POWER MOVES: Compassion, Empathy & Kindness

Compassion:  Notice suffering and feel motivated to try to alleviate it.

Empathy:  The ability to understand and feel the emotions of others.

Kindness:  Actions intended to benefit others.

By Maureen Pollard

Emotional Health Editor

Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario.  Visit her online at: maureenpollardmsw.com

Our lives move at a hectic pace. Even in a pandemic, we are hurrying to get things done. Online classes and meetings, assignment due dates, errands and household chores demand our time and attention. It’s easy to get lost in stress, thinking about yourself and all of your worries and woes. When this happens, we can start feeling alone and lonely, burdened and depressed.  


There is an antidote, and the good news it’s easy to apply. Compassion, empathy and kindness are power moves that can help you feel better fast.

Compassion is a remedy for suffering. When we notice suffering in others, or in ourselves, we can offer gentle acceptance of difficult experiences and feelings. By embracing empathy and offering understanding in such situations, the person who is suffering can find relief in the quiet support that develops.

"There is an antidote, and the good news it’s easy to apply. Compassion, empathy and kindness are power moves that can help you feel better fast."

Kindness offers a solution for stress and isolation. When we make small gestures to help alleviate suffering and to offer aid where it’s needed, it can have a big impact. 

How do we put compassion, empathy and kindness into action?

Notice your automatic thoughts about yourself and others. When your mind is turning toward the negative, take a deep breath. In this pause, intentionally turn your mind to a more positive way to look at the person or the situation. There are always alternative ways to look at things. The more you do this, the easier it gets.

Notice what’s working. We’re wired to look for problems and danger because it helps us survive. It takes training and practice to become just as skilled at observing positive people and situations in life. When we take time to look, we can find a spark of light even in the darkest day.

Be present in the moment with others. Put your phone down. Turn the tv off and maybe even turn the music down. Offer a smile. Help someone with a task. Have a conversation - even a brief one - that involves eye contact and your full attention. You might notice that once you start these habits, others will respond by giving you their full attention, too.

When things are very difficult, put your hand over your heart. We respond well to warm, gentle touch, and this action of putting your hand over your own heart is a gesture of caring that your body responds to even if it feels awkward, or doesn’t seem like a big deal. Do this when you are having a hard time, and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, that is all you can do, and it’s enough.

When you repeat these simple steps over time, you may find that you begin to feel more positivity in life and more connected to others. You may notice a decrease in feelings of pain and distress. Compassionate kindness inspires hope, gratitude and a sense of community. It helps others feel better, and it helps you feel better, too.


Simple Acts of Kindness Anyone Can Do:

Smile. Say hello. It can make a difference in someone’s day.

Compliment a job well done by someone serving you.

Hold a door open or pick up an object that’s dropped. 

Let someone go ahead of you when you’re not in a hurry.

Offer to help with a chore or task someone has to do.