In a recent article by Aseem Desai, MD published on KevinMD.com, the author highlights a feeling that many have had and will continue to experience in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we sit in our homes, maintaining social distancing requirements, there is a want and yearning to do more. But what can one do that will allow them to have the desired impact on our community during these times of fear, pain, and uncertainty? The question we are all asking, out loud or silently, is “how can I help?”. Desai asserts the answer lies in compassion.
Compassion is defined as a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it, through action. As stated by the author, however, the challenge is knowing what needs others have and specifically how we can best help. The good news is, that when it comes to compassion, ‘action’ can take many forms, all of which have a positive impact on the receiver, the giver, and the greater community. For this reason, Desai refers to compassion as a win/win/win as described below.
Win #1: The person being helped is made to feel better, uplifted, or relieved as the result of being supported or helped by another.
Win #2: As humans, our wellbeing and sense of satisfaction are increased or boosted through the act of giving to or helping others. Scientific studies have examined the brain activity associated with acts of compassion and found increased levels of dopamine, “the brain’s ‘feel-good’ hormone”.
Win #3: Helping others and doing good is contagious and has a butterfly effect. In other words, people feel a need to “pay it forward”. Therefore, when one person is helped by another, they are more likely to then find a way to help someone else. The act of compassion then “goes viral”.
Desai closes his article with a challenge for all of us to let compassion be the vaccine for society. In today’s world, this is certainly applicable to more than just the pandemic. Whether it be a smile to communicate that things are going to be okay, shared words of motivation, acts of encouragement or support during a difficult time, a random act of kindness or providing a shoulder to lean on and a willingness to listen without judgment, we all have the power and ability to improve the wellbeing of another and the world around us as a result.
In quoting the Dalai Lama, he leaves us with this –
“Compassion is not a religious business, it is a human business, it is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”