3 Lifestyle Changes That Made Me Kind and Compassionate

For most of my life, I have been selfish.

Dipanshu Rawal
Oct 17 · 7 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

or most of my life, I have been selfish. My selfishness was toxic to people around me; and I didn’t care. Or maybe I didn’t care enough.

I grew up in a household with one of my parents was a ‘giver’ in nature, and my second parent was selfish in nature. My giver parent remained mostly unhappy and my selfish parent seemed to be happy most of the time.

Obviously, there were so many reasons for all this behavior and happiness levels. But I doubt if my 6-year-old brain was capable enough to understand these kinds of complicated, multi-variable equations.

So I grew up with a belief that selfishness is rewarding. And it took me so many years of deep unfulfillment to realize that’s not true.

A few years ago, after a series of downfalls in almost all the areas of my life, I became borderline depressed. Underdoing therapy, this selfish nature of mine was a prominent point I discovered. And there began my quest to change.

Being selfish is a fear-based behavior. Like all the other fear-based behaviors, ego, anxiety, anger — this has been my default setting.

With conscious experimentations, I discovered how ‘service’ is the way for a more fulfilling life.

I realized if I continue worrying about my happiness, I might not feel fulfilled at all. But if I live a life of service, if I make this a mission of mine, to make others happy, I’ll definitely feel fulfilled and content.

This obviously was neither a one-day event and nor a one-point awareness. After a series of events and multiples self-discoveries, I come to this conclusion that becoming kinder and compassionate changes you internally for something good and beautiful.

I had probably read about this already many times in self-help and spiritual books, but being a rebel in nature, I didn’t believe in the truth of this statement until I felt it myself.

Becoming kinder and compassionate changes you internally for something good and beautiful.

My intention wasn’t to become kinder and compassionate in nature. I made a few lifestyle changes and becoming kinder and compassionate was kind of a side-effect of those changes.

In this post, I’ll mention 3 lifestyle changes that made me kind and compassionate.

Here are those 3 lifestyle changes I made —

Meditation and mindfulness

I still can’t meditate for an hour in one stretch. But because I knew this activity is going to be the backbone of my life and values, I made sure I meditate every day even if only for a few minutes. To push it even further, I have been practicing different mindfulness exercises to compliment my meditation.

The more I meditated, the more it helped me relax my impulses and increase my response time.

I still get impulsive and act selfish, but meditation and mindfulness have certainly improved my behavior a lot.

Tackling my impulsive response has helped me become kind.

Our impulses push us to act in survival mode. When we act in survival mode, we act selfishly and egoistically.

Calming down our impulses result in more objective thinking and less survival-mode thinking. This ultimately leads to thinking about others too while responding.

A science magazine mentions,

Though the science is far from conclusive, it points to the likelihood that mindfulness meditation does lead to “prosocial” (kind and caring) feelings and thoughts and more compassionate behavior towards others. And it may do so by training people in mindful awareness.”

Our impulses push us to act in survival mode. When we act in survival mode, we act selfishly and egoistically.

Your starting point

Meditation could be super scary for a lot of people. As it’s getting popular across the globe, it’s hard to not have heard of it today.

To start a meditation, create an intention to sit in silence for a few minutes every day. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe normally. Focus on your breathe for a few moments and observe your thoughts and feelings gently.

Repeat this for a few days to get started with your meditation practice.

For a support system, you can try short guided meditation sessions from phone apps like Insight Timer and Headspace.

Turning vegan

Up until 2017, I was a non-vegetarian. I loved eating chicken.

Around the same time, I was undergoing a series of destructive incidents in my personal life, and I recognized my attachment to my food. I was looking for some drastic change, and I knew it had to start from a lifestyle change.

So, one fine day I decided to stop eating non-vegetarian food.

It was awkward at first. Because I was the one who used to make memes on everyone who used to not eat non-veg. And here I was, undergoing an identity shift.

For the next 1.5 yrs, I observed so many unexplainable changes in my behavior and body. And I believe a lot of it has to do with my abstaining from non-vegetarian food.

