Give a Daily Dose
There are a number of ways we can show compassion easily and every day. I’ve included ten different ideas, and I’ve used several of these techniques on a daily basis, so I’m pretty sure they work. While I’m no Dalai Lama, I have increased my awareness of others and become more considerate through these practices.
1. Make eye contact with everyone you meet and try to focus away from personal thoughts, responses, and emotions while listening to them. I’ve found that most people naturally assume I’m interested in what they’re saying when I make eye contact, and sometimes, I’m surprised at what I hear, even when bored to tears.
Note: Don’t gaze into those eyes too deeply, though. I certainly wouldn’t fancy being taken for a creep. Also, do not begin a staring contest at work with your manager unless he or she has a sense of humor. Even then, it may be an unnecessary risk. I speak from experience.
2. Laugh at a joke. Laugh loud, even if the joke is your own. Laughter works to lower stress and tension.
Note: This might be awkward if no one else laughs, so try to tell a funny joke.
As we age, we forget to take those big, long breaths and breathe more shallowly. Deep breathing naturally relaxes your body, so you’ll feel less tension, pain, and stress throughout the day simply by paying more attention to an activity necessary for life. When relaxed, all situations seem easier to handle, even the stressful or upsetting ones. I find it easier to act compassionately when I’m relaxed.
Note: Don’t breathe too fast or shallowly. This can cause hyperventilation or at least dizziness, both of which will probably dampen your ability to feel compassion.
4. Give a co-worker, friend, or acquaintance a present.
This can be something small like a pen, a dollar tucked beneath a folder, a piece of origami, Truffle Hot Chocolate Balls, or something you know they need. Give for no apparent reason and without telling them it’s from you. Think of the gift as being filled with your compassion, and try to focus your compassionate feelings on that person while you give the object to them.
Note: Some people might think you’re stalking them with this tactic, so don’t get caught. Also, start with someone you actually like, and then move to the less likable workmates. Once more, I speak from experience. Showing compassion and understanding to someone I don’t particularly like is hard, so I have to work up to it with all the people I do like first. You might also want to give yourself a present, just so no one guesses that you’re behind it all.
5. Spend a few minutes daydreaming. Even doctors agree that daydreaming is healthy and natural, so it’s physician recommended. Instead of your usual dreams, try something a bit more constructive.
Imagine an object, and make sure it’s something enjoyable and pleasant. This can be a pretty glass of water, a special stone, or even a piece of cake, whatever you like. Envision filling the object with your compassion.
One’s personal compassion can be anything. For instance, I like to use a glass of water with a cute little rubber duck floating inside, but some people like to think of their compassion as something less tangible like light or bubbles. Then, think of someone you know and like who’s having a rough time or suffering from some problem. Identify with their issue in the daydream and give them the object filled with your compassion.
Note: I usually repeat this a few more times, so it takes ten to fifteen minutes to do this mental exercise. Sometimes I’ll daydream in short bursts throughout the day instead of all at once. When I began feeling comfortable, I envisioned the same situation for a stranger. Then, I tried the daydream again for someone less fortunate than me. Finally, I imagined someone I dislike and give them the item. Studies show that daydreams and meditations like this can actually help us become more compassionate.
6. Stretch daily to help relieve tension in your muscles. Like breathing, stretching creates relaxation. When relaxed, compassion comes to us all a bit easier.
Note: Don’t get stuck or stretch until it hurts.
7. Take a few minutes to surf the web for pictures of kittens, puppies, or something else adorable. This is guaranteed to lift your mood, and field tests (performed by myself, of course) have shown that viewing only one silly kitten picture creates natural empathy with others. All this is accomplished simply through the natural law of cuteness.
Note: If you don’t like fuzzy animals, look at pictures of starving children. Maybe THAT will cause you to feel something. If not, you might as well accept that your compassion engine is broken and throw in the towel now.
8. Help someone. Then, take a few moments to see how happy they are. Be happy that they are happy.
Note: All this happiness might become a little too hippifying, so if you need to, listen to some punk, grunge, or rap. I’ll recommend a few classics: try Dr. Dre’s old-school stuff, the Dresden Dolls, Nirvana, and Blue Scholars. The right music quickly restores my balance and gives me a bit of an edge. Just make sure that edge isn’t too sharp.
9. Don’t be too hard on yourself. In fact, anytime you notice that inner voice criticizing, make it stop. Throw something at the voice. Heck, you can even throw some compassion at it. If it won’t shut up, simply don’t listen to it.
Note: Personally, I listen to dubstep and techno to silence self-criticism. That way, the inner voice is simply drowned out by all the noise. I suppose postmodern neoclassical tunes work, too, though after too much Julia Wolfe, I feel like the star in a horror film.
10. Last and most important: be patient with yourself and others.
Note: This sounds easy. It’s not, but we just have to get used to the facts.