Philosohphy of Dalai Lama Proven By Research: Benefits of Compassion for Newlyweds
The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has a theory. He believes that acts of compassion for others actually affects your own emotional well-being in a positive way.
Compassion is a selfless philosophy. And it’s not always easy to put the wants ans needs of someone else ahead of your own.
We feel that compassion is morally good. And while it can also make for a heartwarming philosophy, how does it actually affect people in practice.
Can concern for other people’s welfare actually improve our own moods? Can being selfless really not be so…well, selfless?
A few psychologists decided to put the Dalai Lama’s theory to the test with the relationships of newlyweds.
What is Compassion?
Being compassionate towards others is more than just smiling, being cordial with people you meet, and saying hello on the street.
Compassion can mean different things to different people, so the researchers needed to define it.
When it comes to studying any phenomenon, you usually need to measure it in a meaningful way. And it helps to know exactly what you’re measuring.
In the paper, researchers described compassion as:
…caregiving that is freely given, focused on understanding and genuine acceptance of the other’s needs and wishes, and expressed through openness, warmth, and a willingness to put a partner’s goals ahead of one’s own.
Tracking Random Acts of Kindness
Researchers had newlywed couples, who had only been together for an average of 7 months, track how often they did something nice for their partner. They also wrote down how often their partner did something nice for them.
This included kind acts like showing each other affection, changing their existing plans because of a conflict with their partner’s plans, or simply showing their spouse that they were valued and loved.
They wrote down the acts of kindness every day for a period of two weeks.
Who Does Compassion Benefit?
The researchers found that when a partner noticed that their significant other did something nice for them, both people’s emotional well-being was boosted. A finding that probably wouldn’t surprise many people.
But there were two small findings the researchers noticed that most wouldn’t expect.
1. The Increase in emotional well-being was stronger for the person who performed the act. Many of us think that the person whose on the receiving end would be the primary beneficiary, but this wasn’t the case.
2. There was an emotional benefit for the “donor” even if the receiver didn’t notice. As you might expect there was no benefit for the person who didn’t notice. But there was still a benefit for the person who performed it.
What Cancels Out the Benefits of Compassion?
So even if you do something nice and it’s not noticed, you still feel pretty good about it. Which is pretty awesome news, considering that you probably did it out of the kindness of your heart anyway.
But there’s a caveat from the researchers. When you do expect something in return, it totally ruins any benefit. Lead researcher Harry Reis says:
As soon as you couch it with, ‘I’m going to be compassionate today because I expect you to be compassionate tomorrow,’ it destroys the effect.
Every study has it’s limitations, and it’s important to note that the research only covered a short couple of weeks. If only one partner is acting compassionately over a long period of time, I’m sure the benefits for the giver would disappear.
It’s hard to feel good about yourself when someone doesn’t take the time to appreciate or reciprocate your acts of kindness. A great relationship is one that is constantly nurtured.
Compassion Does Your Relationship Good
We do a lot for the people we love. We make sacrifices big and small, we brighten their day when they feel down, and we compromise.
This study fits in well with research from gratitude as well. Psychologists have found that a person who is grateful boosts their relationship satisfaction. And when they express that gratitude to their partner, they both benefit.
But for the most part, it seems the Dalai Lama’s theory rings true. Bonds in a relationship are not only deepened by small acts of compassion, but it can even improve our own happiness.
Even if the one you love doesn’t notice.