ethnic psychologist touching black depressed clients shoulder

Empathy Hobbies

Hobbies and empathy

Our empathy is essential to the well-being of our loved ones, as well as ours. Hobbies can help us become more empathic by practicing compassion and by promoting our mindfulness.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, ie, the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes. The essence of empathic interaction is accurate understanding of another person’s feelings.

The Importance of Empathy as an Interviewing Skill in Medicine | JAMA

We’re experiencing an empathy shortage, but we can fix it together | Jamil Zaki | TEDxMarin
We’re experiencing an empathy shortage, but we can fix it together | Jamil Zaki | TEDxMarin

Why is empathy important?

Our empathy makes others feel seen and understood. It is likely to improve their feelings and make us more likable in their eyes. This can strengthen and enhance our relationships, and avoid frustration and misunderstanding.

Moreover, a better understanding of other people’s feelings can improve our understanding of our own feelings.

Can empathy be improved?

Yes, studies show that empathy can be improved with practice.

Through the right practices, such as compassion meditation, diverse friendships and even fiction reading, we can grow our empathy on purpose. Empathy is something like a muscle: left unused, it atrophies, put to work, it grows.

Empathy is a skill that improves with practice, Stanford psychologist-author says – Scope

woman reading book
Reading fiction can improve our empathy.

Findings suggest that empathy-enhancing interventions can be effective at cultivating and sustaining empathy […]

Assessing the effect of empathy-enhancing interventions in health education and training: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials | BMJ Open

That being said, there might be another approach to improving our empathy, rather than directly trying to practice it.

Mindfulness and empathy

Empathy is about effectively sensing other people’s emotions.

Unfortunately, most of us, most of the time, whether we are aware of it or not, are at emotional capacity. Our minds are too occupied to effectively deal with our own emotions, let alone those of others. We just don’t have the emotional resources available.

In this state, most of our emotional reactions are reflexive. This involuntary, automatic behavior often leads to suboptimal results.

Our minds are full. In order to better deal with other people’s emotions we need to free up headspace, and that’s what mindfulness is about. Mindfulness can help us be more aware.

Taken together, these studies reveal how mindfulness practices can have powerful effects in training empathy-related abilities.

Frontiers | Learning Empathy Through Virtual Reality: Multiple Strategies for Training Empathy-Related Abilities Using Body Ownership Illusions in Embodied Virtual Reality

Hobbies can help us become more mindful.

Hobbies can help us become more empathic

Both by allowing us to practice our empathy and by cultivating our mindfulness – hobbies can help us become more empathic.

This page lists hobbies that especially involve and require empathy.

Explore all hobbies →