The effects of compassion are considerable and it turns out that this has benefits for the physical as well as the psychological health. There is ample evidence that social support, when humans connect significantly with other people or animals, contributes to disease healing, as well as increased levels of mental and physical well-being.
The results of the studies mentioned suggest that interactions can lead to a reduction of depressive symptoms and feelings of isolation, improvement of positive emotions, psychological well-being, hope, optimism, social connection, life satisfaction, and a special interest for this article – compassion.
These interactions also have an impact on how people behave – increasing pro-social acts and decreasing anti-social behavior.
The considerable benefits of compassion
In addition, research conducted by Sara Konrath at the University of Michigan and Stephanie Brown at Stony Brook University shows that a way of life with compassion could even increase our lifespan. The opposite is also true, and motivation seems to have an important role.
It is not enough to simply do good deeds; you have to do it for the right reasons.
Sara Konrath’s research also found that people who were active in volunteering lived longer than their peers who did not volunteer, the impact only occurred if their reasons for volunteering were altruistic rather than voluntary. selfish.
Barbara Frederickson, Steve Cole and fellow researchers have demonstrated this at the cellular level. They found high levels of cell inflammation in subjects whose happiness stems from a hedonistic lifestyle. Conversely, they found low levels of inflammation in people whose lives were enriched by greater investment and compassion for others, including animals.
This suggests, therefore, that the development of a non-hedonistic rather than a purely hedonistic feeling brings well-being and could lead to positive health benefits.
And how can one achieve well being by being only hedonistic?
The literature highlights the benefits of the practice and culture of compassion. Compassion seems to be the key to well-being.
The culture of well-being has specifically shown that it is the opposite of hedonism, rather than hedonic well-being, and that it is linked to a feeling of connection with oneself and others.
Well-being with compassion (or the opposite of hedonism) involves finding meaning and purpose in life, living according to one’s values, developing a sense of “spiritual” good health in the long term (not necessarily religious).
In turn, well-being with compassion can be cultivated through conscious practices such as mediation and compassion training.
Compassion for all beings
A wealth of literature links altruism and spiritual well-being. If we can encourage people to develop their well-being (not just life satisfaction and short-term happiness), they can indirectly develop a sense of compassion – which indirectly can lead to an increased sense of connectivity with all species, resulting in more compassion for all living things – especially animals.
Compassion can help broaden our point of view and reorient our way of self-development. Compassion could stimulate our sense of well-being by increasing the feeling of connection to others. Social connection helps us recover from illness faster, strengthens our immune system and can even increase our life span.
People who feel more connected to others and animals are more empathetic and form partnerships with more trust and cooperation.
The opposite is also true, the weak social bond is associated with higher levels of antisocial behavior that leads to increased isolation, and thus decreases physical and psychological well-being.
Cultivating compassion for all living beings and practicing compassion can, therefore, help to stimulate social bond and also improve physical and mental health.