His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has just spent the last ten days in Australia! Last week I was honoured to have spent four out of six days with His Holiness in Sydney at his retreat and public talk, and in Melbourne at the Happiness and Its Causes Conference.
I am so grateful for the many treasures he gifted the audiences with. The one thing that stood out for me was “Infinite Altruism.”
Infinite Altruism describes the compassionate desire and action to help or serve others in all that we do. When we are infinitely compassionate we are mainly concerned with others’ well-being, and we focus on serving them in any way we can.
His Holiness was speaking about the path to enlightenment. A pivotal part of Buddahood is the genuine desire and action to help or serve others.
Now not all of us are seeking enlightenment, and even if we are, our definitions of enlightenment may be different.
One thing that is clear is that whether we are seeking enlightenment, or just wish for an easier, happier life, free from suffering, Infinite Altruism is a key component.
It’s that simple. The Dalai Lama and psychologists alike agree that focusing on helping others will help you feel better in many ways!
Benefits of Altruism
Psychological research confirms that altruism has many benefits. Some of these include:
- It reduces tension and alleviates your and others’ suffering (Batson & Powell, 2003).
- It improves your mental and physical health – raising your self-esteem, increasing your social interaction, and reducing the likelihood of you feeling depressed (Musick & Wilson, 2003).
- It leaves you feeling hopeful, happy and good about yourself, improving your mental health. It improves your well-being, happiness, health, and longevity (Musick, Herzog, & House, 1999), as long as you are not too strained by your helpful activities (Post, 2005).
- It benefits the group or community as a whole when people value others’ welfare (Batson, Ahmad & Lishner, 2009).
- It increases the benefit of a contribution to others and reduces the net cost of making a contribution (Goeree & Holt, 2000).
Altruism at Home
There are many ways we can be more altruistic at home. Here are some ideas – helping others with household chores (even if they were assigned to another), helping your kids learn how to read or with their homework, looking after your children, offering to help a neighbour, offering to help a friend move or renovate their home, or taking someone for a walk.
Altruism at Work
There are many ways we can be more altruistic at work. Here are some ideas – sharing knowledge, training others, foreseeing and communicating potential issues, assisting others develop their careers, understanding learning and communication styles so you can tailor your communication to others, helping them to understand and learn.
Infinite altruism is a mindset shift, from focusing mainly on our own needs to focusing mainly on others needs. This simple shift can make a huge difference to our lives.
I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to share any infinitely altruistic actions you have performed today!