Mental Health Awareness week is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and the chosen theme this year is kindness. It’s important now more than ever, to look after our mental health, and to check up on others who could be struggling. The current pandemic is challenging our mental well being, and one act of kindness can really work wonders. People are sharing acts of kindness stories, sharing what kindness means to them and how important it is.
Last year Mental Health Awareness Week focused on body image, so if you’re up for a spot of reading, take a look at let’s talk body image.
What Is Kindness?
The technical definition of kindness, according to Google is the following:
“The quality of being friendly, generous and considerate”
Kindness is recognised as an important value in many religions and cultures. We all have our very own definition of things, so what is kindness to you? And how important is kindness to you?
I’ll go first.
Kindness to me is based on my own beliefs and my own values. Kindness starts with yourself, and a whole lot of empathy and acceptance. I treat people the way I treat myself, and I believe how you treat people and act builds a foundation for other relationships that will come (and go) in your life. The world can be cruel and you can choose to be bitter and ride that wave, but kindness makes it a nicer place to live. I aim to be a person that radiates kindness because I want that to be my legacy.
What Are The Benefits of Kindness?
As children, we’re biologically wired to be kind and to be nice, and so we further develop this trait as we grow older through repetition. While practice does make perfect, there are influences that contribute to a person losing this ability, and therefore taking the opposite path. It’s backed by science and countless studies that kindness makes you healthier (but still eat your fruit and veg).
Kindness releases happiness hormones:
Happiness hormones are released when you do kind acts for other people.
There are various happy hormones and these include dopamine – this is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is a significant part of your brands reward system. Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate your mood and other elements such as memory, sleep, appetite and more. Oxytocin is often referred to as the ‘love hormone’ and this hormone helps promote empathy, bonding and trust. And last but not least, endorphins are generally known as your body’s natural pain reliever. These levels increase when you participate in rewarding activities.
Essentially, acts of kindness boost your serotonin levels, as well as your endorphin levels. This is why when you do something nice for someone else, it improves your mood and makes you feel better too! So, during this challenging time, participate in acts of kindness – this could be volunteering, or simply giving advice to someone who is in need of it. The list is endless!
Kindness reduces anxiety:
While there are many ways to reduce anxiety, being kind and nice to others is probably one of the easiest ways to keep anxiety at bay. Social anxiety is associated with low positive affect, which is a factor that significantly impacts psychological well being. High positive affect can help with anxiety, as it refers to our experiences of positive moods.
Kindness reduces stress levels:
I think we can all agree, that our stress levels during this time have probably been at an all time high. And while we have our very own ways of dealing with stress, whether it’s having a self care night in for one, and hanging out with a friend you can lean on, the action of helping others can actually reduce the impact of stress on emotional functioning.
It’s good for the heart:
As we mentioned earlier, kindness releases the hormone called oxytocin, and this causes the release of a chemical named nitric oxide. This ultimately reduces blood pressure and is also known as a cardio protective hormone as it protects the heart. So when you make someone else feel good or ‘warm’ – it actually affects the chemical balance of your heart!
Some Acts of Kindness
Check in on a friend or family member for a catch up and to make sure they’re doing ok. We might not be able to see each other during this time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone.
Sponsor a friend or family member for a fundraiser event.
A simple smile and a hello! Cheerio! Can really make someone’s day.
Respecting and acknowledging someone’s feelings also goes a long way.
Volunteer – there isn’t a better time right now to offer help to those who need it most.
Help the vulnerable with food shopping.
Tell your loved ones how much you love, care and appreciate them.
How To Get Involved?
There are various ways you can contribute to Mental Health Awareness week. The simple one is to get talking alongside the nation! Share your acts of kindness, and use the #kindnessmatters hashtag on all social media platforms. There’s a pretty cool gif too! Or, if you wanted to go a step further, host a virtual fundraising event (with social distancing measures in place of course) and enjoy doing it from the comfort of your own home. Fundraising events can range from holding a kick ass virtual quiz night with friends or family, or being active for 30 minutes each day, or if you really like Facebook, create a fundraiser on the social platform and get people chatting over a virtual cup of tea, coffee and a couple of custard creams.
Remember, while it’s important to be kind to others, you need to be kind to yourself too. Show yourself the kindness you give to everyone else.