The “Compassionate” Brain: How Meditation Us Kinder & Happier
The "Compassionate" Anterior Insula — How Meditation Makes You Kinder & Happier
Kind And Compassionate People Are The Happiest
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." — Dalai Lama
What makes us truly happy? Many people believe that "achieving & receiving" makes for the happiest life. But the research says otherwise.
According to the latest science, true happiness comes from practicing compassion. It is when we help our fellow man, when we feel connected to the world, when we give expecting nothing in return, when we are kind just to be kind, and when we see people as "other-selves" instead of "others" — that life takes on meaning and purpose.
In fact, a brain imaging study by University of British Columbia researchers showed that, when we donate to charity, our brain's "pleasure center" lights up like the full moon on a clear night. Another University of San Diego study found that acts of kindness, generosity, and cooperation spread like wildfire to everyone nearby.
If spreading joy throughout the world wasn't enough, practicing compassion and kindness opens the door to a host of health benefits. Like what? From living longer, to alleviating anxiety, to lifting depression, to strengthening immunity, the list goes on.
It seems that the old saying "Give... and you shall receive" is anchored in truth.
Becoming More Kind & Compassionate
"Sounds wonderful. I want to be a beacon of light too. But I also want to throw my shoe at humanity from time to time. Aren't kind and compassionate people born that way?"
According to the science, no. Our brain (and our level of consciousness) can be strengthened like a muscle. That's the power of neuroplasticity.
To illustrate, we have all heard stories of the elbow throwing, no holds barred Wall Street banker who gave up a life of riches to help others, whether teaching at a rough inner-city school (for little pay) or volunteering at an orphanage in India.
The point is that we can "right the ship" at any point in life. We can level up our human "kindness o'meter" through our thoughts and actions, regardless of our past. We are never "set" in our capacities.
While each day presents multiple opportunities to "spread the love," shifting into "kindness gear" is easier said than done. Luckily, meditation launches our "compassion consciousness" into orbit.
Meditation Trains Your Brain To Be Kind And Compassionate
And it all starts with the brain. A highly cited UCLA School of Medicine study found that the "right anterior dorsal insula" of meditators to be highly active while in session. What's the link?
As shown by University of Wisconsin neuroscientists' brain imaging, this happens to be the same brain area that lights up like a Christmas tree when our "kindness & compassion o-meter" is full bore.
Is it just a coincidence that many of history's greatest humanitarians were also meditators? Could it be that the ancient practice literally "forged" their brain toward kindness and compassion? Was it meditation's massive shift in consciousness that propelled them to do such great things?
While becoming a kinder and more compassionate person may not put a Nobel Prize on your trophy shelf, it most certainly can make the day of anyone who crosses your path. It's often the little things that make the world a better place, the butterfly effect is a powerful thing.
With your freshly upgraded "put yourself in other people's shoes" and "see your face in others" meditative mindset, how much positive change can you spark in the world?
Change your thoughts. Change your life. Change the world. Discover meditation.