Being a human being is a complicated state of… well, being! We all come from unique backgrounds, with our own experiences and biases that shape how we perceive the world around us. Sometimes that gets in the way of us listening to others and realizing that we all have different ways of seeing and understanding things. However, there are times we need to tune in, not weigh in, and see the world through their eyes.
May 2 to 8 marks the 71st anniversary of Mental Health Week. This year’s focus is on empathy, which reminds us that while it’s important to speak our truth, it’s just as important to listen to others and appreciate their truth.
Empathy is a skill that can be learned and practiced to help us regulate our emotions, connect with others and feel less isolated. Here are some ways to bring empathy alive with the people in your life.
- Lend a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Do you have a friend that’s struggling? You don’t need to solve their problems or fix their pain. Understanding is a solution on its own. Sometimes the best way to help is to make people feel seen and heard.
- Agree to disagree. We may be different, but we’re not necessarily on different sides. Don’t judge. See the world as others do. You can understand someone’s feelings, even if you don’t agree.
- Develop those critical thinking skills! When you ask questions to better understand your own world, to helps you understand others too.
- Forgive yourself! Sometimes our biggest critics are ourselves. When we are flooded with trauma from our past, or anxiety about our future, we might have a difficult time empathizing with others who may be struggling as well. Take some time to rethink how you see yourself, especially if it’s in a negative way.
- Self-care leads to caring for others. There are lots of ways to ground ourselves and bring our attention to the present moment. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are merely a few examples. When we are more present, we can function better and be more empathetic.
- Embrace new ideas! Change is constant, including in our own lives. If we resist, change still persists, and we can find ourselves stagnated or stuck in a loop if we don’t adapt and adjust to it and that can include our thinking. Broadening our perspectives will help us increase our understanding of others.
- Don’t hesitate to seek expert care. If you find that you are struggling to cope, ask for professional help. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. When we look after ourselves, it helps us understand our ability to look out for others.
Humans are social creatures, and we should all be able to lean on and depend on each other for help and support when times are tough. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. So how can we change that? With empathy of course!
If we all work towards being more empathetic towards one another, listening completely to their stories, then we reshape the world into a place that is safer, more accepting, and healthier for the whole. Everyone benefits from a bit of empathy!