Step into Compassion, Step into a Happier Brain

It may be the single most beneficial thing for your brain in terms of learning, mood and memory says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. I’m talking about exercise. We also know that compassion, or the act of it which is altruism, are adaptive in terms of stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and great predictors of health and well-being. Why not marry the two?

There are a plethora of opportunities to get involved with some form of exercise to raise money for a cause that not only helps other people, but also brings meaning and purpose into your life. Purpose and meaning are what we need to be truly happy.

Now here is where mindfulness comes in. In this very moment watch your mind and see what it’s doing. Are the thoughts and stories in service of connection or disconnection? Meaning are they finding ways to move you further from this idea or closer to it? If the answer is further from it, check into those thoughts, get curious and ask yourself three questions that are adapted from Byron Katie’s work.

  1. Is the thought true?
  2. Is it absolutely true?
  3. Flip it. What are some good reasons to do it?

We are all enslaved by our automatic judgments that can often bring us further away from what can be truly helpful to us. It’s this inherent automatic negativity bias that I and others have written about over and again. If it’s good for our bodies, our brains, our mental health, and has ripple effects that benefit a cause we care about, what’s the downside?

Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.”

Isn’t it time to break from routine? What would happen if you saw every step in a marathon for a cause as a step into compassion?

Not to mention that it often has a great effect of bringing people together if you end up training with a group. This sense of connection with people who all feel a sense of purpose elevates us.

In addition to marathons, there are Dance-athons and Clean-a-thons too where people choose a part of the city to go around and clean. That might also be a form of exercise.

Why not make the choice to just investigate this today. Use your favorite search engine, look up something local or some place you’d like to travel to, make a plan and try it out.

If you have something upcoming in your area, please share it below. Your thoughts, questions and stories become living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on

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