My Day of Compassion

By Katie O'Brien

Last week in one of my classes, my professor assigned an assignment that would challenge all of us. We were told that for 24 hours we were to practice a “Day of Compassion”. We were expected to, for a whole day, act compassionately towards everyone we came across, thinking of others as well as ourselves and not cause any sort of harm to any being. It sounds simple enough, but the tricky part was that we weren’t supposed to act on our irritations, anger, or frustration. I thought of this assignment as a piece of cake because I always saw myself as a pretty compassionate person, but I never really paid much attention to how I acted. I just did what I did, not usually with much thought. So I went into my day of compassion with a pretty optimistic perspective.

The main takeaway from that day was that it wasn’t what I expected. The first thing I realized, was that I was now hyper-aware of how I was acting, which felt super weird. I was analyzing everything I said to everyone, making sure I didn’t come across as rude, judgemental, irritable, or any negative emotion you can evoke in someone. Not to sound full of myself, but it wasn’t very hard for me to do that. I noticed as I tried to put out some positive vibes that I was almost always smiling throughout my day. I remember walking out of one of my classes and a friend looked and me and said, “Why are you so smiley?” I just shrugged and replied, “I’m just in a good mood.” Which was true. As I went about my day, spreading happiness and love I noticed that even though I didn’t always receive the positivity back, my mood was pretty high. I felt good. Who knew that actively giving out compassion made you feel good too! Being mindful of my attitude towards the day and was pretty inspiring, and it prompted me to do things that I wouldn’t typically do on a normal day, like smiling at strangers, offering up things I wasn’t using to others, writing positive notes to friends, etc. Through all of this, it didn’t even seem hard to keep myself from acting on my irritation, frustration or anger, because those feelings just weren’t on my radar. This just proved that when you’re in a good mood and upholding the right mindset, it’s easy to be kind to others. Through some of my psychology classes, it has been brought up that the first step to eliminating negative actions towards others is to increase your own wellbeing. The happier you are, the happier everyone around you is.

After the day was over we talked about it in class, and I was a little surprised by the responses of my classmates. A lot of them said that they found it challenging to not act on their anger or irritations and that they felt like they weren’t being themselves while participating in this challenge. I saw this as inspiring, but they saw it as challenging. It was interesting to put everything into perspective. I realized that some actions and some attitudes are harder for people to adjust to than others. Keeping this in mind, I think compassion is an important thing to practice and get better at spreading. Especially these days with all the hatred that is spreading throughout the world.

So whoever is reading this, I hope you accept my challenge. I challenge you to be mindful of your actions towards others, to hold back your anger and take the compassionate route. Try to put everyone you encounter into perspective, and sympathize with those around you. The more you practice empathy, the more love we can all express towards everyone around you. Let’s end the hatred with love. Let’s make every day a Day of Compassion.