The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening

Dr. David Rakel, a family and integrative health practitioner, combines recent scientific data and medical information with personal stories from many of his patients to show how being compassionate, engaging in empathic listening and having strong relationships are vital to one's well-being and overall health.

Neuroscience has identified that humans have the ability to feel another's pain simply through observation. This "innate and nearly limitless capacity for caring and compassion" has been relegated to a back burner at times, though, in this technology age. The lack of face-to-face interactions and the rapid-fire exchanges we all engage in digitally have hindered our ability to deeply connect with each other.

Rakel discusses how attentive listening--where one truly listens, instead of half-listening while formulating an answer or thinking of a similar situation to relate back to the speaker--is vital to relationships. At times in scientific language, he discusses the neuroplasticity of the brain, which enables us to change and to learn new things, how mirror neurons work and the effects of oxytocin on the body, all leading to better health. The role of caregivers and doctors who treat patients empathetically, how biases affect an individual and interpreting body language are also deftly covered.

In an time when violence, prejudice and negativity seem to fill the news and our surroundings, The Compassionate Connection, full of solid advice backed by strong research, may be the tool to help us build better relationships and healthier lives. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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