While watching a TED talk this evening I heard a line that really impacted me: "studies have shown that compassion enhances the immune system." This comes as no surprise, but I immediately started researching it online to find out more.
The data originated from Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies, where researchers discovered that individuals who engage in compassion meditation (a deep focus on interactions with others and feelings of empathy) may benefit by reductions in inflammatory and behavioral responses to stress. Here's a great summary of the study, taken from Family Health Guide:
When events in life leave us stressed, cortisol and interleukin-6 usually increase, especially if the situations are long-lasting and we cannot shake off the stress. But compassion meditation buffers the effects of stressful life situations, not only psychologically by making us feel better, but also physically by reducing the actual biological agents of potential illness in our bodies, thereby protecting us from illness.
Meditiation in general can change brain structure within two months and is a great way to set your intentions for the day to treat people and animals with love and respect. If so many positive changes can occur from meditiation, imagine how much of an impact physical acts of compassion have on our bodies. On the other hand, stress and anger have been found to have the exact opposite effect and result in heart problems, cancer, depression and beyond.
Compassion comes in many forms and enhances our lives and those around us. That is why it is one of the driving forces behind people who go out of their way to take care of the environment and animals. How wonderful to know that it can lead to physical health as well.
What forms of compassion have you been demonstrating lately?
I designed the above image to spread around social media because I feel this is such a powerful piece of information - please feel free to share it with anyone who could benefit from the inspiration. This was a modification done without permission using a popular image by Don Farrall.