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Mindful : October 2017
Putting kindness and empathy first makes us happier, healthier, and even more successful. Compassion, it seems, isn’t just a nice idea. It’s downright good for us. Common wisdom says it’s the fittest among us who survive, with “fitness” being defined by the social and cultural standards of excellence of its time: health, wealth, beauty, brains, etc. But in Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, social psy- chologist Dacher Keltner argues that Charles Dar- win, who is credited with the survivalist theory, actu- ally believed that humans, Nature’s way uniquely, depend upon kindness for their survival. Humans lack the strength, size, and speed of other large animals. Our evolutionary advantage instead derives from two things: our complex and well-developed brains and our communal nature. And being part of a community means being able to relate, empathize, and to share. In other words: It requires compassion. In fact, Keltner says that compassion is hardwired into our biology. Mammals alone possess a vagus nerve, which is activated when we notice others’ suffering. “It’s instrumental in aiding our regard of others, slowing down, and considering other people’s needs,” he says. It’s also stimulated through slow, focused breathing like the kind done in yoga and mindful- ness meditation. → Nice Guys Finish First 30 mindful October 2017 LIVING | how to live a mindful life Illustrations by Paula McGloin