The Washington Post has a fascinating article on morality, empathy, compassion and their relation to happiness. More importantly, however, recent studies have shown that this morality is actually hardwired into the human brain, likely the result of an evolutionary adaptation that made our species more successful than those without a sense of morality.

While the whole topic certainly provides a lot of food for thought, I’m sharing this with you because I believe that being a moral person is beneficial for everyone, including ourselves. In a sense, having compassion and acting morally can also be selfish as such action brings us joy, happiness, and a sense of self-worth. This model of belief is an ancient tenet of Buddhism and many other religion and spiritual traditions and I find it amusing that only now are scientists investigating this. As much as I love science and rationality, I often find that the uber-skeptics are the same people who completely disregard tradition wisdom in the belief that it’s all nonsense. The research noted in this article verifies the hypothesis that morality has a positive effect on the brain:

The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.

So again, I urge you to consider the possibility that one of the best methods for treating anxiety and depression is to stop focusing on yourself and begin to turn your thoughts outward. I’ve personally found this to be a wonderful antidote to anxiety, but I don’t believe I’m alone in this. Helping others is not just something we should do, it’s something we must do.

Read the rest of the article. There’s a lot of interesting speculation about the role this plays in our bodies, minds, human cultures, and even our system of laws.

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