Kindness as an antidote to depression

Kindness as an antidote to depression

Being wise selfish

Whenever sadness takes control of our minds, or loneliness strikes, we could aim to do a good action. This is a simple, yet powerful advice from Rinpoche.

There are so many small acts of kindness that can be done, either using our body, speech or mind, and it does not need to be anything complicated.  Thus, as soon as we perform a good action, our unhappy feelings diminish, and a joyful feeling arises. Rinpoche compares that this is like taking medicine. 

For instance, collecting litter and placing into a bin, this simple act is beneficial to the entire humanity. If a stranger asks us for direction, we can politely assist them finding their way. We could just greet people with a smile when walking down the street. As our habit develops, we could extend our acts of kindness and direct them to friends, family, strangers and finally towards someone we have some animosity with. 

“All joy that there is in the world comes from wishing others to be happy.
All suffering there is the world comes from wishing only oneself to be happy.

Shantideva

These acts of kindness can vary from a simple smile, helping someone with a simple task, taking their dog for a walk, sharing some delicious food we have prepared. Afterwards, we could pay attention to our body and mind, and notice what kind of feelings arise. When we do acts of kindness, do we experience more and less unhappiness? Do we experience more or less joy? Do we experience more or less disturbance in the mind? What happens in our mind when we do an act of kindness? Does it lessen the initial sadness we experienced?

 There are so many acts of kindness that can be done, and for each one of them, our own unhappiness is lessened. In brief, whenever we are feeling sad, a bit low, we could aim for a small act of kindness. This creates an uplifting result on ourselves. This is the outcome of being wise selfish, we are the primary recipient of our own kindness.

As His Holiness Dalai Lama stated, “Wise selfish” means seeing that our own well-being lies in everyone’s welfare – in being compassionate.

Compassion is good for you, the Dalai Lama points out, not just for those who are its object. And that’s his third point: The first person to benefit from compassion is the one who feels it.
The warmth we receive depends to a great extent on the warmth we give, but beyond that simple emotional equation, compassion also breeds an inner happiness independent of receiving kindness. That’s why, he says, “Loving is of even greater importance than being loved.”

Similarly, Daniel Goleman, American Psychologist and author, maintains that there seems to be what some call a “helpers high”, where brain circuits for pleasure – as when looking forward to dessert – activate while we mentally focus on helping someone else. Along with this inner reward, the circuity that buzzes when we focus on ourselves and our problems quiets.


In japan, responding to a tragic wave of suicide among young people there, the Dalai Lama suggested that Japanese youth would do well to volunteer to help the needy in Third World countries. Serving the needy brings a greater sense of purpose to our lives – a fact recognized by psychologists as a key to personal well-being.


By refocusing us away from the usual mental diet of worries, frustrations, hopes, and fears, compassion puts our attention on something bigger than our petty concerns. This larger goal energizes us. We are free from our inner troubles, which in itself makes us happier.

― Daniel Goleman, in ‘A force for good

“Once you understand that we are ineluctably interdependent, a tremendous number of seemingly disparate facts start to make sense. Why would giving to others help the giver – reducing chronic pain and depression and even extending life?  Because kind social contact relieves distress, reducing the toll chronically high levels of stress hormones take on the body.

How could self-centeredness decrease survival rates from heart disease? By cutting social contact and elevating levels of those same stress hormones. Why is cuteness so appealing? Because it’s one way that the brain’s social networks link nurture and pleasure. Why money and possessions so rarely bring the happiness we expect? Because they often distance us from one another, rather than bringing us closer, emphasizing status gaps, not narrowing them. 

And finally, what causes much of life’s most agonizing pain? This is also related to relationships – those we lose, fail to maintain or that become one-sided or abusive. Dr Perry states that all these are connected by the fact that brain development is utterly reliant on empathetic nature.”

A nurturing community based on higher levels of empathy fosters health, creativity, intelligence, and productivity. Whereas, apathy and lack of empathy contribute to individual societal dysfunction, inhumane ideologies and often brutal actions. We are all born for love.”

Bruce Perry, American Psychiatrist, in ‘Born for Love.’

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Kindness as an antidote to depression

Kindness as an antidote to depression

Whenever sadness takes control of our minds, or loneliness strikes, we could aim to do a good action. This is a simple, yet powerful advice.

There are so many small acts of kindness that can be done, either using our body, speech or mind, and it does not need to be anything complicated. 
This creates an uplifting result on ourselves. This is the outcome of being wise selfish, we are the primary recipient of our own kindness.

Read More »

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