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Compassion is the way to go – it’s the best way to reduce jealousy-induced stress

Posted May 1, 2018

There is something we do that is very harmful to us – we compare ourselves to others. It is natural human behaviour, but it can be extremely damaging. Scientists from the University of Waterloo say that women are especially guilty of this, making themselves extremely stressed. But this can be changed if they adopted a more compassionate mindset.

Women compare themselves to others and make themselves dissatisfied with their own bodies. Image credit: via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

People have always been comparing themselves to others. Because there is no objectively right or wrong behaviour, we want to adopt the most common ways of dealing with social situations. Hence, we want to have a common sense. However, in this modern day and age media is pushing us to compare ourselves to a wider circle of people and beauty norms are especially strong. Women are very vulnerable to this and they can feel extremely dissatisfied about their bodies if they compare themselves to others too much. But scientists have an antidote – women should consciously exercise compassion to those they feel jealous about.

Scientists collected data from 120 females with mixed ethnicities and a mean age of 20.7 years. These women were asked to use the compassion strategy – deliberately cultivate compassion for others for 48 hours, by wishing them to be happy and free from suffering. Of course, the target for compassion was someone these women often compared themselves to and some adopted a mindset of a caretaker to enhance the feeling. Another third of the group simply distracted themselves whenever they started feeling jealous comparing themselves to others – they counted down from 50. Finally, the rest of participants adopted a competitive strategy and started thinking of ways they are better than others. As you may have guessed, the first strategy was the most successful – women felt less stressed and less dissatisfied with their bodies.

People usually feel jealous because they feel threatened by someone. In our society where looks are extremely important in gaining social status, better looking people look threatening, because they may succeed in the areas where you fail. But viewing them as just fellow humans, instead of competitors, certainly helps. Kiruthiha Vimalakanthan, co-author of the study, said: “In a world where it is increasingly becoming easier to focus on competing and comparing oneself with others, especially with social media and other technological advances, this research is an important contribution to eking out more space for us to practice compassion in our daily lives”.

Life is too short to stress over irrelevant things you cannot control. You should try focusing on the positives in your life and look at other people as equal to you.


Source: University of Waterloo

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