Even a small experience of altruism brings a measure of mental peace right away. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote is talking about the link between altruism and mental peace. It says that when you do nice things for other people, you tend to feel better about yourself.
Part of what makes it work, I would imagine, is when you are doing something nice for someone else, you are taking the focus off yourself. In doing so, you tend not to focus on your troubles, instead you then focus on working to help others, and helping them with their troubles.
In this manner, your troubles are no longer in focus, and the effort to help others is in very sharp focus. It gets even better when you have the great feeling that comes with actually completing the task, and the reflection of the joy from the others you helped.
Why is what you focus on important?
In this quote, I believe that it is all about changing the focus from your troubles to the troubles of others. A part of it might be to put your troubles in perspective, seeing how small your troubles are compared to those who have nothing to eat or nowhere to sleep.
However, I believe the biggest part of why this quote works is because you are no longer focused on yourself. I have found that when I focus on myself, I have to be careful, as it’s fairly easy to get caught up in an echo chamber.
When I feel down, and I start to focus on it, I tend to get even more down, which makes me even more down because I notice I’ve gone from bad to worse. By focusing outside yourself, you break that loop, and that, at least for me, can really help.
Where can I apply this in my life?
This is a quote with which I have a great deal of personal experience. There have been some really low points in my life, and I have found that helping others, even something simple, can really help. One time, all it took to really pull me out of a bad mood was helping a lady get something off the top shelf at a grocery store.
That action took my focus off what was bugging me, and put it on the troubles she was having. It also made me grateful for the things I had, even if sometimes those gifts feel like curses. Basically, the action reminds you that it isn’t all about you.
Take a moment and write down a couple of times when you weren’t feeling all that great (emotionally, not like tummy trouble). Now write down what it was that finally got you out of your mood. How did that feel, remembering both the not so great feeling, and remembering the event that got you back up?
In my case, it was a mix of doing things for others and new shiny trinkets. In each instance, these were distractions that changed my focus from what was bugging me to something else. I belive that this change of focus was the primary reason I started feeling better in each case. Doing something nice for someone else, though, always helped me feel much better than trinkets.
What did you find in your examination? Were you mostly changing your focus, or were there other mechanisms in play? How much did the changing of focus help, did it play a role in the improvement of your mood? If you’re like me, changing your focus will go a long way towards improving your mood, or mental peace, in a fairly short time frame.
So now you have a new tool in the toolbox for when you are feeling down or otherwise lacking in peace of mind. Changing your focus from why you feel less than great to something much better. Take a moment and consider what of the things you changed your focus to resulted in the greatest improvement of your mood?
For me, it actually was helping others. There were even times when I started off in a great mood and ended up feeling like I was walking on clouds. That means I try to keep my eyes open for chances to help others. After all, there’s no such thing as feeling too good, or having too much peace of mind, is there?
Who will you help, and in what manner? When? Most of the time it’s spontaneous, but you can plan to donate blood, help at a homeless shelter, or do any number of other things. It’s just up to you, your imagination, and your ability to react to spontaneous situations.
I think it’s worth the effort, even when it’s just a small thing, like reaching a box for someone who cannot get there themselves.