Original article published by: ONE GREEN PLANET
The effects of compassion are far reaching and have been shown to have benefits for physical as well as psychological health. A wealth of evidence demonstrates that social support, when humans connect in a meaningful way with other people or animals, helps in the recovery from illness as well as promoting increased levels of mental and physical well-being.
Evidence from studies mentioned in the previous blog suggests that interventions can lead to reduced depressive symptoms and feelings of isolation, improvements in positive emotions, psychological well-being, hopefulness, optimism, social connection, life satisfaction, and, of specific interest to this paper – compassion.
Such interventions have been found to also impact upon how people behave – increasing pro-social acts and decreasing anti-social behavior.
The Far-Reaching Benefits of Compassion
Furthermore, research by Sara Konrath at the University of Michigan and Stephanie Brown at Stony Brook University shows that a compassionate lifestyle might even increase our lifespan. The reverse is also true, and motivation appears to pay an important part.
It is not sufficient to simply do good deeds; one must do them for the right reason. Sara Konrath’s research also revealed that whilst people who were active in volunteering did live longer than their non-volunteering peers, the impact only happened if their reasons for volunteering were altruistic rather than self-serving.
Barbara Frederickson, Steve Cole and fellow researchers have demonstrated this on a cellular level. They found high cellular inflammation levels in subjects whose happiness stemmed from a hedonistic lifestyle. Conversely, they found low inflammation levels in people whose lives were enriched by greater meaning and compassionate service to others, including non-human animals.