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“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama
Living in a negative and narcissistic world is no way to spend your time on this planet. When you see the downside of events and those around you, when you’re caught up in your own self-interests, your world will become isolated and bleak.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way! Learning to live a life full of joy and compassion is possible and with a few simple mindset shifts you can start adding joy and compassion to your everyday. Here’s how:
How to live with more joy and compassion
Do Something Nice For Someone Everyday
A study at the University of Louisville, led by Michael Steger, aimed to find out if pleasure-seeking behaviors or doing good, made people happier. They concluded, “The more people participated in meaningful activities, the happier they were and the more purposeful their lives felt. Pleasure-seeking behaviors, on the other hand, did not make people happier.” – Livescience.com
Your good deed doesn’t have to be extravagant, and often it’s the smaller things that really make an impact on someone’s day. A simple compliment to a stranger, holding the door for a mom struggling with a stroller, connecting an acquaintance with a friend who can help their career, are all things that take a few moments, but boost your happiness – and theirs – for long after.
Try it today: Compliment one stranger today!
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
There are times nearly everyday that we judge others. We’re grocery shopping and are annoyed with a crying toddler in our aisle. Maybe we judge the mother for not attempting to quiet him. Maybe she gives in and gives him what he wants and we judge her parenting skills, thinking, “I would never cave like that!”.
When this knee-jerk reaction occurs, stop yourself, and truly put yourself in her place. Truly pretend you are the one with a screaming 3-year-old and someone is rolling their eyes at you. Question what her day has been like. This could be her only day to get to the store and her child is home from daycare, sick. Maybe she’s actually the babysitter and is going out of her way getting the shopping done.
This quick time-out can leave you feeling compassion towards the other party, and keeps you from ruminating on it afterwards.
Try it today: When someone upsets you today, put yourself on their side and think of what you would have done.
Let Out Your Excitement
Do you have that one friend who enters a room and lifts the mood instantly? How about a dog? When I grab the leash, my dog, Barksdale, gets so overly excited he runs laps around our kitchen table! It still makes me laugh and gives my mood a little boost.
While you don’t have to jump up and down or screech in joy, let it show when you’re excited about something! Joy and laughter are contagious, “The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another’s smile resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area” (Psychologytoday.com) i.e. others adjust their attitude and energy to match their surroundings so take advantage of this.
When you’re in a negative mood; fake it ‘till you feel it. Pretending to be happy and smiling send signals to your brain, as explained by Sarah Stevenson on psychologytoday.com, “The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.”
Try it today: When you get to work in the morning or enter a meeting, grace the room with your smile and make your small talk something positive, something you’re looking forward to or something fun that happened recently.
Give The Benefit of The Doubt
There will always be people who frustrate and upset us, and we typically jump to the worst conclusion; “they clearly saw me and cut me off anyway!”, “she left me off the email because she doesn’t want my input.”, “He picked this restaurant because he likes it, he doesn’t care about what I think”. Much like judging others’ actions, we’re quick to assume the worst of people and their intentions, and that certainly isn’t a way to live with compassion, nor will it bring you any joy.
Instead of telling yourself a negative story – which can quickly lead to an uncomfortable or argumentative situation – give the other party the benefit of the doubt. Instead of forcing them to prove themselves innocent of your accusations – whether you say anything or simply hold an opinion – assume they meant no harm. Holding onto a grudge is draining, stealing time and energy that could be invested in positive and productive areas of your life.
Try it today: When you feel yourself assume someone did something unpleasant to you on purpose, stop. Ask yourself what you really know and act on the assumption it was not untoward. Next, forget it and move on!
Accept The Negatives
It may seem counterintuitive to use the assumption that there will be unpleasantness in your life as a way to live with more joy and compassion, but here me out. If you expect everything to go according to plan and play out like you hope – ahem, even when you know that cannot possibly always happen – of course you’re going to be disappointed and upset on a daily basis!
Why not take a different approach? I’m not suggesting you assume every situation is going to head south and your plans and hopes will cease to come to fruition, but acknowledging that there are going to be bumps in the road and you are going to encounter negative people, your world is less jarred when things go awry. On the flip side, when you recognize that things don’t always work in the way you hope, it’s an even greater joy when they do!
Try it today: Think of your plan for your day as Plan A. Consider the most likely aspect that could fail; you have to mail something and the line could be out the door, you’re meeting a friend after work and you may end up working late, etc. Mentally prepare for the fail, and enjoy your Plan A that much more if it does pan out.
“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle, Author