Being Thankful with Compassion: 5 Good Reasons To Do It
Thanksgiving is a day of literally “giving thanks,” but it’s also an excellent time to launch a whole lifetime of giving to others by being compassionate. As we contemplate everything we're thankful for around the table at Thanksgiving, it’s natural to think of those who are less fortunate as well. Turning those thoughts into action with compassion are an excellent way to express the spirit of this holiday.
Compassion goes hand-in-hand with gratitude by pushing us beyond just feeling thankful and compels us to take action. Many people confuse compassion with empathy. While empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of another person, a feeling of compassion arises when you not only acknowledge their suffering, but are motivated to help relieve it.
Taking gratitude to the level of compassion takes motivation and effort, but being compassionate doesn’t just help those in need —it reaps rewards for those who show compassion as well. Doing good feels good —and there’s science to prove it.
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According to a study sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, published by the Greater Good Center, there is real, hard science behind what happens to our bodies when we feel and act with compassion. In fact, being thankful with compassion is not only good for family, community and the world around us, it comes full circle back to ourselves in these five ways:
1 – Heartfelt Thanks
When we feel compassion towards others, our heart rate slows down, and a lower resting heart rate can reduce the risk of heart disease. In the same way that exercise can lower resting heart rates, so can being compassionate.
2 – Hormone Harmony
Scientific studies have shown that acting compassionately triggers secretion of the “good hormone,” oxytocin, which makes us feel good.
3 – Activate Gratitude
Pleasure circuits in our brain are activated by compassion. Interestingly, neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently discovered an actual brain circuit that responds to rewarding events, like putting compassion into action.
4 – Serve for Nerves
Being compassionate also stimulates a special nerve called the vagus nerve. Physicians and yoga practitioners have discovered the benefits of strengthening this important nerve.
5 – Appreciative Action
Can compassion reduce stress? Everyone strives to reduce stress in their lives, and while compassion can’t take away the things that cause stress, like economic woes, it can make people more resilient to its harmful effects.
As much as science says that acting compassionately is good for us on the inside, it’s good for us on the outside, too. Sometimes though, fear prevents people from acting on their feelings of compassion. For some, it is a fear of offending someone in need of assistance, or that the action may not be the correct one. Taking more time and effort to understand another’s circumstances better can go a long way to overcoming that fear and moving us forward to demonstrate compassion.
Compassion can also have an overwhelmingly positive effect on personal and professional relationships. Through deeper understanding of ourselves and others, compassion makes us better family members, co-workers and leaders.
Here are three examples of the positive effects:
Professional Power: Being compassionate means relating to others in a more positive way. Compassion influences leadership and makes professionals better communicators and collaborators.
Parenting Plus: Brain scans show that when people experience compassion, the neural systems that support nurturing and caregiving are activated. So, compassion makes better parenting and caregiving a reality.
Spouse Success: Because compassionate people have been shown to be more optimistic and supportive, they are also likely to have better partnerships with spouses.
The impact of compassion goes beyond its personal effects. Compassion can have community and even global impacts as well. At Princess House, compassion is literally in our DNA because company founders Ray and Michael Chambers built their vision for the company on being compassionate. Combining their desire to help the underserved and their passion for solving difficult problems at the global level, they launched the MCJ Amelior Foundation, which their family founded to initially support the revitalization of Newark, NJ. Today, the foundation has grown to support over 250 non-profit organizations and causes around the world.
Ray’s work with families in New Jersey sparked his interest in using direct selling as a platform to put compassion in action. He recognized that in acquiring Princess House he would be providing income-earning opportunities for those with limited options. Today, Princess House continues this compassionate mission through its collaboration with the United Way, Operation Homefront, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and many other local and global initiatives.
This Thanksgiving, make being thankful with compassion a new holiday tradition. The goodness of being compassionate will make a difference in personal health, the well-being of family and friends and business success. Perhaps most importantly, if everyone brings compassion to the table, the world will be thankful, too.
How does being compassionate contribute to your life? I’d love to hear from you. Share in the comments below.