This post was originally published via Action for Happiness.
The theme of the event was the relationship between mindfulness and social change; or how our personal happiness connects to the influence we can have on the wider world.
Dr Goleman has plenty of authority in this area. He is an internationally recognised psychologist and bestselling author, and his books include A Force for Good, written with The Dalai Lama. His more recent work has focused on the potential of mindfulness to change the world.
Why practice mindfulness?
Goleman is a strong advocate of mindfulness, saying it offers us “a workout in the mental gym”. In the same way that we exercise our bodies for good health, we should also exercise our minds through mindfulness practices, he argued.
The benefits on offer are vast: Mindfulness has been proven to strengthen our cognitive control, improve our memory and helps us to switch more rapidly between tasks. Plus, Goleman highlighted that in our age of smart technology it has become even more important to maintain and strengthen our attention spans.
There is a wealth of evidence on offer showing the benefits of mindfulness for our personal health and happiness, but what relevance does this have in the wider world?
We can all be agents of change
Through his work with the Dalai Lama, Goleman highlights that taking mindful care of yourself is actually just one step of a wider, yet integrated process. Mindfulness is actually more effective if practiced with a sense of compassion, built upon empathy for others and for the natural world.
There are many challenges in the world today, and change is needed in many areas, including our economic systems and the way we care for the environment. Yet, although we are bombarded with negative headlines each day, there are also many people working towards positive change.
“Acts of kindness far outweigh hostility every day of the year”, Goleman said. If we practice mindfulness with compassion it offers us a wider awareness of the possibilities for change, and can strengthen our ability to act.
“We can all be positive agents of change; the important thing is to act”, said Goleman. The event closed with a wider discussion about how we would each like to act to change the world. There are thousands of ways that each of us can act to create positive change, and Goleman encouraged us that no change is too big or too small.
People then shared a wide range of pledges for action, from taking the time to listen to people with differing views, to adopting a more vegan diet.
Overall the evening highlighted that having compassion for ourselves through mindfulness can be extended outwards in empathy and compassion towards others. If we are able to act from this understanding we can change the world, even if this starts in small, yet significant, ways.