Your friend stubs his or her toe and you cringe. A person cries and your eyes tear. Your favorite sports team scores and your heart races. But have you ever wondered why?
Well, researchers at UCLA (quite accidentally) discovered why humans and animals not only learn from each other but empathize as well. The empathy study researchers noticed that when you poke a person with a needle the neurons that fire in the brain when someone experiences pain are the same ones that light up when you see a person being poked with a needle. And these neurons not only react when one is observing pain, but they are also involved in learning and sharing emotional experiences. They allow us to learn by observation.
So, what does it mean for our consciousness if we know our empathy is a physical process? Well, it doesn’t change much, really. We know that attraction is hormones, that love is chemicals, and that everything we put in our bodies affects everything, from how we think to what we feel. The more aware, the more mindful we are of the processes that help create our thoughts and emotions (and how what we give our body) affects us can help us to lead more balanced existences.
Tips for Building Your Empathy Skills
Want to increase your sense of empathy so that you can help you lead a more Mindful life? Check out the tips listed below.
- Know yourself. To be truly empathetic you must first be kind to yourself. Constantly putting yourself down or thinking negative thoughts can lower your spirit. It can also make empathizing with others a challenge. Be kind to yourself. Stay positive and consider meditation. By getting in touch with your emotions you can better help others.
- Stay curious. According to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, highly empathic people are “insatiably curious” about those around them. They are more willing to strike up conversations with strangers, which in turn can expand their worldview and broadens their minds. Curiosity is a great thing to have and requires only a little courage.
- Active listening. Listening not only lowers stress, it also boosts your sense of empathy. Listening to others, being vulnerable to their feelings, and passing no judgment is important for empathizing and active listening. Body language is also key to showing your support. Your facial expressions can encourage the other person to continue or they may discourage them from continuing.