Empathy is about reading others — it’s defined as the ability to understand the feelings of another. Compassion is something different — it’s about sympathetic concern for the suffering of another or oneself. In the past 10 years, research has consistently shown that meditation enhances both of these qualities. These benefits are traced to a brain region known as the insula.
The insula is a key player in self-awareness and empathy for emotions. It enables us to be mindful of our own emotional reactions, as well as better read and understand those of others. The more empathic people are, the more the insula lights up when we witness emotions in other. Meditators show enhanced activity in the insula and greater cortical thickness in this region. More recent studies have also shown that meditation increases compassionate responses to the suffering of others.
So there you have it — why not give meditation a try. The more you commit to a regular practice, the more your brain will reap the benefits. Plus, you'll be a lot happier and healthier overall, too.