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7 Ways to Cultivate Compassion

Research shows helping others improves overall mental well-being

En español | The Golden Rule — "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" — is the bedrock of every spiritual tradition. And though we may aspire to practice compassion in our daily lives, we're not always so successful.

Still, it's worth the effort — for the benefit of others, as well as yourself. Scientific studies show that helping people actually relieves stress and improves psychological well being. As the Dalai Lama put it, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."

These seven strategies will help you flex your compassion muscle.

A woman with a mirror in front of her face.

— Maak Roberts/Gallery Stock

1. Start with yourself. We've all heard it. Love yourself. Be your own best friend. Or in Gandhi's words, Be the change you want to see in the world. There's real wisdom behind the familiar phrases. After all, how can we show compassion to others if we dump on ourselves? The key here is awareness. When I catch myself flinging invective at myself — You look fat! You're stupid! Your hair resembles a fright wig! — I'm horrified. At these moments I try to imagine what I'd say to a friend who expressed such harsh, self-judgmental thoughts — and tell it to myself.

Next: Listen and say nothing. >>

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