Compassion, mental well-being

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse

Mental Wellness

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community. 

The ability to think of others, feel for others and desire to alleviate the suffering of others can be a key part of maintaining mental well-being. 

What is a compassion and what are the mental health benefits of 

being compassionate?

The word compassion means to “suffer with” or “suffer along-side.” 

Compassion is the ability to be empathetic, to feel for others and go beyond feeling for them to helping them. 

Being compassionate has physical and mental health benefits. Being compassionate will help us:

 Connect with others and be less isolated. 

 Have lower stress levels 

 Have higher self-esteem 

 Have a better outlook on life 

 Have lower risk of anxiety and depression 

 Have stronger immune systems

 Live longer lives

How do mental health challenges affect our ability to be compassionate?

Mental health problems can make it difficult for us to feel for others and to be compassionate.

 Stress: when we are overstressed and overwhelmed by life’s pressures, we are often less able to think of others, to be empathetic and compassionate. 

 Anxiety: when we are excessively worried and tense, we are often more self- conscious and less conscious of other people around us, reducing our capacity to feel for others and to be compassionate. 

 Depression: when we are struggling with the sadness, fatigue, loss of motivation, helplessness and hopelessness that comes with depression, we will struggle to engage with others in a compassionate way. When our own tank is empty, it is difficult to pour out love and compassion to others. 

 Alcohol and substance use: alcohol and substance use can affect how we view the world and the people around us. The immediate gratification of alcohol and substance use will often lead to a preoccupation with the “here and now” and self-gratification leaving little room for compassion and empathy for others. 

How can I become more 

compassionate?

1. Give others the precious gift of time: in our increasingly busy world, to be more compassionate we must make a deliberate effort to make time for others, to attend to the needs and cares of others. When we take time to help others, volunteer for a charitable cause or even take time to solve challenges for others, it is never wasted time and is often very soothing and healing to our own souls. 

2. Learn to truly listen: part of taking time to care for the needs of others is learning to listen, to truly listen with the intent of hearing the other persons heart, not only their words. 

3. Being kind with our words: words can make or break a person. Being compassionate requires us to put a filter on the words we speak and to be kind. The truth can be tempered with love and kindness so that it does not crush the spirit of the one you are speaking to. 

If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling with a mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

l Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by: Dr. Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse, Consultant Psychiatrist.

Feedback: (Dr. Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) (www.ahfoz.org; [email protected])

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