Boosting Empathy Through Meditation

Empathy is the ability to recognize and relate to the emotions another person or sentient being is feeling. If we did not possess empathy, we would not be able to be compassionate towards one another. However, some people do not naturally have enough empathy to truly feel compassion. In other words, you might be sympathetic towards someone else because you are intelligent enough to recognize they are suffering, but you do not feel any compassion for them because you don’t empathize with them. And even if you do feel genuine empathy and compassion towards others, remember there is no such thing as having too much empathy.

New research at Emory University now suggests that meditation can actually boost an individual’s ability to empathize. The study’s co-author, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, had participants practice a new type of compassion-based meditation called, Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT). After the participants completed the CBCT program, researchers used behavioral tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to measure their empathy. The results showed that the participants who practiced CBCT had much higher levels of neural activity in the parts of the brain responsible for empathy than those who did not.

So, why is it so important to have empathy? For starters, people who have a high degree of empathy experience better relationships throughout their lives. When you are able to sense the emotions of another person, you are better at communicating with that person, and better at knowing how to act appropriately around them – two very important aspects of maintaining a healthy relationship, be it romantic or platonic. Also, people appreciate when someone else genuinely cares for them and has concern for their needs. Think about it: aren’t you more likely to be kind towards someone who you know really cares about you?

Another reason it is important to have empathy is that empathy can be directly related to a person’s emotional quotient (E.Q.). E.Q. is like your I.Q. when it comes to emotions. It’s literally your emotional intelligence. Scientists have known for quite some time now that a person’s E.Q. plays a bigger role in their success than their I.Q. In fact, it’s estimated that success in the work place is about 80 percent E.Q. compared to 20 percent I.Q.

Lastly, just imagine living in a more compassionate world… Wouldn’t you prefer to be part of a world in which everyone has true compassion for one another than one in which everyone is self-centered and uncaring? The answer is clear. By starting a regular meditation program based on compassion, you can begin boosting your empathy today.



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