Kindness: why we need it now more than ever.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and this year's theme and focus is Kindness.
The aim of MHAW is to open up conversations and awareness regarding mental health – good and bad and to create lasting and positive changes in the field of mental health.
We all have mental health - just as we do physical health and it is crucial that we take care of both.
But why should we dedicate an entire week to it?
Not just because of the alarming and frankly terrifying statistics below, but because we need to acknowledge that mental health needs attention, funding and focus if we are to survive this pandemic and build our resilience.
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year – that’s 16 million of us
The average wait for effective treatment is 10 years
Suicide is the biggest killer of people aged between 20 – 34 in the UK
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability affecting 264 million people worldwide
Poor mental health costs the UK economy £105.2 billion each year, poor mental health at work cost £34.9 billion last year equating to poor mental health problems costing £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy.
Fittingly, this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is Kindness as it strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. As we continue to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, we need kindness more than ever; for ourselves, our families, friends, colleagues and in our communities.
What is ‘kindness’? And what does it mean or take to be kind?
If you are kind you are generally seen as being friendly, generous and considerate and I am going to add in compassionate and empathetic to that list too.
While kindness often has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength. It requires us to be selfless and do things for others without expecting ‘pay back’ or getting anything in return.
I was often seen as the ‘nice, kind, people pleaser’ type who wouldn’t dare say no when someone asked for help or a favour.
I thought that I needed to be this way to be liked, to keep friends and not be that tough, aggressive b***h in the office.
Oh how wrong I was! Eventually, I realised that I needed to be kind to myself just as much as to others, that saying no, putting myself first and finding a compromise means that I am still kind to those I care about and to myself.
So how can we be kind?
Try doing 7 acts of kindness in 7 days as neuroscience have proven that doing prolonged kind deeds increases our happiness.
Or take on the Random Acts of Kindness challenge.
Just read Sonja Lyubmoirsky's The How of Happiness to understand the positive affects in action.
Here are some Kindness acts you can do for those around you: friends, family, colleagues, neighbours:
Bake a cake for a neighbour
Virtual escape room with colleagues and a few beers
Send an appreciation message to a friend
Skill swap with someone (teaching coding for poker lessons!)
Donate to the local foodbank
Telling friends and colleagues how thankful you are that they are around and reminding them how awesome they are
Having a walk and talk with someone so you are both connecting and getting outside to exercise.
Share memes, videos and jokes with friends to spread a bit of fun and laughter
Play virtual board games with a group of friends
Send a takeaway to an NHS worker – THANK YOU!
And some ideas on how you can show yourself Kindness:
Write yourself an appreciation letter
Create a daily self-care routine
Do 1 super fun thing every day which you enjoy
Reflect on each day and celebrate all you have achieved, dealt with and got done
Keep a Kindness diary – write down each day a kind note to yourself, what went well that day, and thank yourself for all you have done so far
Keep a gratitude journal and write down all you are grateful for that has happened so far, what you are grateful for each day and what you are grateful for during the pandemic (e.g. I am grateful that I don’t have to bike every day on a busy main road!)
Find the silver linings during this time – what has been surprisingly good for you during lockdown? For me I have taught my parents how to use Facetime (a huge achievement believe me!)
What’s the ‘could be worse’ scenario? Bizarrely, looking at the worst possible situation makes us realise how good we have it.
Resting! We no longer have to commute each day so are using this time to rest, learn new skills, exercise, get creative in crafts, learn a new language, cook more, dance!
Remind yourself that is is ok to be selfish - say no, do what you want, have the cake / G&T / pizza, lie in, watch Netflix. Just keep in mind - is this serving you kindly?
As the great Morgan Freeman said “How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time”
So go be kind - especially to yourself x