Schools can be tough places, and sometimes there is a total lack of kindness, not just among the pupils but also among the staff. Showing any sign of kind-heartedness can be seen as a sign of weakness, but compassion is not a weak or sentimental state of mind, but powerful and has some remarkable psychological effects on the individual.
It may seem a very difficult topic to teach, especially to younger pupils who live in an egocentric world, but the benefits of showing pupils how to be compassionate will have positive results for the whole school.
The tips (from Spring) reveal how time should be allocated to teaching about passion, which we have adapted for educational purposes:
1. Compassion can be learned
It seems some children are naturally more compassionate than others. This brings up the nature v’s nurture debate, but compassion is not something you either have or you don’t–it can (and should) be learned and nurtured; so those who display little compassion are the ones who you need to focus on to be given the tools to display consideration.
2. Compassion motivates action
It’s all very well feeling more compassionate, but it’s not much use if you don’t do anything about it. So educators need to show compassion, even towards those individuals who you don’t connect with. There will be personality issues, but the stronger person will show more compassion, and can be a powerful motivating force. Overcome those personality issues.
3. Happier and healthier
Why bother? Well, according to Spring; along with being beneficial to others, experiencing more compassion benefits your own psychological and physical health.
4. Boost immune response
Really? Yes! Research has shown (See Spring) the power of compassion also reaches into the body’s immune and stress response systems. It’s a win-win situation.
5. Empathic neural response
OK, we’re getting a bit sciencey now, but bear with us. Neuroscientists have found that increased caring compassion can be measured in the living brain. While research participants were concentrating on being compassionate, the brain regions responsible for the processing of emotions were enhanced compared with when they were at rest! See!
6. Increased empathy
Since compassionate thought boosts activity in the empathic centres of the brain, it also boosts empathic accuracy, research has shown.
7. More helpful
Displaying compassion makes us exhibit more pro-social behaviours –in other words – compassionate people are more helpful towards others.
8. Less afraid of suffering
The pain of others is distressing and it’s a natural reaction to avoid people in pain. Being more compassionate can change this, causing negative avoiding emotions to be replaced with positive compassionate emotions.
Taking time to help children to reveal their compassionate side is time well invested, but there is no quick fix and is something that needs to be continually demonstrated, re-visited and challenged. Schools can be cruel places, but nurturing compassion in all the characters who occupy the setting will lead to a more positive environment. Keeping chickens can help!
As the Dalai Lama said…
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
This article has been adapted for educational purpose from Spring (click here to view original article), with thanks.