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3 Stress Management Practices That Increase Our Empathy

Find out how proper stress management techniques can increase your empathy and strengthen relationships.

Medically reviewed in November 2020

Divided, We Suffer
Concentrating on what divides us may feed our anger and righteousness, but it doesn’t feed our hearts and our health. Of course it’s important to take a stand for what we believe in, but if what we believe in overshadows our love for each other, our hearts and our health will suffer.

Love is really what heals us in the end. It brings us together and allows us to live in harmony with one another. When we see others as different or separate from ourselves we lose site of the fact that we are all connected. What happens to one of us, happens to all of us. We can’t hurt others without ultimately hurting ourselves. Our lives are woven together and we are interdependent.

How to Increase Our Compassion
When you practice stress management, including daily yoga and meditation, you are increasing your compassion and opening to the experience of unity and love for others and yourself. You move from an awareness of only you and yours to a greater sense of us and ours.

Stress management techniques should point you in the direction of what heals your heart … compassion and love. When you experience a deep sense of connection, you lose the boundaries that divide you from others. You allow yourself to be touched and ultimately open to another’s experience. You begin to shift your attention, expand your awareness and deepen your understanding.

The Postures
The postures are designed to bring us into the experience of our own bodies. Much of our lives are spent thinking, judging and analyzing. When we do postures, we notice how and what we are feeling. The more we practice listening to our bodies, the more compassion we develop for ourselves and the body we live in, allowing us to relate to others. We can connect heart to heart and better understand the experiences another person may be having.

Relaxation
Relaxation is a learned and conscious “letting go” that allows the energy in the body to soften and dissipate. In deep states of relaxation, the body starts to feel light and transparent; you may feel a sense of losing the boundaries of your body. It’s in that moment that we begin to experience ourselves as bigger than just our own body. We start to feel a connection to everything living and breathing.

Meditation
Meditation teaches us to witness what is arising in the moment without any judgment. As we allow thought, sensation and feeling to arise without analyzing or judging, the mind starts to unwind and let go of tightly held feelings and beliefs that don’t serve us. We create more space and a longer reaction time. We begin to gain a greater overall perspective or a wider view. This wider view is the foundation to the experience of compassion. If we can step outside of our experience and see a bigger picture, we are cultivating a vision of oneness.

Looking for other ways to live a healthier, happier life? Reverse heart disease and diabetes, lose weight and reduce stress with these tips from Dean Ornish.

This content was originally published on Ornish Living.

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