Having empathy can lead to more happiness

Empathy: “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this”

When I was in college, I took a crime and society course on juvenile delinquents. I don’t remember much of it, but there was this one concept that has stuck with me. In one of the classes, my professor was talking about how important empathy is and how it is one of the most important things that kids learn. She explained that if kids learn empathy, especially at an early age, then they are less likely to do bad or violent things because they are able to feel for other people; they are able to understand the pain and suffering that their actions can cause.

But the power of empathy doesn’t just end there. You can extend it to feel for people who are less fortunate than you. You can extend it to feel for animals and insects. You can extend it as far as you like and try to understand the pain of as many living beings as you wish.

Being able to do this is very important as it makes you a more compassionate and open-minded person, and this can lead to making you a better person. But not only can it help make you a good person, but having empathy can also make you happier.

In an interview with Chatelaine, Maia Szalavitz, author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential – and Endangered, explains that if you are able to feel someone else’s pain, then you are also able to another person’s joy.

“Most people think about empathy as feeling each other’s pain but if you can feel someone else’s pleasure, you are a much happier person in general because it simply brings more joy into your life.”

Szalavitz’s idea does make sense.

Imagine you are watching a news story about a woman who recently reconnected with an estranged sister. She is happy and joyous, and after many, many years of a sibling rift, she is now reconnected with her younger sister.

Watching this will make you feel more joy. You will feel happier because their joy is being sent to you. You are empathizing with them.

Now, you can argue that the reason why you are feeling happy is because of how the story was told or presented.

Okay, this could be a possibility. There could have been music in the video that played with your emotions. So here’s another example:

Let’s say you are walking down a street to go to the corner store. You see a parent who has a worried look on their face. You wonder what is going on but don’t think about it too much. As you walk back home after buying what you needed from the corner store, you see that parent again, but except this time, he is happy and worry-free because he finally found his kid. His joy will put a smile on your face. This is you empathizing with that man and generating happiness in yourself.

So having empathy doesn’t just make you a good person, it can also make you happier. And when you are positive, you can do so many more things.

So, how can you be more empathetic?

First, you need to stop being self-absorbed and focus on the welfare, needs, and interests of others. Second, you need to stop criticizing and prejudging, and place yourself in the other person/group’s shoes. Third, treat other’s like how you would like to be treated. Think about how you would feel if someone had the same thoughts and did the same actions as you do to certain people, but to you. And lastly, just practice being compassionate.

As many have proven over and over again, empathy can make society better. But what are your thoughts on it having the ability to make you a happier person? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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