Do you know that 70% of all people who seek medical attention for headaches find they have nothing to do with any organic reason? It is simply stress!

Are you aware that 40% of the workforce is on some type of medication for anxiety or depression? Why does a country who consumes 25% of the world’s resources face such an epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and depression?

It is an epidemic that comes not out of economic loss but from a loss of compassion and lack of meaningful social connection. This epidemic was further fueled by the shut-down throughout the world due to COVID-19.

In today’s evolving pandemic-world, it is fair to say not a single soul went untouched by the COVID virus and its variants. Nor did few escape the outfall from the social unrest and political toxicity that followed.

A world where remote work became the norm overnight simply fostered uncertainty, unpredictability, and the unexpected. Isolation, lack of social engagement, and limited access to usual activities only increased behavioral health concerns people worldwide.

While the future look of work is still uncertain, it will be one markedly different than what was known.

“As human beings, we will inevitably encounter suffering at some point in our lives. However, we also have evolved very specific social mechanisms to relieve that pain: altruism and compassion.”

James R. Doty, M.D. 299, Contributor, Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine; Director, Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

When we shift our mindset around ‘compassion,’ we shift what happens inside of us physiologically. What happens to us physically is at the attention of major research institutions like Stanford. The neuroscience of our brain and how it reacts to a display of compassion has produced surprising findings in ways that we can now embrace compassion for the health and well-being of ourselves and those around us.

A display and the receipt of ‘Compassion’ impacts both the sender and the receiver by releasing oxytocin – the brain ‘love’ chemical. Oxytocin, in turn, activates dopamine (the brain reward transmitter) and serotonin (the anxiety reducing transmitter). The combination contributes to happiness and optimism and puts us on the same pathway to love or feeling good. Through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), we can see the act of compassion lighting up the same region as love while empathy and sympathy light up in the brain closer to the area of pain.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has long reframed ‘compassion’ as a state of being “WARM-HEARTED.” (Afterall, who wants to show up and develop a reputation of being “COLD-HEARTED?”)

When we show up with warm-heartedness, it reduces blood pressure, stress, and anxiety while improving health. Research now shows that living in ‘compassion’ predicts a longer life, faster recovery from disease, and greater happiness. Those living with a mindset of ‘compassion’ experience greater purpose, meaning, and well-being.

When we hold back, our vulnerability to disease and death increases…more than if we smoked, are overweight or lack physical activity.

“When we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action.

- Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

But what holds us back in displaying of compassion towards others?

It is all about FEAR! And, FEAR, according to Zig Ziglar, is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real.

We hold back in showing compassion because we FEAR it will take more than what we can give and more than what we can manage. Or we do not know what to expect and it becomes a fear of the unknown.

Compassion is that meaningful social connectedness lacking, particularly in our chaotic world of pandemic, social and political unrest. Showing up “warm-hearted” when facing someone’s pain, instead of confronting it with fear, can go a long way in changing the face and direction of today’s society, the workplace, and towards social peace?

So, what is ‘compassion’ and how we do we get and build our ability for showing compassion?

Compassion is a 2-step process:

  1. Acknowledging the emotion of another (which is ‘empathy’) even when we do not understand it or have experienced the emotion triggered. But it doesn’t stop there. Empathy must be linked with Step#2.
  2. Being motivated to act in a way that relieves the emotion and tension someone is experiencing.

Stanford & Emory Universities present these tips for cultivating compassion with others:

  • Find similarities with others
  • Encourage cooperation over competition
  • See people as individuals rather than abstractions
  • Believe in your power to do good
  • Notice how good compassion feelsRecognize that compassion is contagious. It starts with you to take the lead. It starts with YOU!
  • And teach and cultivate compassion in children…the best practice is to lead by your own example and show it to others. Teaching this to our youth is needed more than ever given the high rates of depression and suicide among today’s teens and the impact of social media.

Three keys for ‘living in compassion’:

  1. Your presence matters in how you show up and connect with others, how you listen, and how you engage!
  2. Live in the light, love on the day and give out joy in every way! Be mindful of how you start your day…your mood is contagious and ripples through family, community, and organization. Start it off in good spirits and spread the seeds of good will!
  3. Practice the Law of Reciprocity…

”You gotta give to get back. And watch out for what you give as you might just get it back!”- Debra Dupree

“Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” - Mark Twain

Here’s my 30-day challenge to you – see what a difference you can make in your life and the lives of others within 30 days of reading this article. Post on Facebook and let the world know how your life and the lives of others are changed: (2) Dr. Debra Dupree - The Mindset Doc | Facebook

About the author: Dr. D is the CEO | Founder of Relationships of Work, supplying dispute resolution services by resolving conflict one conversation at a time. She is passionate about supporting people in living happier and healthier lives by reducing conflict in their lives.

She has mediated hundreds of workplace disputes and seen performance at all levels damaged by poor communication and conflict management skills. Known as expert in corporate communication, workplace conflict and emotional intelligence, her training sessions deliver immediate takeaways to put into action in your workplace and at home.

She is a nationally recognized speaker, podcast host of ‘Decoding the Conflict Mindset’ and a regular contributor to Aurora Training Advantage.

She is the author of the forthcoming book: The Psychology of Good Bosses vs. Bad Bosses: Why it matters for Today’s Leader. She also authored two eBooks called “Building a Courageous Culture” and “Your Emotional Potential: How You Show Up Matters” (available on Kindle)

Originally published on FORBES, October 2018 and updated post-pandemic for Aurora Training Advantage, January 2022.