During this season of holidays many of us become singularly focused on expensive gift-giving. Why not use this as an opportunity to give the gift of compassion to others as well?
Interestingly, many religious prophets like Jesus, Buddha or Muhammad all were known for teachings on the benefits of compassion. For those of us who might gravitate more towards science, there are many scientific studies validating the significant impact of compassion on mood, well-being, social connection and sense of meaning. For example, a recent study at the University of British Columbia revealed that participants who were instructed to spend money that they received during an experiment on others felt significantly happier than those participants who spent that money on themselves.
As a meditation practitioner, my practice has led me to an interest in exploring how I can express compassion in my community. So I have searched for ways in my daily life to connect with others through little things like performing random acts of kindness. One of my favorite recent experiences was helping a struggling neighbor purchase clothing for a new job. I had just gotten my first paycheck from a new job myself and remembered recent feelings of financial stress and how others had helped me. It felt particularly meaningful to be able to give someone else the experience of being supported by their community in a time of need. I thought about the appreciation in my neighbor’s eyes and the benefit to his life, which might create an upward spiral of healing and positive experiences for him that in turn affect others in his life.
Some other ideas for random acts of kindness (see more in the book Instant Karma by Barbara Ann Kipfer) include feeding an expired meter for a stranger, donating goods to your local Buy Nothing Facebook group or (for those of us in the Looking Glass Counseling office area) the Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville organization. Consider leaving love notes for your partner, friends or family. Why not hold doors open for others or offer to pay for someone behind you in line for coffee? Compassion is not just about random acts of kindness, it can also be manifested in many ways throughout your life. Think about holding space for a friend or family member in a difficult conversation, practicing non-judgement of others as you are listening to their experiences, learning how to practice more loving communication in your relationships by learning how to manage yourself and your emotions during conflict. Spend quality time with loved ones, or use kind words with anyone who crosses your path, even those who might irritate you.
Melissa Lee Nilles, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor and expressive arts therapist with a Master's degree from Lesley University’s Mental Health Counseling and Expressive Arts Therapy program. She is deeply passionate about self-exploration through the arts, mindfulness practices and therapy. She seeks to collaborate with her clients using the tools of person-centered therapy, mindfulness, meditation, trauma-informed body-oriented psychotherapy and expressive arts therapy (through music therapy, art therapy, and poetry/writing therapy). Melissa also employs CBT and motivational interviewing to help you transform your life. She prefers a holistic, eclectic and interdisciplinary approach to addressing client concerns.