The Buddhist believe that cultivating compassion is important in order to achieve happiness.  This concept is discussed in the book, the Art of Happiness.  Dr. Cutler one of the authors of the book, describes some of the studies that support this idea:

"In addition to the beneficial effects on one's physical health, there is evidence that compassion and caring behavior contribute to good emotional health.  Studies have shown that reaching out to help others can induce a feeling of happiness, a calmer mind, and less depression.  In a thirty-year study of a group of Harvard graduates, researcher George Vaillant concluded, in fact, that adopting an altruistic lifestyle is a critical component of good mental health.  Another survey by Allan Luks, conducted with several thousand people who were regularly involved in volunteer activities that helped others, revealed that over 90 percent of these volunteers reported a kind of "high" associated with the activity, characterized by a feeling of warmth, more energy, and a kind of euphoria.  They also had a distinct feeling of calmness and enhanced self-worth following the activity.  Not only did these caring behaviors provide an interaction that was emotionally nourishing, but it was also found that this "helper's calm" was linked to relief from a variety of stress-related physical disorders as well." 


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