The holidays are here! No doubt, shopping is taking up the majority of your free time. Toys, clothes, gaming systems, TVs, speakers, and more stuff are getting crossed off your list.
Did you know that there may be a scientific reason for your love of giving?
Following two studies, scientists recently suggested that our brains actually encourage us to act more like Buddy the Elf and less like the Grinch.
In the first study, researchers sought to identify connections between kind behavior and brain activity; while, in the other, scientists reduced activity in areas of the brain associated with impulse control, to determine if a person’s empathetic actions were altered. At the end of both studies, researchers concluded that empathy and generosity guide human behavior more than selfishness.
Empathy, not to be confused with sympathy, is walking a mile in another person’s shoes. In order to be empathetic, you must actively engage with a person’s emotional experience, opening yourself up to the vulnerability of your own emotions. Practicing empathy will help you increase and solidify your social connections, as well as cultivate your understanding of others.
Here are a few ways to develop your sense of empathy:
Validate Others’ Emotions
Acknowledging how another person feels can go a long way. It lets a person know that what they feel is real, that it’s okay to have these feelings, and gives them a safe space to discuss what’s going on in their life – whether good or bad.
Be Comfortable Sitting in Silence
Many people feel awkward when they sit in silence with another person, especially since our society constantly tries to fill the silence with games, noises, and other distractions. In order to become more empathetic, find your comfort level with silence. When you are speaking with another person who is having difficulty finding the words, silence can create a space for the person to think for a moment.
Meditate on Compassion
A University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that we can rewire our brains to be more empathetic through compassion meditation, which has you wish good things for others during your practice.
Spend Time Helping Other People
Volunteering increases empathy, which in turn increases life satisfaction. Enhancing the lives of others helps us to keep the well-being of all people in the front of our minds.
Be an Active Listener
Active listening requires listening to each word, recognizing the emotions behind the words, and providing constructive feedback, whereas passive listening allows a person to “hear” and react on cue. Active listening encourages us to tune in, thus allowing for deeper connections. The more you practice, the better you will be able to read a person’s emotions.
How do you practice empathy in your daily life?