Compassion, connection, care and concern of others – these are what I like to refer to as the Vitamin C Varsity Squad. There is great contentment that comes from serving and helping others. The simple act of service increases our own mental, emotional, and physical health and encourages longevity. Compassion buffers stress. Connection eases anxiety and depression. Compassion takes the focus off of “me” and puts it on “we.” When we come from a “we” perspective we feel a sense of greater purpose; a reason for being alive.
Connection strengthens our immune system and leads to greater health and happiness. On the contrary, loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of inflammation, depression, heart disease, and difficulties with memory and learning. Solid social connectedness can increase longevity by 50%.
Here is a practice that you can add to the beginning (or end) of your day that will help you increase your levels of compassion and connection with others.
The Practice: Loving Kindness Meditation. This practice begins by sitting comfortably and quietly, focusing loving kindness and acceptance towards oneself. Close your eyes. Spend a few minutes relaxing any tension or tightness that you may notice. Let go of distractions and thoughts about the day. You can say these phrases out loud or say them silently to yourself. The phrases are simply:
“May I [you] be well.”
“May I [you] be happy.”
“May I [you] be peaceful.”
“May I[you] be loved.”
After saying these phrases a few times for yourself, move on to focus this intention of compassion and loving kindness towards others:
• someone you adore - which could be a close family member, mentor, teacher, or friend;
• a neutral person – an acquaintance, somebody you may know a little bit or come into contact with on occasion (grocery clerk, post office worker);
• a challenging person (think “frenemy”) - someone who may be pushing your buttons.
This is an exercise in compassion. It helps break down any emotional barriers that may be filling your mind and body with negative thoughts or negative energy.
If you are looking to boost your happiness and sense of physical, emotional, and social well-being, no need to pop any pills. Give of yourself, your time, your friendship, your smile, and your willingness to serve and witness the connection that will return in abundance.