Can Compassion Save the World?

The concept of paying it forward is gaining popularity, and for good reason. Each time you see a news clip of a waitress getting a four-figure tip or a secret Santa paying off layaway charges at a local retailer, it gives off a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Sure, gestures like these won’t save the world, but for many, they’re personally life changing. Why? They make people feel appreciated, loved, and cared for, even if for a short moment in time. The lasting effects might encourage that person to turn around and share compassion and kindness themselves when they have the means.

In a recent article on the Deseret News website, author John Hoffmire talks about how kindness, compassion, and sympathy affect both those around us and ourselves — and whether or not these instincts can be learned — amid the troubles we face daily.

“We are designed to care and to connect. By helping others, we help ourselves, improving our health and even our longevity. And yet, in innumerable contexts, self-serving interests can override compassion as we are overwhelmed by the stresses, pressures, and experiences of everyday life,” he explains. “Loneliness, isolation, and depression can, in part, be explained by a decline in social connectedness — 25 percent of Americans say that they have no one in whom to confide.”

Hoffmire’s piece was inspired by an experiment he read in Science magazine. The findings indicate that social connections have the ability to strengthen our immune systems and promote longevity. It’s clear that, before anyone can truly give themselves to others, they must first feel whole in their own personal lives.

Breaking a Negative Cycle

Seven years ago, I was on a downward spiral of health problems. An autoimmune reaction kept me away from work for a month, leaving me bedridden and unsure of the future. As I researched disability assistance, I wondered if this was it: Was this to be my new life? I then realized I had to pull myself away from those hopeless thoughts and take control. I’m the only person in charge of me, and if I don’t change my direction, who will? I chose to have compassion for myself.

I began to break my own cycle of misery and became proactive. I spent hours researching my health condition, reading about alternative therapies, and consciously choosing to make my life better so I could in turn be a more productive member of society. Thankfully, a regimen of eating a whole-foods-based diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising daily have made my multiple health conditions more manageable.

Today, I’m able to pay my refocused life forward. I spend hours each month volunteering my time to help others. From walking alongside special riders atop therapy horses to giving advice to aspiring writers on my blog, I’m finally in a position to be a link in the societal chain that binds us all.

So today you can choose: Do you want to help others and in turn learn how to become more present and aware of your own life choices? Or will you succumb to the pressures life presents? You may not be able to save the world, but you can start by saving yourself and making a difference in the lives of others.

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