Harvesting Happiness: Introducing the Empathy Gland

  • The human body is full of hidden glands hard at work communicating and controlling our body’s responses to what’s going on around us.

    When our temperature spikes out of control, the hypothalamus saves the day, returning us to homeostasis. The thymus is our go-to gland for better immune health when we’re feeling sick. And if our blood sugar is out of whack, the pituitary gland regulates it.

    The body is an intricate system with a biological response to pretty much any hazard our environment throws at us. But what if those hazards have to do with emotions, not body functions?

    We all find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. There are the situations when we just can’t agree with someone or have a hard time understanding what someone else is feeling. Without a mechanism kicking in to help us, these situations can quickly escalate into something more troublesome than a simple “agree to disagree.” Now imagine this: What if, just as your pituitary gland regulates your blood sugar levels, an empathy gland kicks in whenever you engage with someone?

    The empathy gland would help us recognize, and maybe even share, feelings with that person we’re spending time with. With empathy to guide us, we would be able to connect more deeply with that person, and even if we still agreed to disagree, respect his or her feelings enough to end the exchange on a positive note.

    There is no empathy gland. There is no biological mechanism to singlehandedly help us understand others. But by training ourselves to be in tune with the feelings of others and to recognize how people act when they are feeling certain ways, we can begin to identify the emotions they are experiencing. If you can get the awareness part down, you’ll be on your way to treating people with empathy.

    Like any other change, learning to live this way takes time and practice. But once you fully implement your empathy gland, you’ll be surprised at all the fruits of your labor. Your relationships will improve, you’ll bring happiness to those around you and, most importantly, you’ll be able to apply that positive momentum to other aspects in your life that may need some improvement.

    Happiness is an inside job. ®

    Happiness Strategy:

    A major part of learning to show empathy is being able to recognize it in others. To get your empathetic juices flowing, put on a song or two that you think lyrically embody the meaning of empathy. Listen to the songs, paying close attention to their words, and think about what lines in particular make empathy come to your mind.

    This exercise should help you get a clearer picture of what empathy means to you. Once you find your personal empathy anthem, use it to your advantage. When you’re put in a situation that makes feeling and expressing empathy difficult, use the song to guide you back to your empathy gland.

    Lisa Cypers Kamen

    Lisa Cypers Kamen is a filmmaker, positive psychology coach, author, host of Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio, professor and lecturer specializing in the field of sustainable happiness. She is widely recognized as an expert on the subject. Lisa’s acclaimed documentary film co-produced with her now fifteen year-old daughter, Kayla, “H-Factor…Where is your heart?” explores how people in varied circumstances find, generate and share happiness. In addition to her film on happiness, Lisa has also published a number of articles and books entitled, Got Happiness Now?, Are We Happy Yet?, Leadership: Helping Others to Succeed and Reintegration Strategies, about combat trauma and using positive psychology principles to create wellness in a post-war new normal. Lisa’s written work is featured on blogs for the Huffington Post, PositivelyPositive.com and InspireMeToday.com and she is a TEDx community event speaker. In addition, she is the Happiness Expert for the Florida Department of Citrus/ Florida Orange Juice in its Take on the Day campaign. Harvesting Happiness for Heroes™ is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that delivers stigma-free integrated combat trauma recovery services to warriors and their loved ones. Modalities include scientifically proven strengths based Positive Psychology coaching and interdisciplinary tools such as film, yoga, meditation, art and creative writing designed to mindfully empower the client to achieve increased self-mastery, self-esteem and reclaim her/his life. HH4Heroes focuses on the balance of mind, body and emotion resulting in greater overall wellbeing and the transformation of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) into Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG). HH4Heroes offers retreat workshops, one-on-one coaching, Battle Buddy programs, as well as our new R.E.B.O.O.T Online virtual community coaching classrooms designed to reach underserved areas. In addition, HH4Heroes deploys Return to Duty™ civilian and corporate training to help welcome a warrior home and into the community and workplace. Lisa is committed to teaching Happiness is an inside job™ and helping others end their needless suffering through intentionally cultivating greater joy.

    For more information, please visit HH4Heroes.orgHarvestingHappiness.com, and HarvestingHappinessTalkRadio.com.

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