This week we celebrate Mental Health Awareness week, the theme of which this year, is Kindness.
What is Kindness?
Kindness is quality or the act of being friendly, affectionate, or considerate. When we think of a time when someone has treated us with kindness, our memory of this occasion may be different to the next person’s, highlighting the very many ways in which we can be kind. You might even conjure up a memory from many years ago. It is the remarkable ability of these memories to stay with us and to make us feel happier even years after the event that shows how powerful an act of kindness can be.
Research has shown that being kind and altruistic towards others can also do us good too. For example, showing kindness towards others has been associated with improved mood (1, 2), improved self-esteem (3), reduced anxiety and higher levels of connectedness with others (4).
The positive effect kindness can have on our feelings of connectedness are particularly important right now given many of us are unable to see our family, friends and all the familiar faces we might usually see in the office or at our various social clubs. Some who are shielding themselves or their loved ones may not be interacting with the outside world at all. The impact of coronavirus on the nation’s mental health has received a lot of attention, and rightly so. Whilst we do not know the extent of the impact lockdown is having on our mental health yet, it is accepted that we will see its effects in the future. Therefore, it is just as important as ever to be looking out for ourselves and for others during this time.
How can we be kind?
So, how can we show kindness to others? Call a friend to check in with them perhaps or send them an unexpected gift. Volunteer, make the next round of tea or coffee, offer to do the dishes, give a compliment, tell a loved one how much they mean to you. Sometimes the simplest acts of kindness can mean the most.
It is also important to remember to show ourselves kindness and allow us to make time for ourselves. Parents of children who have additional needs can find this particularly challenging, so much so that ‘me time’ is non-existent. We can and should be kind to ourselves, especially when we have busy and stressful lives. The times when you feel too busy to have some time to yourself is most likely exactly the time you need it. Buy yourself a gift to treat yourself, perhaps set the alarm 20 minutes earlier to give yourself time to enjoy breakfast before the rest of the house wakes up, give yourself a night off doing the dishes, compliment yourself – the things we do for others can also be done for ourselves too, and most importantly, don’t need to be excused!
Mental health awareness week does an important job of encouraging us to check in with ourselves and others and to be mindful of our mental health, but the importance of this should not be forgotten during the rest of the year. Good mental wellbeing is one of the key foundations which keep us healthy and keep our bodies going. Helpfully, the benefits of kindness can be experienced all year round.
1) Pressman, Sarah & Kraft, Tara & Cross, Marie. (2015). It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a ‘pay it forward’ style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 10. 293-302. 10.1080/17439760.2014.965269.
2) Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J. et al. Happy People Become Happier through Kindness: A Counting Kindnesses Intervention. J Happiness Stud 7, 361–375 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-005-3650-z
3) Brown, Kevin & Hoye, Russell & Nicholson, Matthew. (2012). Self-Esteem, Self-Efficacy, and Social Connectedness as Mediators of the Relationship Between Volunteering and Well-Being. Journal of Social Service Research. 38. 468-483. 10.1080/01488376.2012.687706.
4) Kerr, Shelly & O’Donovan, Analise & Pepping, Chris. (2014). Can Gratitude and Kindness Interventions Enhance Well-being in a Clinical Sample?. Journal of Happiness Studies. 10.1007/s/10902-013-9492-1.