The Dalai Lama once said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” While we often think of compassion as being an inherent trait, it can be cultivated and strengthened over time. Spiritual philosophy has long advocated for the many benefits of compassion, both for the self and the entire world. Still, studies have proven that empathy leads to greater life satisfaction and overall wellbeing. For those in recovery from addiction, developing compassion may require even more effort than for most. On the other hand, the rewards are likely to be higher. The key to developing compassion is implementing a daily practice through intentional activities and skill-building. Becoming a more compassionate person can lead to monumental shifts in your life and the lives of those around you.
Start Each Day with Compassion
How you start your day is a powerful predictor of how the rest of the day will go. Try having a morning ritual that involves stating your intent to practice compassion throughout your day. You can do so by writing it down, meditating, or speaking it out loud to yourself in the mirror. A simple phrase like, “Today I will be compassionate by having kind thoughts about myself and others. I will help those around me however I can,” is a great way to start. You can change your daily affirmation to suit your circumstances or keep the same one, finding renewed meaning in it each morning.
Recognize Common Human Qualities
In our society, we often slip into an “us versus them” mentality. Through political differences, racism, socioeconomic stratification, etc., we see ourselves as different than others. You may be able to think of a time where you saw yourself as better than someone. Perhaps you often enter into situations with the belief that other people are superior to you. This kind of thinking can create anger, resentment, and an inability to relate to those around you. Instead, try focusing on the things you have in common with almost all human beings. Everyone, for example, wants to be happy. Almost everyone you meet is doing their best with what life has given them. Most importantly, of course, everyone is trying to avoid suffering. By focusing on these facts, it becomes easier to see situations from the perspective of others. Then, you can make choices that cause the least amount of harm.
Imagine Others’ Suffering as Your Own
Most people are naturally self-centered. Focusing on your self and your personal needs isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it is a quality born out of the instinct to survive. However, to grow and evolve as a human being, it is crucial to resist constant self-centeredness. Instead, try to open yourself up to the needs of others. You can begin to practice this skill by imagining the suffering of others and thinking about how it would feel if that suffering was your own. When you see someone who is struggling, imagine how it would feel to be in their shoes. Consider how desperate you would be to escape that suffering. Imagining those feelings is a great way to think about how you might help that person, even if it is only by lending them emotional support.
Turn Anger into Compassion
One of the most challenging aspects of developing compassion is learning to feel compassionate towards those that have hurt you. However, this is a necessary step in allowing compassion to transform your life. By seeing people who have wronged you as very similar to yourself, it becomes easier to see why they inflicted pain. Like yourself, they are merely working with what life has given them and seeking happiness. Often, people who feel the need to hurt others are the ones who are suffering the most. By letting go of anger and sending compassion to those who have hurt you, you are ridding yourself of suffering. This process is especially vital for those in recovery from addiction. Many people with addictions have suffered trauma at the hands of others, and holding on to anger can be a severe hindrance to healing. Forgiving people who have hurt you and practicing compassion towards them doesn’t necessarily mean maintaining a relationship with them. This is especially true if keeping that person in your life is likely to lead to further harm. By practicing mindfulness and cultivating kindness in your thoughts towards others, you are one step closer to a life of peace.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders. Through accountability and commitment to the 12 steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support, you can experience real and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877.