Write in your journal and speak it out loud: I am compassionate. Then write the key habits listed below in your journal.
Would you describe yourself as a compassionate person?
Even if you don’t necessarily see yourself that way, I bet you’re compassionate at least some of the time (e.g., when you’re well-rested and not in a hurry), or with certain people in your life (e.g., with your closest friends). Compassion can be thought of as a mental state or an orientation towards suffering (your own or others’) that includes four components:
- Bringing attention or awareness to recognizing that there is suffering (cognitive)
- Feeling emotionally moved by that suffering (affective)
- Wishing there to be relief from that suffering (intentional)
- A readiness to take action to relieve that suffering (motivational)
Contrary to what many may believe, compassion is considered to be like a muscle that, as any other, can be strengthened with relevant exercises—or can deteriorate and atrophy. In other words, your capacity for compassion can expand, if you choose.
You likely never learned in school that you can intentionally strengthen inner skills such as compassion. The good news is that there are specific habits that you can practice in order to begin honing your abilities to expand compassion for yourself and for others.
1. Expectations. Understand that your expectations are largely based on your background, upbringing, personality, etc. Often, we expect things from people in our lives without appreciating and understanding what each person is capable of offering. We have been conditioned to have expectations with blinders on. It is okay to have expectations, but make sure your expectations are clearly stated and understood. Also, be certain that your expectations can be met. It is also important to let go of the "all or nothing" approach when dealing with people...especially in relationships. Allow yourself to have compassion. Allow yourself to understand others and how they operate, what they can deliver an what they expect.
2. Look for informal opportunities to be compassionate. Be aware of yourself and your surroundings. Connect with others on a deeper level, when possible. Look for opportunities to give a compliment, a helping hand or even just a smile. Opportunities to be compassionate are all around us everyday. It just takes some effor to be aware of your surroundings.
3. Set your intentions to be compassionate. Just as with affirmations, make up your mind to be compassionate. Be intentional about it and remind yourself often that it is a way of life for you.
4. Be compassionate with yourself. Speak kindly to yourself. Forgive yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Love yourself. Period.
5. Get involed. If you desire, get involved helping a non-profit or donating to a charity you are passionate about.