compassion is defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help.

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It makes us happy (as happy as getting money)!
Brain-imaging studies  have showed that the “pleasures centers” in the brain, i.e. the parts of our brains that are active when we experience pleasure (like dessert, money, sex) are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves!

 In fact, it makes us happier than buying things for ourselves.
Giving to others increases well-being above and beyond spending money on ourselves! In a revealing experiment published in Science by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, participants received a sum of money. Half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves and the other half were told to spend the money on others. At the end of the study, participants that had spent money on others felt significantly happier than those that had spent money on themselves. This is true even for infants! A recent study by Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues at the University of British Columbia shows that, even in children as young as 2, giving treats to others increases their happiness more than receiving treats themselves.

 It makes us attractive.
Marketing companies may try to tell us that the secret to finding our soulmate lies in anti-wrinkle chemical peels or muscle-inflating protein powders. However, both men and women agree that a major secret to attractiveness is a kind heart. In a study on dating preferences, researchers found that one trait both genders agreed was important in potential partners kindness.

 It uplifts everyone around us.
Research  at the University of Virginia suggests that seeing someone helping another person creates a state of “elevation.” Have you ever been moved to tears by seeing someone’s loving and compassionate behavior? The data suggests that it may be this elevation that then inspires us to help others — and it may just be the force behind a chain reaction of giving.

It spreads like wildfire.
Social scientists have demonstrated that helping is contagious — acts of generosity and kindness beget more generosity in a chain reaction of goodness. You may have seen one of the news reports about chain reactions that occur when someone pays for the coffee of the drivers behind them at a drive-through restaurant or at a highway tollbooth. People keep the generous behavior going for hours. Try this at home.

 It boosts our health and longevity.
Helping others may lead to health, longevity and happiness. University of Michigan researcher Stephanie Brown, in a study of over 400 elderly people, found that those who helped others more were healthier, happier and lived longer than others. Of course, one reason for these findings may be that people who are healthier have more opportunity to be of help to others. However, data indicates that positive emotions and social connections (both a consequence of helping others) have a positive and protective effect on health that may explain these findings.

It’s the most natural thing.
One reason why compassion might feel so good is that it’s natural to us. Though economists and grumps may ba-humbug, many spiritual traditions teach us that, at our core, we are loving, generous, and kind. Research with infants backs up these claims. Research  at the Max Planck Institute have found that infants automatically engage in helpful behavior. Dale Miller at the Stanford Business School shows that adults, too, are also automatically driven to help others. The difference between children and adults is that adults will often stop themselves because they worry that others think they are self-interested.

It’s good for the environment.
No scientific evidence needed here. Being kind, caring and empathetic to your friends, colleagues, neighbors and strangers on the street just makes sense. It’s not only good for you, its good for our society, community, and the world around us. And since it’s contagious, why not spread it far and wide?

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