The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1104: Why Compassion Is Key to a Good Life

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People who practice compassion are healthier and happier, even though their primary focus is on doing something to mitigate another person's suffering.
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In a cruel world, compassion might seem like a frivolous pursuit. But our guest expert argues convincingly that we need compassion now more than ever, if only to keep from falling into despair. What is compassion, and what does science have to do with it?

The Science of Compassion:

Compassion is a response to perceiving the suffering of another being with an urge to mitigate that suffering. There are strong biological and physiological underpinnings to this response. Before we can act to relieve suffering, however, we must find the courage to do so. Where does that come from?

Compassion Is Different from Empathic Distress:

Simply feeling another person’s pain is not compassion. Moreover, it will make you miserable without helping the other. But finding some way to alleviate that suffering, even in part, can have genuine benefits for both parties. People who practice compassion are happier and healthier.

Finding the Courage to Act with Compassion:

Learn why compassion is linked to forgiveness and how you can learn to practice it. You’ll also find out why practicing compassion with a focus on making your own life better doesn’t work; the focus must be on the other. How does science explain that phenomenon?

This Week’s Guest:

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University. People’s Pharmacy listeners have previously heard her discuss her books, The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress. Dr. McGonigal offers Compassion Cultivation Training through the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism. The Science of Compassion is her 6-CD audio course.

Her website is www.kellymcgonigal.com

To follow her on Twitter: @kellymcgonigal

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