One of the biggest changes was — I never touched a dog before. Like never ever. I was kind of afraid of dogs. And suddenly after this change, I become a pet-lover. And we even adopted a dog 18 months ago.

Her name is ‘Google’ and I am holding her in this picture exactly after adopting her —

Image for post
Image for post
Image by author

Unconsciously I made a choice — not to kill any animal for my food. And that impacted me a lot.

Because I saw these changes, I decided to push this forward and become a vegan. For 1.5yrs after abstaining from eating non-veg food, I continued consuming dairy products.

When I saw this TED Talk talking about the ostrich effect and veganism, I become more aware of the violence animals have to undergo in the dairy industry.

Source: YouTube

And I finally decided to become a vegan. It’s been 1.5 years since I became vegan. And the changes I am observing in myself are deep and unexplainable.

Some blogs even mention — “Going vegan opens you up to empathy and it results in overwhelming compassion.”

To read further, you may want to explore this study —

“Once You Know Something, You Can’t Not Know It”: An Empirical Look at Becoming Vegan

Your starting point

Not everyone is looking to make drastic changes in their lives. If you’re looking to transform yourself internally, turning vegan for a few days every week could be a great starting point for you.

For a support system, you can join the “Veganuary” movement here.

According to their website —

Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported close to one million people in 192 countries to try vegan for January — and beyond. We have worked with businesses to drive up vegan food provision in shops and restaurants, and have made veganism more visible and accessible through our work with national and international media.

Non-violence in thoughts and words

Not killing anyone is literally practicing non-violence in actions. A level deeper to it is practicing non-violence in your thoughts and words.

Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

This would mean not insulting anyone — which was tough for me initially as I was quite used to insulting others as a defense mechanism.

Non-violence in words also intends to not cursing, which is tough when you’re working out in the gym, trying to lift more a lot of weight.

This is hard because our default setting is survival-mode, and one of the ways to survive is to attack and harm others.

The more you become aware of your violent words and thoughts, the more your impulses will calm down, and the less harm you would cause to others with your thoughts, words, and actions.

I started practicing this only 3 weeks ago when a monk advised me to follow this for a more fulfilling life.

For the last 3 weeks, I have been saying this prayer every morning I wake up — “I pray I don’t harm anyone with my thoughts, words, and actions.” Praying this has helped me manifest this internally.

The more you become aware of your violent words and thoughts, the more your impulses will calm down, and the less harm you would cause to others.

It has been an interesting experience since. I couldn’t follow this 100% even for a day. But becoming conscious about non-violence has definitely helped me cause less harm to others.

I pray I don’t harm anyone with my thoughts, words, and actions.

Your starting point

Can you go a day without using curse words? And can you try to live 3 days without hurting anyone with your actions or words?

In any case, this could be a challenging and interesting assignment for everyone. Ready to go for it?

Summary

My intention wasn’t to become kinder and compassionate in nature. I made a few lifestyle changes and becoming kinder and compassionate was kind of a side-effect of those changes.

Here are those 3 lifestyle changes that specifically made me kind and compassionate —

  1. Meditation and mindfulness. Our impulses push us to act in survival mode. When we act in survival mode, we act selfishly and egoistically. Calming down our impulses result in more objective thinking and less survival-mode thinking. This ultimately leads to thinking about others too while responding.
  2. Becoming vegan. If you’re looking to transform yourself internally, turning vegan for a few days every week could be a great starting point for you.
  3. Non-violence in thoughts and actions. This means not insulting anyone, or even using curse words. This prayer has been helping me internalize this practice — “I pray I don’t harm anyone with my thoughts, words, and actions.”

This post was originally published at — dipanshurawal.com/kindness

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Dipanshu Rawal

Written by

Purpose and Clarity Coach || Download my new book “Spark A Fire” for FREE here- https://www.dipanshurawal.com/spark/

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 128,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Dipanshu Rawal

Written by

Purpose and Clarity Coach || Download my new book “Spark A Fire” for FREE here- https://www.dipanshurawal.com/spark/

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 128,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store