Compassion is the humane side of suffering, which inspires the most beautiful acts of humanity. In man’s world, animals often bear the worst of our dark side, suffering under the stresses of cruelty and ruthlessness, however, being compassionate towards animals may actually be good for your health and well-being, perhaps even prolonging your life.
For so many of us, compassion appears to be an innate, instinctual part of the human experience, something so many of us do automatically, and decades of clinical psychological research into the problem of human suffering shows how our most evolved nature is to respond compassionately. A host of university studies share the conclusion that compassion is part of our higher nature, looking at the biological basis for compassion.
Human well-being is multi-dimensional and the corollaries between how we behave and how that behavior in turn affects our overall wellness are more understood now than ever before. When we act from our higher nature, it benefits our health, which may explain the tendency for so many people to live altruistic lives in helping others and protecting animals.
“That suffering, as unpleasant as it is, often also has a bright side to which research has paid less attention: compassion. Human suffering is often accompanied by beautiful acts of compassion by others wishing to help relieve it. What led 26.5 percent of Americans to volunteer in 2012 (according to statistics from the US Department of Labor)? What propels someone to serve food at a homeless shelter, pull over on the highway in the rain to help someone with a broken down vehicle, or feed a stray cat?” [Source]
Taking this one step further, looking at the tendency of people to extend compassion beyond the human race, showing empathy towards the animal kingdom and the natural world, we find an infinite number of possibilities for improving our own lives by directing our energy toward ending the pain and suffering of many beings.
Being compassionate has even been shown to make us more attractive to the opposite sex in behavioral studies looking at societies with more altruistic tendencies.
“One more sign that suggests that compassion is an adaptively evolved trait is that it makes us more attractive to potential mates. A study examining the trait most highly valued in potential romantic partners suggests that both men and women agree that “kindness” is one of the most highly desirable traits.” [Source]
Furthermore, engaging in acts of compassion, when done for the right reasons, can increase one’s peace of mind and happiness:
“The cultivation of well-being has specifically shown that it is eudemonic, rather than hedonic wellbeing which is linked to a sense of connectedness with oneself, and others. Eudemonic wellbeing implies finding meaning and purpose in life, living in accordance with one’s values and developing a sense of long-term “spiritual” health (not necessarily religious).
In turn, eudemonic well-being may be cultivated through mindful practices such as mediation and compassion training.” [Source]
It’s not something that would surprise most people, as the expression of our best nature feels good and is uplifting for everyone involved, but the inverse of this must also be true, that people who neglect their own health would have a more difficult time being compassionate to animals, and even nature in general. Therefore, adding intentional kindness, compassion and empathy the ways in which we attain better health and wellness makes perfect sense.