Today’s world seems to function with a mixture of self-absorption, self-promotion, and downright selfishness, with a sprinkling of compassion and generosity. It should be the other way around, unfortunately, but we can all do our part to make important changes. Read on to find out how you can increase your love and kindness for others on this planet while you still can.
Here are 7 ways to be selfless in a selfish world:
1. Practice loving kindness meditation
To become more selfless, psychologists have discovered through many studies that loving kindness meditation can actually increase altruism in people. Yep, that’s right; you can train your brain to become more compassionate through a simple meditation sequence. Even if you have never felt very compassionate in your life, you can actually develop the skill relatively easily.
In the study conducted by Psychological Science, the researchers gave half of the participants a 30 minute audio recording that they listened to once a day for two weeks. The recording was an adaptation of the Buddhist practice of loving kindness meditation, and scientists called it compassion meditation. In the recording, participants were guided to extend compassion to themselves, friends, acquaintances, and anyone they had encountered troubles with.
After the two week period, the participants played an online game intended to calculate their selflessness. The game consisted of three players, one (the participant) who had $5, another who had $10, and a third who had no money. The computer-generated player with $10 was asked to share some of his money, but only gave $1 to the impoverished player. Then, the participant could choose any amount of his $5 to give to the poorest player, and whatever amount he choose would be doubled by the richest player. For example, if the participant decided to part with $2, the wealthiest player would have to give up $4.
The results from the game revealed that people who had received the compassion meditation training spent nearly twice as much as others who received a different type of training designed to get participants to think about a stressful situation in a less distressing way.
Also, the brain activity of the participants reflected the increase in altruism as well. Brain scans revealed that people who underwent the compassion meditation training had heightened activity in neural networks responsible for understanding suffering of others and regulating emotions.
So, by practicing loving kindness meditation for just thirty minutes a day, you can become more selfless while making your brain healthier in the process. Sounds like a win-win situation!
2. Perform random acts of kindness
Put what you’ve learned in your meditation practice to good use and fill other people’s lives with more compassion. Not only will it make you feel great to extend kindness to other people, but it will improve their lives as well. Think about it – what if you smiled at a stranger every single day? This would encourage them to smile, and might even change their outlook on the world as well. Ripples create waves, so remember that when you go out in public and notice other people who look worried or stressed.
All of us can offer some sort of help to other people, whether through our words, actions, or smiles. After doing a nice deed for someone on a consistent basis, it will start to become second nature.
3. Listen more
Do you spend time relating to other people and putting yourself in their shoes?
If not, try to really understand your family member or friend who has been going through a rough time, or just needs advice about something. You can relearn compassion in this way by taking the focus off your own struggles for a while, and instead giving your attention to someone else in need. Everyone goes through some sort of troubles in life, but you could be the one to relieve some of the stress by simply opening your ears and heart.
4. Give some of your paycheck to a charity
One of the best ways to become more selfless is to give away some of your hard-earned money to those less fortunate. Sure, it feels great temporarily to buy a new pair of shoes or new clothes when you get paid, but you’ll feel more long-lasting happiness from giving to others who have less than you do. Homeless shelters or other non-profit businesses wouldn’t be able to survive without your contribution, so let that sink in for a minute.
5. Volunteer at a homeless shelter/with children/etc
Don’t have money to give to a charity? Why not just volunteer your time instead? Many places such as foster homes, homeless shelters, and dog shelters desperately need volunteers. Although giving money to a charity also helps tremendously, actually being there in person will allow you to actually see your contribution put into motion. For a list of volunteer opportunities in the US, check out this website.
6. Practice patience
If you haven’t noticed, we live in a very impatient world; we can get anything we want with the click of a button or the swipe of our finger. We live in an age of instant gratification, which furthers the selfishness we see today. We have an entitled mindset, generally believing that we should come first – always. Next time you have to wait in line somewhere or can’t get what you want/need immediately, remember to practice patience. In some other part of the world, they might be waiting on food or water they haven’t had in days. Put things into perspective when you have to wait – it will help you become more selfless.
7. Treat others how you’d want to be treated
This variation of the Golden Rule still applies today. One of the best ways to increase the selflessness in today’s world is to simply treat others with kindness, just like we would want from others. If we could just do that one thing, we would see huge transformation in the world we live in.