Empathy, the ability to understand and feel what the other is going through, is both a blessing and a curse. For people who are extremely emphatic, putting themselves in the other’s shoes can become overwhelming. You can feel like the wastebasket for other people’s emotions. And therefore you might be tempted to put on an armor to protect yourself. But is there another way?
Witnessing other people’s pain can activate the pain system in your own brain. So we can learn to become immune to it. But recent research shows that if you can catch negative feelings, the same ability for empathy can make us catch other people’s joy.
This kind of positive empathy activates the brain’s reward system. And it has important benefits: overall life satisfaction, serenity and better interpersonal relationships.
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In other words, you can catch joy from seeing somebody enjoying their meal, becoming a parent, learning something new or overcoming an important obstacle in their lives.
These small or bigger accomplishments of others can make us enjoy our own life more and stay tuned to hope when things aren’t going great in own life.
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So even though we are more inclined to feel the suffering of others rather than their happiness, we can cultivate this ability for positive empathy.
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Because joy is contagious, try to be open to these little moments of bliss:
- Delight yourself by watching a child or an animal play
- Witness the skill, effort or artistry of a competition without taking sides
- Listen carefully when somebody is telling you about their accomplishments
- Get your motivation from acknowledging the good deeds of others, their courage, honesty or kindness
- Don’t be afraid to let others help you; it will make them feel good about themselves and it will strengthen your bond
Allow yourself to be connected to everything that happens around you. Please share this!