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What is Compassion?

If you want others to be happy practice compassion

If you want to be happy practice compassion

Dalai Lama

Compassion is the most transforming energy in the universe with everything we all deeply long for – kindness, caring, loving.  It is a courageous state of mind and heart, with far-reaching consequences in terms of how we experience ourselves and reality…

What is compassion and why does it matter?

More specifically, compassion is the feeling of concern that arises when we encounter pain and suffering, our own as well as others. It involves the motivation to relieve this suffering and is natural in everyone but for many reasons often not cultivated. One can feel compassion without acting on it.

Not only is compassion vital for our survival as a species, it is also positively correlated with better health, wellbeing and happiness. When we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of our brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which can result in our wanting to approach and care for other people.

Interested in compassion training, check out our Mindful Self Compassion Course

A video where Krista Tippett inspires us to reconnect with our intrinsic compassion.

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; my philosophy is kindness.”      –   The Dalai Lama

Read: Have you a harsh self critic?

What is compassion and does research supports its value?

Recent scientific research on happiness and brain function suggests that compassion results in the same kinds of brain activity that are shown when someone is in a particularly strong state of wellbeing and happiness. Meditators have long known experientially that feelings of love and compassion are accompanied by feelings of happiness, wellbeing, and even of bliss, but now science provides the proof.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, which image where different emotional states take place in the brain were placed on experienced meditators as they generated strong feelings of compassion. What the scans showed, was a strong increase in activity in the left side of the prefrontal cortex (where positive emotions – happiness, confidence take place) and a decrease in activity on the right side (where negative states – anxiety, depression take place). 

Growing research now also shows that being compassionate improves health, well-being, relationships and sense of purpose.

What is compassion and can it be developed?

Like any skill, compassion can be cultivated by meditation practice and offers many benefits:

  • Strengthens brain circuits for pleasure and reward and leads to lasting increases in self-reported happiness
  • Reduces risk of heart disease by boosting the positive effects of the vagus nerve
  • Makes people more resilient to stress; lowers stress hormones in the blood and saliva
  • Boosts the immune response
  • Increases Positive emotion, decreases rumination
  • Decreases negative emotions such as: hatred, jealousy, anger
  • Enhances communication and connection with others so better relationships
  • More compassionate people / parents / workers / societies have better social skills, take care of their most vulnerable members, assist other nations in need, and perform more acts of kindness.

A video where Jon Kabat-Zinn says Mindfulness and Compassion go together.

Feedback from participant of Mindful Self Compassion Course

“The course has made a ‘huge positive difference’. Every area of my life has changed dramatically for the better. I just cannot put into words how beneficial the course has been. I loved the emphasis on compassion. The facilitator was superb. Highly recommend!” read more feedback

For more information

Please don’t hesitate to contact Joanne if you have any query?




Joanne_large_transparentMindfulness at Work was set up by Joanne O'Malley to provide high quality Mindfulness Training. Research shows Mindfulness is effective to reduce stress, increase self awareness and deal more effectively with the demanding context in which we work and live... >> more


This course was great for me. Definitely given me lots to look forward to this year. I feel and think differently. My life has slowed down and I am letting go. I can see the b… Read more