“I quit therapy because my analyst was trying to help me behind my back.”  – Richard Lewis

In the “Art of Happiness,” the Dalai Lama recommends one key behavior to give us ultimate fulfillment and happiness- compassion. He recommends that we meditate on someone else’s situation in life, and focus on their suffering. Maybe you know of someone who is struggling financially, maybe there is a person who is experiencing the loss of a loved one, or you have a close friend who is just having a lot of personal strife.

The Dalai Lama recommends that we concentrate on that person and what it might feel like to go through what they are going through. Even if you don’t have anyone that is encountering trouble, there are plenty atrocities in the world in which suffering is taking place.

But how does taking on someone else’s suffering and grief not just add to our own? Aren’t we just doubling our troubles by bringing another’s into the mix? The Dalai Lama disagrees.

He believes, in a way much more eloquent than this, that we are all connected in this cosmic universe. When we first begin to practice true compassion under the assumption that all humans have a right to be free from suffering, we begin to re-align to our inherent nature. It is reasoned that by returning to this natural state we are making the first steps towards true well-being and peace.

I am lucky. I get to reconnect with human suffering every day through my therapy practice. Each day, I am confronted by someone else’s suffering and am given the opportunity to meditate on it. By focusing on what their suffering might be like, what they might be feeling, how they might be coping- there is a shift that takes place. I do start to experience that state of reconnection and am lifted out of the normal everyday worries of my own world (did I pay the capital one bill? I wonder how much its going to cost to fix my brakes? why am I not sleeping so well lately?)

Yet, finding ways to cultivate compassion and connection in your life doesn’t mean you have to become a psychologist. It is likely that you probably don’t have to venture out further than the confines of your own circle of family and friends to find suffering. What about suffering on a larger scale? The Israeli-Pakistan conflict? The lack of health insurance coverage for those that need it most? Human trafficking?

Today focus on someone other than yourself and their suffering. Reconnect to your true and inherent nature. Remember that the research on depression shows that those who are most depressed tend to engage in more self-focus/monitoring/rumination than most. Furthermore, those that are the happiest among us tend to concentrate on others.

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area under the supervision of Dr. Richard Oelberger (PSY22186) . Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships,  body image and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com. All public speaking/media event requests handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).