beyond empathy. A compassionate person, in addition to thinking and feeling the pain of the other and relating it to their own pain, decides to help them overcome the things that are causing those feelings of unhappiness. As it is, compassion is considered a higher level of empathy.

How to increase compassion

The benefits of compassion are many.
Improving compassion, and therefore empathy, can be an important goal in becoming better people.

As we already mentioned, compassion is an innate feeling in human beings. However, it can be stimulated through some meditation techniques such as mindfulness. This specific technique mixes the capacity of attention and awareness, and focuses on the present.

A study that sought to verify the effects of meditation on people’s compassionate feelings took as a sample 36 people divided into two groups. All participated in a discussion about compassion, but only one of the groups took meditation training.

Then a situation was staged in which actors were indifferent to a supposedly ill person who used crutches and because of their pain couldn’t get up. 50% of the group that received meditation training tried to help the actor on crutches, while only 15% of those who didn’t take the training tried to do so.

The researchers concluded that the practice of meditation awakens an altruistic feeling in people. This means that people go from feeling possible empathy to acting with compassion, leaving aside the bystander effect.

The 7 benefits of compassion according to science

You’ve likely experienced the feeling of compassion many times. Sometimes you’ll have been aware of it, other times not so much, but you may remember. Without further ado, we’re going to talk about the seven most prominent benefits of compassion according to science:

1. It decreases depression

Studies on Compassion-Focused Therapy or CFT, which is used commonly and successfully in psychotherapy, have indicated that it has a clear relationship with the reduction of depression. Research has shown that the application of CFT reduces, in addition to depression, anxiety, self-criticism and the feeling of inferiority.

According to the results of this study, one month of this compassion-based therapy increases levels of self-compassion. This means that those who apply the principles of compassion to themselves, experience reduced depression and anxiety, even stress.

2. It stimulates positive attitudes

The research cited above also indicates that the practice of compassion directed towards other people, whether we know them or not, stimulates and increases positive attitudes. Added to this is the fact that practicing compassion also increases positive feelings of affiliation and kindness.

This happens because, after you practice compassion, the brain activates circuits related to positive feelings. This may indicate that, the more compassionate you are, the more often these types of feelings awaken in you, This all helps you to avoid simply feeling pity.

3. It decreases work stress

Work stress, also known as burnout syndrome at work, is an emotional disorder. It influences the lifestyle that the employee leads in relation to the environment and working conditions, and it can have serious consequences on a physical and psychological level. Among the most common symptoms are depression and anxiety.

This is a very common phenomenon in health professionals such as nurses and doctors. Scientific studies that seek to identify the effects of training in the cultivation of compassion (CCT) in these types of workers have found that it’s a mechanism that can improve several aspects of our health.

4. It strengthens the immune system

For years, research has determined the undeniable relationship between stress of any kind and a weak immune system.

Taking into account that mindfulness, associated with compassionate therapy, reduces stress and the effects it causes on the body, we can then infer that being compassionate strengthens the immune system.

But this isn’t all, as a more in-depth study on the relationship of compassion and how it strengthens the immune system indicates that the emotional support of a loved or trusted one increases the speed of healing. This physiological process is closely linked to the well-being of the immune system.

5. It lowers blood pressure

The benefits of compassion are for all people.
Many of the health benefits of this type of empathy are proven.

Blood pressure, in some cases, is another symptom of stress that benefits from compassion. A study carried out by Brigham Young University showed that compassionate contact between partners reduces blood pressure in those who receive this contact in the medium term.

Other research conducted by the University of Colorado indicates that patients admitted for heart attacks and major surgeries, and who receive compassionate care or emotional support from health providers, have a greater chance of recovery than those who receive standard care.

6. It decreases chronic pain

Diseases such as fibromyalgia, scleroderma or chronic fatigue can generate chronic pain that’s difficult to bear on a physical and mental level. However, a study on the impact of compassionate training showed that compassion can alleviate chronic pain.

In addition, the practice of compassion can also alleviate the feelings of anger and mental suffering that are associated with this condition.

7. It acts as a palliative in terminal cases

Terminal patients are exposed to a myriad of pain and psychological conditions. Palliative medicine has been responsible for providing treatment that ensures a good quality of life for the longest possible time.

A study that sampled end-stage lung cancer patients proved that compassion as a palliative treatment had important effects. Specifically, the results published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that those who received a compassionate approach increased their quality of life.

Although this seemed obvious, based on the benefits already mentioned, the researchers found that this therapy also had an effect on life span. Those who participated in the experiment increased their life expectancy by 30%.

Feed compassion and reap its benefits

As you can see, the benefits of compassion are vast. They not only impact physical health, but also mental and psychological aspects. Practicing compassion is simple, it simply requires going one step further than the innate feeling of feeling the pain or anguish of others. It’s about stopping being spectators and acting as agents of change.

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