A Little Compassion Goes A Long Way

04/11/2010 17:28 | Updated 22 May 2015

You were born compassionate. So was I. So was the person over there stabbing pins into a small cloth doll.

Flickr, eflon

Truth is, we're hardwired to feel for others. Scientists have identified what they call the 'empathy circuit' - one of the first areas of the brain to form - which lights up when we see someone suffering. Basically, it can't tell the difference between when we're hurting or they're hurting.

Infants will burst into tears at the tape-recorded sound of other infants crying (but not at a recording of their own cries). Us grown ups, meanwhile, have tear glands that automatically start producing tears when we hear someone else crying, even if we have no sense of welling up ourselves.

Science also has something else to tell us about compassion - not that we can't work it out for ourselves - showing and receiving compassion is very good for our health. And for everyone else's. It can make the world a better place.

The Buddha-like big softie in you

So let's be the kind souls we really are. It doesn't take much effort; just the breaking of some stuffy of societal rules about not trusting strangers.

Here are five simple ways to bring out the Buddha-like big softie in you on your way home from work today.

1. As you leave, thank the cleaner for making the office a tidy space to walk into every morning. It might be the first time they've ever been told that they make a difference.

2. Offer your place in the shop queue to the person behind you.

3. Compliment someone. Maybe you love their shoes or bag. Tell them. It'll give them a buzz.

4. If you're meeting a friend, give them a hug. And mean it.

5. Just for a moment, stop finding fault with things; it's a bad habit like any other. Instead, look for something to be grateful for. Like your train being on time. Or a funny text from a friend when you needed it.

(6. Give yourself recognition for choosing to brighten up someone else's day and yours while you were at it. You made a difference - one mighty fine reason to be a little bit happier).

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