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“This is your brain on empathy”

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Creating a meaningful and purposeful life is an essential ingredient of human wellbeing.

But how do you discover who you are and why you’re here?

This is your brain on empathyPick up any self-help book written in the past 50 years and you’ll be told that the best way to learn about yourself is to spend time on introspection or in quiet contemplation. By indulging in a little naval gazing, and examining your innermost desires, hopes and aspirations, you’ll discover meaning and direction in life.

The key to ‘outrospection’ is empathy.
How you interact with others is greatly influenced by your ability to understand other people’s mental lives — their feelings, desires, thoughts and intentions. Cultivating your ability to empathise with others has the power to transform your life and revolutionise human relationships.

We define empathy as the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions.

The neural basis of empathy.
Neuroscientists and psychologists who study the neural basis of human empathy describe two types of empathy: cognitive empathy (understanding another’s perspective) and emotional empathy (understanding another’s feelings). Researchers are busy mapping the complex neural networks involved these two distinct but related empathy traits.  (Visit: http://www.natutralhealing-clinic.com)

Can learn to empathize, or is it hard-wired?
Researchers have also shown that empathy isn’t a hard-wired mental attribute that you either possess or not, but one that can be cultivated or learned over time.

This is your brain on empathyIn one study doctors were enrolled in empathy-training classes in which they focused on improving their listening skills, learned to decode facial expressions and body language, and learned about the importance of understanding patients’ life stories. Afterwards the doctors’ empathy significantly increased (and strikingly, this improvement was rated by their patients).

Children can also learn empathy.
In the Roots of Empathy program a class ‘adopts’ a baby for a year, and the baby and parent visit the classroom every three weeks. During the visits the students are encouraged to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings. For example, the baby may start crying and the facilitator will ask the children why they think the baby is crying. Numerous evaluations of the program have shown it reduces playground bullying, improves pupils’ relationships with their parents, improves academic performance, and increases both cognitive and emotional empathy.

How to train your brain for empathy
These studies show that empathy can be thought of as skill we can practice and improve. Here are six daily (or weekly) ideas that we suggest for cultivating empathy.

Switch on your empathic brain. Recognise that empathy is at the core of human nature. Empathy isn’t just something you are born with. Most people can expand their capacity for empathy — both cognitive and emotional empathy — by practising mindful attention towards other people’s feelings and experiences. (Visit: http://www.natutralhealing-clinic.com)

Make the imaginative leap. Make a conscious effort to step into another person’s shoes. Acknowledge their humanity, their individuality and perspectives. Try this for both your friends and your ‘enemies’.

Seek experiential adventures. Explore lives and cultures that contrast with your own.

“Next time you are planning a holiday, don’t ask yourself, ‘Where can I go next?’ but instead ‘Whose shoes can I stand in next?’” .

Practice the craft of conversation. Engage others in conversation and practice radical listening — simply focus intently on listening to their feelings and needs without interrupting.

“Take off your own emotional mask, and risk showing your vulnerability. Ultimately, most of us just want to be listened to and understood” .

Travel in your armchair. Transport yourself into the minds of others with the help of art, literature, film and online social networks.

Get curious about strangers. At least once a week have a conversation with a stranger. Make sure you get beyond everyday chatter about the weather and talk about the stuff that really matters in life—love, death, politics, religion.

“You might strike up a discussion with one of the cleaners at the office, or the woman who sells you bread each morning.

It’s surprising how fascinating, energising and enlightening it can be to talk to someone different from yourself.”

Do You Need Help?
Visit: http://www.naturalhealing-clinic.com

Author: Body Mind and Spiritual Wellness

Discover a place of healing where only the best 10 experts from a variety of fields come together to assist you in reaching your health goals. We offer sessions in alternative therapies, and our practitioners provide practical and achievable solutions to your health and well-being issues; and, they do so in a calm and supportive environment. Here, you’ll find a place where you can connect mind, body and spirit and discover how to live a balanced and healthy life. Body, Mind and Spiritual Wellness is a great place to learn about health and wellness and their benefits, and kick start a healthy program that will allow you to relax, take a break from this busy world and find some tranquility.

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