Heads Up

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Weekly wellbeing links

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

The first sentence of this report on compassion from Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre seems to be a good fit as we head into the Thanksgiving weekend: “Compassion literally means ‘to suffer together.’”

Maybe that’s simply post-turkey suffering, or the suffering of family dynamics, or maybe this is a weekend when we think of those in our community, near or far, who may be suffering and we’re inspired to be compassionate.

One way to think about compassion is articulated by Karen Armstrong in this article from Brain Pickings: “Golden Rule and Compassion.” Armstrong says: “Compassion asks us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.” This could be an interesting discussion prompt during a family dinner.

In the Evolutionary Roots of Compassion video, Dr. Dacher Keltner explains the evolution of compassion and reminds us that Darwin said “sympathy is our strongest instinct, stronger than self-interest.” He suggests that the brain is “wired up to respond to others’ suffering — indeed, it makes us feel good when we can alleviate that suffering.” Keltner is one of many researchers who’ve proven a direct link between compassion and its positive impact on our brains.

Dr. Dan Siegel “emphasizes compassion as a key component of a healthy mind.” Compassion has been linked to better heart health, better mental health, reduced anxiety, better focus, increased empathy, resilience, happiness and even as “vital to the survival of our species.”

But what about achievement and getting ahead? This video does a good job of dispelling the myth of having to be ruthless to get ahead, illuminates the benefits of compassion, and offers specific skills to practice that support being compassionate, such as listening.

If you’re curious about your feelings towards humanity, take this “Connection to Humanity Quiz.”

Maybe this weekend, as we spend some time giving thanks, we can turn that gratitude into compassionate action. Watch this gorgeous three-minute film by Louie Schwartzberg and scroll down to the suggested activities.

Younger children may enjoy doing 100 Random Acts of Kindness (number nine is awesome).

Try using this tip to help make caring and  kindness part of your child’s identity: Rather than praising them by saying, “That was a kind thing to do,” say, “You are such a kind person.” More suggestions like this can be found in Cultivating Kindness and Compassion.

Older kids might benefit from this self-compassion activity. We could all take Sharon Salzburg’s advice from this short animated video and simply “pay attention” to others.

I wish you “great fullness” (in every sense) this weekend.  Please be in touch if you have any comments or questions.

Laurie Fraser, Character Program Director
lfraser@ucc.on.ca

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