It’s important to practice empathy during these exceptional times not only for others but for your own well-being too. Being empathic can make you feel more connected to others and in turn, reduce the feeling of loneliness. Even research* shows that caring for others is one of the best ways to reduce stress and fight the negative feelings associated with isolation.

The word empathy itself means passion + feeling. Some people are just empathetic by nature, but there are plenty of things that you can do to train your own empathy skills.

empathy (countable and uncountable, plural empathies)

  1. Identification with or understanding of the thoughts, feelings, or emotional state of another person.
  2. Capacity to understand another person’s point of view or the result of such understanding.

Here are 5 easy ways that you can use to practice empathy and show kindness even during physical distancing:

1. Compliment others and yourself. We’ve all heard the word self-love and the famous quote by Ru Paul: “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”, but do we really make an effort in our everyday lives to love ourselves? In order to do so, let’s start complimenting each other, even for the smallest things. Every day, once a day. Make it a habit, no harm can be done by sincere compliments.

2. Take it day by day. We live in a hectic society that values overachieving above all else but this special time has forced us to stop. Did you know that the word “meditation” has become one of the most googled words during the pandemic? We think that now is the perfect time to take a break and pay more attention to your surroundings and feelings. Meditation has been proved improve focus and reduce stress. Pay attention to what you can change to make yourself feel better at home.

3. Be kind through words. Words have power – especially now that we’re forced to minimize physical interaction with one another. So listen before you speak, apologize if you offend someone and fight hate speech by speaking up when someone makes an unkind comment. Remember to be kind and compassionate towards yourself as well. Dealing with stress, anxiety and the thought of the unknown is difficult for us all and we all deal with it differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support if you need it.

4. Check in with people. Show that you care and ask how the people near you are feeling. Try to actively put yourself in other people’s shoes and open up your mind to what they’re experiencing. Maybe there’s even something you could do to help them? We can all make the effort of staying connected even if we can’t physically meet our loved ones.

5. Make sure that your social media reflects you, not others. It’s okay to unfollow or even block people on your social media pages if they cause you harm or cross your boundaries. Social media can be fun, inspirational, educational and empowering – it shouldn’t be a place for comparison and competition. You have the power to make social media kinder for everyone and not a space for hate speech. 

*Inagaki, T. K., & Orehek, E. (2017). On the Benefits of Giving Social Support: When, Why, and How Support Providers Gain by Caring for Others. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26(2), 109–113.

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”

Meryl Streep

We as a society will probably come out of this pandemic changed in one way or another. We get to decide whether those changes take us towards a kinder world – let’s choose wisely and carry a more empathic mindset with us.

Finland especially is known for societal problems like loneliness, domestic violence, and high suicide rates. We hope to bring awareness to these important topics and create empathic solutions that everyone can use in their daily lives. 

That’s why we are challenging you and your friends to take a part in Do empathy: a three-day challenge on September 4-6 that aims to increase empathy in society. The application period is open until 26 August, so make sure to give the challenge info a quick read and send in your application!

Teksti: Maija Leermakers & Liisa Lehkonen

Kuvat: Eeva-Stiina Niemi, Unsplash