Volume 7, Article 8
Acting compassionately towards others makes us feel better: The role of naturally occurring compassion as an enhancer of psychological wellbeing among adults
Anastasia Foka and Vasiliki Varela
Citation: Foka, A., & Varela, V. (2023). Acting compassionately towards others makes us feel better: The role of naturally occurring compassion as an enhancer of psychological wellbeing among adults. European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 7, 8, 1-10. https://www.nationalwellbeingservice.org/volumes/volume-7-2023/volume-7-article-8/
Processing dates: Submitted 28 September 2022; Resubmitted 20 January 2023; Accepted 9 October 2023; Published 14 November 2023
Background and Aims: There is mixed evidence to date of a relationship between compassion towards others and psychological well-being. In this paper, we are raising several methodological constraints that contribute to divergent findings in the past by exploring the relationship between naturally occurring compassion practices, the relative contribution of the motivational and action components of compassion and holistic psychological well-being (self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, personal growth).
Methods: 134 adults (79% females) took part in a cross-sectional, questionnaire study conducted online.
Results: Findings indicate that while compassion-engagement did not predict any wellbeing indices, compassion-action was a significant contributor to feelings of autonomy, self-acceptance, personal growth, and positive relations.
Discussion: This study shows how the cognitive, empathic response alone was not enough to increase feelings of well-being. It is the actual act of compassion that brings about the positive psychological effects.
Conclusions: This study offers unique contributions to the literature of compassion, by clarifying the weight of each of the two elements on positive psychological outcomes that are in line with modern conceptualizations of psychological well-being. Future research is needed to build up on our findings to identify individual and situational aspects that influence engagement in prosocial behavior, how these positive outcomes can be maintained over time, thereby enhancing the clinical value of compassion-focused therapeutic approaches.
Keywords: compassion, well-being, engagement, action, empathy, prosocial behaviour, positive psychology
Anastasia Foka is with the Department of Psychology, New York College, Athens, Greece. She is also with the Department of Psychology, University of Bolton, UK
Vasiliki Varela is with the Department of Psychology, New York College, Athens, Greece. She is also with the University Mental Health Research Institute (UMHR/EPIPSI), 1st Department of Psychiatry, Eginition Hospital, Medical School, University of Athens, Greece.