How to train a compassionate brain
In everyday life, we come across behaviors that we see in people that we dislike. Whether we find them disgusting, impatient, irrational, or obnoxious, we are judging these people. We are judging them, and we like to put them in the category of people that we don’t like
A lot of the time, we create stories to validate the reason why we dislike them so much. Where is he going that needs to be in such a hurry? She didn’t have someone that taught her good manners… These people do not have any common sense.
We are all guilty of judging others. The more we do it, the more we begin to create a distance from “those people” and consider them “not my kind of people.”
The science of happiness has been promoting that we need to cultivate more trust to build happiness chemicals in our brains. The more we connect with people, we feel a sense of trust; we produce more oxytocin and mental resilience.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is essential for our happiness. If you want to increase oxytocin, you might want to consider reducing social judgments.
Research on compassion and kindness practices indicate these practices lessen bias against these stigmatized out-groups. In our world full of discrimination and separation between groups, we have started with what we can control ourselves.
But how do we stop creating separation ?
A year ago, I learned this mindful compassion exercise that I like to use when I catch myself judging others. I can’t remember where I came across it, but it an effortless practice that is very useful. I like to do this practice to reduce criticism whenever I judge a stranger with an external behavior that I notice.
Most commonly, I do this practice when I’m driving, waiting in line, or when I become in contact with someone I do not know. This an intentional practice that cuts through the judgment on the spot and moves you towards creating a positive connection. By creating more connections we reduce the separation gap.
Notice your judgment
The first step is to notice that I started judging a stranger. I bring attention to criticizing a behavior. I stop and take a pause. I do not continue the judgments. I begin the compassion practice by repeating the phrase “Just like me.”
Notice something you can relate to
If I notice a characteristic that I can relate to, I will acknowledge it and then repeat the phrase” just like me”.
For example, Another person that is driving to get to an important place, just like me. Another woman is trying to complete her errands for today, just like me. An elderly driver, just like my father in law, trying to go somewhere, just like me.
I tend to find it beneficial to relate the person to someone I love and know that I’ll be more kind, loving, and patient.
Find more connections to you
I mentioned other factors that could contribute to someone behaving in a certain way that I will find understandable to justify their behavior.
This person may be sad, confused, overwhelmed, or sick. This person wishes not to be in pain or suffering, just like me. This person wants to be loved, healthy, and more happiness, just like me
Closing the practice
I complete the exercise by sending kindness and compassion. May you be safe, healthy, and happy. You can say it once or as many times you like.
My lessons from this practice
We are all human. We all make mistakes and have days that feel more challenging than others. Extending more compassion to others has helped with being more patient and mentally resilient. Judgment and criticism create more negativity in my life. When I am cynical or pessimistic about others, I narrow my options and promote separation.
My message to you
Do your best every day to promote more trust and kindness by positively connecting with strangers. They are not separate nor different from you. Our minds and hearts are connected if we decide that they are.
“May all beings be safe, healthy and happy”Sharon Salzeberg
How are you going to reduce judgments and create more compassion for today?