Changing your thoughts leads to compassion.
What a jerk! I’m shaking my head. Every morning I accompany our cat on her daily walk onto the deck. She wants to know if the green stuff in one of the pots has finally started growing. A loud honk of a car disrupts our sleepiness. I turn to have a good look at the intersection. A black car (note that I’m female and do not distinguish between car models but car colors) wants to make a legal left turn. The white car behind the black car does not approve of such choice and is letting everyone within the range of 300 meters know by honking the horn.
It is not a short honk-honk kind of honk but a long and lasting hooooooooooooooooooooooooook-honk. And of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is “What a jerk! I don’t approve of the way you behave. I want you to stop that now. You are disrupting my peaceful morning. Don’t make my morning miserable, too” which is quite self-focused.
And while I’m still wondering why the white car doesn’t simple use the second lane to pass the black car, the constant honk and expressed anger and furiousness that comes with it makes me suddenly feel sorry for the driver in the honking white car.
What must have happened to the driver in the white car to behave in such an aggressive manner? This is more than putting accidently salt instead of sugar into your coffee. The driver was in deep distress and all I felt for him/her was more blame instead of compassion.
My thoughts changed: “I’m sorry for you that you are in such a bad mood. What can be done to make you feel better?” Well, of course I would not have gone down and actually offered the moody driver my help. By the time I would have reached the street the car would have been gone (great excuse). But the thought still counts. Maybe we should start practicing on people that are close to us. There are similar situations present every day where the way we react to a situation can have an immediate impact.
Practice compassion on people that are close to you.
Let’s have a look at this scenario. My better half had a stressful day at work. My lovely prepared dinner was not exactly his meaning of a balanced meal. His favorite sporting team is on a terrible losing strike. While he feels sorry for himself he tips a large mug with freshly brewed tea. A hot beverage lake is forming on the kitchen floor fed from a stream from the counter top. Now he is very upset. The cat flees the scene. In his desperate attempt to clean up, he uses my favorite kitchen towel to wipe the floor. But he is not bending down on his knees while he is cleaning up like I would have. He prefers to drive the towel with his feet and shoes, which spreads the lake a little further over the kitchen floor and does nothing in regards to containing the damage. So what are my options here?
Option A) = self-focused
I shout at him for flooding the kitchen and standing on my towel. He shouts back at me that I should clean it myself, if I do not approve of his technique. I take it personally and respond that he should not play stupid. From there it goes downhill. Everyone is upset about everything and the day that started with sunshine ends with upset and angry faces.
= Lots of stress & unhappy ending 🙁
Option B) = showing compassion
I make sure that he didn’t burn himself with the hot tea. I send the man in distress onto his couch to calm down. I wipe off the honey-tea lake and make fresh tea. While serving the fresh tea I ask him what else I can do to make him feel better. He is thankful, smiles and apologizes, we both hug and I feel pretty damn good.
= No stress & happy ending 🙂
Every one of us has to deal with problems, pain and frustration and we have a choice how to react to that. We can wallow in self-pity and be preoccupied with ourselves. Or we can leave the “I, me, and myself” behind for a second and pay attention to the person in front of us. What does this person need right now? How can I improve the situation?
Compassion boosts our wellbeing but beware it is contagious.
Helping others energizes us and lifts our mood. Think of a situation where a friend of ours was in need of help and your contribution made a huge difference to them. I bet you felt pretty good about yourself. You probably felt so good that you fed every meter that was out of time on your way home. Being compassionate is contagious. Not only does it make you happy, but also the person you cared for. They will feel uplifted and might buy a random stranger a coffee. The random stranger then makes a compliment to the cashier. The cashier will help its co-worker with the garbage and so on and on and on.
Studies show that a lifestyle with compassion may protect us against stress and cellular inflammation, which is the root of cancer and other diseases.
So next time when we encounter a situation where from our perspective someone doesn’t do the right thing, we should try not to take things too seriously. Is a fight over a towel and spilt tea really worth it? Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about how you can help. Turning a bad situation into a positive one may create a happy ending.How to practice compassion, which leads to better health and happiness by Tanja Knapp