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Your Brain on Compassion: How the Experience of Kindness Rewires Your Brain For Happiness

Your Brain on Compassion: How the Experience of Kindness Rewires Your Brain For Happiness

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to almost naturally exude compassion?  They’re the first people to show up during a tough time. They’re the people who always seem to know exactly what to say in moments of crisis.


What makes these people special isn’t so much what they say or even what they do.  It’s how they show up in the world.  It’s their way of being.  It’s a subtle quality that’s almost impossible to wrap words around.  But when you watch these people, it’s almost like they live from a deep sense of kindness.


You probably know people like this.  And, of course, history is full of accounts of these folks.  People like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, and Gandhi.


Here’s the really interesting thing.  It’s tempting to view these people as fundamentally different from the rest of us – as natural masters compassion.  But breakthroughs in neuroscience over the last few years offer a different picture.


The science shows that compassion is more like playing the piano than your height or skin color.  It’s not a fixed quality.  It’s a skill.  And just like playing the piano or any other skill, it’s something you can train.


What’s the proof?  Consider a recent study conducted by Helen Weng at the University of Wisconsin.  Subjects in this study spent just two weeks practicing compassion meditation for 30 minutes a day.  At the end of the study, researchers measured brain activity when both the compassion group and the control group watched images of others suffering.


They found that just two weeks of compassion training changed the brain of subjects, activating brain regions associated with empathy and understanding.  This led researchers to conclude that compassion is a muscle – all it takes is a little training to develop it.


The upshot of this is that you can train this powerful skill.  And when you do, your experience of life changes.  This experience of compassion is associated with greater empathy, understanding, and happiness.


And remember that when it comes to Life Cross Training, this practice is just the beginning.  We have developed an entire inner technology for training these powerful habits of wellbeing.  To learn more, go to where you can buy the book Start Here and sign up for our free 4-week e-course on mindfulness.