7 Ways To Cultivate More Compassion and Harmony in All Your Relationships This Year
As humans, we all want to be loved. Naturally, this leads us to seek out love—and, by extension, affection and attention—on dating apps, on social media, from wherever we might get it. We crave the validation of being seen and heard. But what if, instead of looking externally for love, you searched within? You'll be better equipped to practice self care if you understand that you are a source of love, and that love isn’t just a noun but a verb, too. Love is something you are, something you can be.
Embodying love in this way can help you learn how to practice more compassion on a daily basis. Self-compassion allows you to soften your expectations and judgments, replacing them with acceptance and kindness. This energy is radiant, first benefiting your relationship with yourself and allowing you to feel more joyful as you move about the world, and from there, pouring outward, infusing your interactions with others with more ease and harmony.
Sharing this kind of compassion is an act self care, too—because part of self care is being able to go through life feeling more harmonious with others. Just consider the reverse: If there’s a lot of jaggedness and friction in our interactions, we’re going to feel more stressed because of the resistance that we’re constantly coming up against. But, again, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Love isn’t just a noun but a verb, too. Love is something you can do.
In the "You Are Love" chapter of my new book You Are More Than You Think You Are, I discuss how activating love in your life will attract love right back to you from a variety of different sources. This, in turn, will help you to build more meaningful relationships and to uphold them with more ease, and it will remind you that we are all more similar than we are different. It has to start with you, though, which is why this third week of our self-care-focused program focuses on simple strategies for cultivating more compassion in the ways that you connect with yourself and with others.
Day 15: Do an act of love
Learning how to practice more compassion for others starts simply with sprinkling compassionate moments into your day, in big ways and small. So, on this first day of week three, commit to doing an act of love at some point during your morning routine. That might mean texting a friend to let them know you’re thinking of them, giving your pet a snuggle, tipping the barista at your coffee shop a little extra (if you can), or simply smiling at a person who walks by. You will start to realize that as people feel the love you’re putting out, they’ll gravitate toward you like moths to a flame.
Day 16: Take a step to expand your circle of friends
You may feel as though you’ve gotten to a certain point in life where you’re set on friends—for better or for worse. Perhaps you have your college friends and your work friends, and you’re cool with that. Or, maybe you feel like you could use a few more friends, but the prospect of actually going out and finding them is daunting, so you choose to not bother. In any case, I challenge you to take a step today to make a new friend.
When we get too insular with our group of friends, it keeps the heart small. And part of learning how to practice more compassion means connecting with new people who teach us new ways of sharing and exchanging love and who expand our perspectives of ourselves.
As for how to do that? While there are certainly apps and online communities for growing your network, I also recommend considering the loose connections in your sphere that you might turn into new friends. Maybe there’s somebody who regularly attends the same workout class as you do and you’re drawn to their energy; or perhaps there’s a colleague who you know lives nearby and with whom you’re always friendly but haven’t spent time outside work. Just reach out to that person and ask them to get together.
If the above doesn’t apply, consider people who may be “fringe” friends in your life (the friends-of-friends who lie beyond your inner circle) or people with whom you used to be close and have since fallen out of touch. Even if you feel awkward reaching back out, research shows that a random or out-of-the-blue text is often far more appreciated than we might think.
Day 17: Commit to non-violent speech
Words come with immense power. (Remember the positive affirmations from week one of our self-care program?) By wielding accusatory, judgmental, or critical words—whether as part of your conversations with others or with yourself—you could be inadvertently bringing a lot of violence into your communication and channeling the same kind of violent words from others.
Instead, make a commitment to speaking today from a place of acceptance, understanding, and love versus separation and accusation. Try to watch your thoughts, and whenever upset or angry comments arise in your head, consider how you might replace them with statements on how you’re feeling. For example, rather than telling someone that they’re not listening to you or they’re not paying attention, lead with an “I” statement about how that makes you feel, like, “I am feeling ignored,” or “I feel judged.” This way, you’re owning your feelings, rather than projecting them onto someone else.
You can also practice compassion verbally by expressing more of the positive thoughts about others that don't normally make it out of your head. The more words of kindness that you share with the people around you, the more you’re bound to share with yourself, too.
Day 18: Find a point of similarity in a conversation with someone
In a conversation with someone today—be it your partner, a friend, or a coworker—consciously focus on how you’re similar. Simply identifying a point of similarity (rather than focusing on a point of difference) will make the conversation more harmonious and leave you feeling more at peace when it's over.
Research on how we connect and interact with others has found that we tend to like people more when we perceive them to be similar to us (even if they aren’t actually that similar). And it’s always a positive thing for our emotional state and our relationships to feel as if we like the people with whom we’re interacting.
Day 19: Take a social media or news break
It’s tough to make connections with the actual humans in your life if you’re constantly existing in an online version of reality. While it may not be possible or even wise to completely disconnect from social media or the 24-hour news cycle, try taking a break from it all for at least a few hours today in order to be fully present with yourself, your real-life environment, and the people within it.
The benefits of disconnecting, even if just for a short hiatus, include not only the opportunity to have more meaningful connections with the real people in your life, but also, the chance to invest more time and energy into the things you need and want to do for yourself.
Day 20: Say “no” to an engagement or activity you feel so-so about
It might sound like a paradox, but the more you uphold your personal boundaries, the better your relationships with others stand to be. If you’re consistently saying “yes” to plans or events that you don’t want to attend, you’ll just begin to resent the people inviting you, which doesn’t make for a good foundation for those relationships. Instead, it’s a much healthier practice to care for yourself by turning down the invitations and requests that infringe on your personal space and time and don’t bring value (so you can more wholeheartedly accept the ones that do).
Today, I challenge you to take that one step further and also say "no" to an engagement about which you feel so-so or lukewarm in exchange for spending time doing something you really love alone. Embrace the opportunity for me-time by taking a relaxing bath, going to your favorite park, doing yoga at home, or even just taking five minutes of silence to check in with yourself. Doing any supportive solo activity for any amount of time can be additive.
If you feel any pangs of guilt for saying "no," just remember that taking some time to refill your own cup actually makes you a better friend, coworker, partner, and so on, to others. After all, self-connection is the foundation for all the other connections we have.
Day 21: Practice gratitude before you eat a meal
A gratitude practice doesn’t just have the power to lower your stress levels and improve your outlook; even when practiced solo, gratitude may also help you feel less lonely by giving you a greater sense of connection to things outside of yourself.
While it’s a good idea for your mental health and the strength of your relationships to practice gratitude whenever it occurs to you to do so, it can be easy to forget about it in the rush of daily responsibilities—which is why I suggest doing it before meals. That way, the meal is both a signal to engage in the practice and also something for which to be grateful, in and of itself (even if no other reasons for gratitude come to mind on a particularly stressful day).
With my family, each night before dinner, I say grace and then everyone goes around the table and says what they’re grateful for. (Even my youngest child, who’s two years old, has caught on to the idea and will say something like, “Food!” which certainly counts!) You can adopt this practice with roommates or a partner, or just do it by yourself if you’re eating alone. In any case, a pre-meal gratitude ritual can double as a moment of mindfulness, an opportunity to feel more connected, and a feel-good reminder of how lucky you are to have enough food on the table.
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