Adopting Buddhist Ideals Can Improve Your Life

What is Buddhism? 

One of the five major religions in the world, Buddhism attracts hundreds of millions of like-minded individuals across the world. However, the valuable insight that can be derived from Buddhist teachings is not only limited to those who consider themselves traditional Buddhists. This is one of the crucial factors that differentiates Buddhism from other popular faiths: the notion that everyone can implement Buddhist ideals into their life, and through the practice of these ideals, one is destined to lead a healthier and happier existence. 

There are many distinct schools of Buddhism that differ vastly in belief and practice. Because of this, Buddhism has little to no strict guidelines that “members” must abide by, but instead, outlines a way of life, or “path,” an individual can take to liberate themselves of suffering. According to Buddhist teachings, “Dukkha,” loosely translated as “suffering,” or “unhappiness,” is a result of desire, and ignorance. 

There is a common consensus among Buddhists that through wisdom, morality, and meditation, one can free themselves from suffering, achieve enlightenment, and live a more fulfilling life. “Enlightenment” refers to a complete understanding of the reality of things, as well as a possession of boundless and unfettered compassion. These are the basic ideals represented throughout all schools of Buddhism and are primarily derived from the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, or The Buddha.  


The Buddha 

Most historians agree that Siddhartha Gautama, or The Buddha, lived during the 5th century B.C. in present day Nepal. Born a wealthy prince, Gautama lived a sheltered, extravagant life filled with desire and riches. 

According to legend, upon witnessing the reality of suffering and death in his kingdom, he rescinded his life of luxury and dedicated himself to understanding the world around him for the benefit of humanity. After a long period of meditating at the foot of a tree, he discovered how to free himself of suffering, ultimately reaching enlightenment. The Buddha dedicated the next 45 years of his life to teaching the wisdom he discovered. 


What can Buddhism do for you?  

Many of the beliefs associated with Buddhism may seem foreign and unnatural, which could give you cause to reject it. The notion that one can reach enlightenment and completely extinguishing hatred, anger, and suffering may seem idealistic or detached from reality. It is at the core of many of these values, however, that merit can undoubtedly be found.  

For example, is it far-fetched and idealistic to choose to always treat others with sympathy and compassion? Of course not. After all, there is a tremendous amount of scientific basis to support the notion that treating others with kindness can help one lead a healthier and happier life. 

According to an article written by Jill Suttie for the UC Berkeley based Greater Good Magazine, “a new analysis of decades of research shows that when we are kind to others, we are healthier and happier.” Researchers in the study found that people who practiced kindness tended to have a higher sense of purpose, self-esteem, and experienced less anxiety, and depression. Suttie completes the article by quoting the Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader associated with Buddhism, who stated, “if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” 

Being kind to those around you is not a uniquely Buddhist principle; many cultures and faiths stress the necessity of practicing compassion for others. What makes Buddhist teachings distinct is that one is encouraged to take their compassion towards others a step forward by simultaneously practicing mindfulness, effort, and concentration.  



This is the basis for meditation, a medically supported way to improve your psychological state and overall quality of life. There are multiple forms of meditation supported by Buddhist teachings. Mindfulness meditation encourages one to concentrate on the present moment by focusing on the sensations of the body and letting go of negative thoughts. According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, “psychologists have found that mindfulness meditation changes our brain and biology in positive ways, improving mental and physical health.” 

These core Buddhist values such as unfettered compassion and dedicated meditation promote positive thoughts, inner peace, and ultimately, happiness. If this is intriguing, it is important to recognize that Buddhism is an incredibly expansive faith with many schools of thought. Researching at your local library or exploring online sources is a great way to determine if Buddhism is right for you!