Doing Well By Doing Good

One of my core beliefs is that empathy is innate. We are born with the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes and to feel what they are experiencing.

But some days it seems like in order to “succeed” in the world, we must put empathy aside and focus only on our own needs. I’ve been hearing this from people from all walks of life - from my clients, from their customers, from friends and family. Sometimes it feels like we are collectively lost.

I’ve been taking a class about Love as a Force for Social Justice and one very interesting lecture is about love, brain chemistry, empathy and action. It is known that social affiliations and connections create healthier bodies and minds. It is also known that chronic stress depletes our abilities to function, drives depression and anxiety, forgetfulness, illness and isolation. Perhaps living under the intense stress of modern life stunts our ability to connect and an inability to harness empathy into action. That is, being unable to make connections and hoarding our love chemicals.

So how do we break the cycle and truly live a joyful life?

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We make the pie bigger, give more, share more, and in doing so, we become better people - we become happier and healthier.

Winning the game or being financially successful certainly make a lot of things easier in the world. But in terms of greatness and personal satisfaction? It’s love. Love for others.

What is interesting, in terms of empathy, is that on a neurobiological level, the more comfortable your life situation is, the less capable your brain is of putting itself in someone else’s shoes.

Continual practice putting ourselves in other people’s shoes can change our minds, literally. We can reshape the neural networks that allow us to serve others. One way people do this is through LKM or Loving Kindness Meditation. You can learn more about it here.

Practice empathy. And then meet the needs of those who are suffering or in need. Do more for others than for yourself. In the end, the good you do for others will come back to you.

Rebecca RyanComment