What's critical to compassion is that it unites this understanding of others' distress with the motivation to alleviate that distress. Helping behavior further requires the cognitive and behavioral resources to act on that motivation.
Science tells us compassion is good for our health, and we know that helping others makes us feel good, but sometimes it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day. In minutes, at no or low cost, and from your desk, you can contribute.
Think about compassion like a radio dial. We can tune our compassion up or down, but where the dial lands will depend on our concerns about being overwhelmed and on how well we can control our emotions.
My task was to teach them how to become more compassionate using an accessible program of exercises. First, however, I had to convince them that it was worth their precious time to learn how to stop, settle the mind, and open the heart.
In what cities is a needy stranger more likely to receive help? What sort of community teaches a citizen to withhold compassion toward strangers? Dr. Robert Levine has spent much of the past two decades systematically exploring these questions.