Suck it Up, Buttercup

Empathy Respect


Key Point: I think I am a very positive, upbeat, and generally happy person. For the longest time, I wasn’t very tolerant of other people’s negative emotions. Frankly, I oversimplified their situation and while I knew I should be empathetic, my inside voice was often… “Oh stop feeling sorry for yourself… Suck it up… Geez.” So the research at PLOS ONE gave me some insight on my long-standing approach and mindset, (which has hopefully become somewhat more enlightened).

The study suggests that: “People who are generally cheerful are not so great at reading other people’s negative emotions, though what’s especially interesting is that they think they’re very good at it. Researchers asked the participants both how happy they tended to be from day to day, and how empathetic they considered themselves. The cheerier volunteers tended to tell the researchers that they were more empathetic, too, when compared to their not-quite-so-happy study subject counterparts. Participants with a more upbeat personality believed their accuracy on this task to be higher than others. However, the speakers had conducted an identical rating process on their own videos, and it turns out the happier participants were no closer to the true feelings than the more downbeat participants. In fact, happy participants found it harder to judge the emotional tone of a highly negative monologue, in which a participant described the death of a parent.” 

This research reminds me that becoming more empathetic requires ongoing development and practice. As an example, I’m learning from the following framework called the empathy wheel:

 EmpathyWheelSelf-Empathy: Mindfulness-sensory awareness involves being very self aware of our own feelings. 

Mirrored Empathy: This involves Emotional empathy of others by reflecting others in us and recognizing ourselves being reflected by others.

Imaginative Empathy: This is based on the sense of self-awareness, when we recognize ourselves as separate beings.  We can imagine being someone else or imagine being another person, animal, object, etc. and take on the role of that. 

Empathic Action: This means responding in an appropriate way to the other by holding their needs, values, feelings, (common humanity) etc. in mind in the action process. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Learn how to think and apply empathy in a more complete way by following the framework of the above empathy wheel.
  1. Recognize that learning how to be empathetic is an ongoing self-discovery process. It is necessary for becoming more inclusive, and of course, the first place to apply sincere empathy is within us.

Wheel of empathy in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Egads! This hits home… I might as well be the poster boy for a cheery person who BELIEVES they are empathetic. I guess it’s not funny, but to be candid, I don’t mind acknowledging this has likely led to me being labeled as “dismissive” from time to time. It’s confusing but interesting, because I, and many other millennials really do genuinely care about other people’s dilemmas. I have an innate intent to find quick solutions for their qualms. In fact, I enjoy “helping” with other’s issues much more than discussing my own… Perhaps I was raised in a “suck it up” atmosphere… ^, haha, (which, btw, I personally couldn’t be more thankful for). Trouble is, millennials like me need to learn that sometimes people of all ages only need to “vent the issue” and that whole “easy fix/quick solution” from us, isn’t so useful or wanted from the other party. In fact, it can appear more like a “so what? That’s no big deal.” We wish it didn’t, but… Hence, sometimes that’s how we earn our good ole occasional “dismissive” badge. Excuse me; I’ll just be taking this empathy wheel home for some further study sessions.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Accountability Empathy Kindness


Key Point: My last blog underscored the importance and positive impact of kindness. Kindness is totally free and accessible to us all. It is a mindset and an intentional choice.  Even better, we can further develop our capacity for extending kindness. And in keeping with this kindness theme and holiday season, here is a gift to all of us that literally does keep on giving, to others AND ourselves. It is called LOVING-KINDNESS meditation. I’m going to share the science that reinforces that this is serious stuff. For those that may think that both kindness and meditation are for mush-brained sissies, this is especially for you. 

Loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others. Emma Seppälä, Ph.D, is a research scientist and the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University. In her TED talk, she emphasizes that compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. She also has collected research relative to loving-kindness meditation and it has a tremendous amount of benefits. The following are just a few noted in her study:  


study by Shahar B found that loving-kindness meditation was effective for self-critical individuals in reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms, and improving self-compassion and positive emotions. These changes were maintained three months post-intervention.


Makes you a more helpful person

Loving-kindness meditation appears to enhance positive interpersonal attitudes as well as emotions. For instance, Leiberg, Klimecki and Singer conducted a study that examined the effects of loving-kindness meditation on pro-social behavior, and found that compared to a memory control group, the loving-kindness meditation group showed increased helping behavior in a game context.

Increases compassion

A recent review of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) concludes that loving-kindness meditation may be the most effective practice for increasing compassion.

Increases empathy

Similarly, Klimecki, Leiberg, Lamm and Singer (2013) found that loving-kindness meditation training increased participants’ empathic responses to the distress of others, but also increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress.

Decreases your bias towards others

recent study found that compared to a closely matched active control condition, six weeks of loving-kindness meditation training decreased implicit bias against minorities.


We know that the brain is shaped by our activities. Regularly practicing loving-kindness meditation can help activate and strengthen areas of the brain responsible for empathy & emotional intelligence.

Activates empathy & emotional processing in the brain

We showed this link in our research and so have our colleagues.

Increases gray matter volume in areas of the brain related to emotion regulation.


Loving-kindness meditation also benefits your psychophysiology & makes it more resilient.

Increases respiratory Sinus Arrythmia (RSA)

Just 10 minutes of loving-kindness meditation had an immediate relaxing effect as evidenced by increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an index of parasympathetic cardiac control (i.e., your ability to enter a relaxing and restorative state), and slowed (i.e., more relaxed) respiration rate.

Increases telomere length—a biological marker of aging

We know that stress decreases telomere length (telomeres are tiny bits of your genetic materials—chromosomes—that are a biological marker of aging). However [a study] found that women with experience in loving-kindness meditation had relatively longer telomere length compared to age-matched controls! Throw out the expensive anti-aging creams and get on your meditation cushion!”

Character Moves: 

  1. Simply repeat the mantra below. An example of kindness – loving meditation. There are many more meditations to match your comfort level. Just Google or develop one that works for you:

 “May all beings be happy, content and fulfilled, May all beings be healed and whole, May all beings have whatever they want and need. May all beings be protected from harm and free from fear. May all beings be awakened, liberated and free, May there be peace on earth and the entire universe.”

  1. Practice this kindness-love meditation every day… Walking, closing your eyes at your desk, while you mute the TV during a commercial break, etc. Contemporary science is solid in outlining the benefits. If you’d like more historical evidence, “the most ancient Buddhist collection of texts ‘Pali Canon’ fully defines the benefit of loving-kindness meditation. 

Kindness meditation gifts in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Alright, I’m not usually one for chants, meditation, incense, or any of those “typical” mind exercises you may avoid yoga studios because of… But then again, that’s me just tricking myself, because I certainly have my own methods of “meditation.” They come in the form of a good beach run, a beloved podcast/playlist, or even biking to the gym to clear my head after a tough workday. If you have those little daily releases, you’re generally happier, and if you haven’t noticed, it’s the happy folk that are the kindest. However you can create that full circle for yourself, it’s worth figuring out how to draw it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis