Be Kind: Spreading the love to boost your mental health
These are uncertain times, but we can still make the choice to be kind
The Mental Health Foundation has found that doing good for others can have a huge positive impact on your mental health. The evidence suggests that being kind can help to:
improve emotional wellbeing
benefit physical health
bring a sense of belonging and reduce isolation
get rid of negative feelings
What does kindness look like?
We’re all feeling the impact that COVID-19 is having on our communities. It’s preventing us from spending time with loved ones or keeping us away from volunteering or our hobbies. Having to spend more time at home could have a negative impact on mental health.
In this changed world, what does it really mean to be kind? Before, kindness might have looked like popping round to visit an elderly neighbour or relative. Now, we know that it’s kinder to stay away to help to keep them safe. However, this can still be extremely difficult for us emotionally and many of us are missing our loved ones.
We explore the ways that you can be kind to yourself, your loved ones and your community in this difficult time.
How to be kind
1. Being to kind to yourself
Being kind to yourself, or self-care, isn’t selfish. It can be vital to maintaining your health and avoiding burnout. If you take care of others, you can’t do that unless you take care of yourself first. The Harvard Medical School blog recommends physical activity, healthy diet, time for relaxation and good sleep as core tenants of positive self-care.
You might feel that because you’re not unwell yourself for example, you’ve got no right to feel unhappy but that’s not true. You’re not selfish if you feel bad about what’s going on, things being cancelled or missing loved ones. Allow yourself to feel annoyed or frustrated and take out your negative feelings in a healthy way. Exercise can be a great stress-reliever or sharing your concerns with a loved one or a specialist helpline. Try to avoid drinking to excess or other temporary stress-relievers that do your body harm in the long run. If you find yourself dwelling on the negative, it’s important to break these patterns.
Be aware of your inner voice and the negative messages it sends. Why not make a point of countering every negative comment your inner voice pings your way with a positive remark?
2. Being kind to the people closest to us
The current situation has made many of us realise just how much we love and appreciate our family and friends – something that may have been taken for granted before. Show them you care by making time for them.
If you have a camera on your phone or computer, you can video chat with loved ones. People have been getting really creative with their video calls. Here’s a list of some of our favourite ideas that you could try yourself:
board game or quiz night – you could make the topics based on the things you’re all passionate about
talent show (if your internet connection is good enough)
movie night - just arrange to start the film at the same time and you can text your thoughts to each other throughout or discuss it once it’s finished
disco/sing a long
virtual book club
craft a-long or cook a-long
However, even just a phone call could make you feel closer to them.
One of the kindest gifts we can offer is our undivided attention. Even if you can’t do anything to help, people often simply want to be heard. The Huffington Post has some wonderful tips on active listening, including how to reflect back, ask open questions and reframe situations for an alternative point of view.
3. Being kind to your community
We show kindness to our communities by staying at home and following government advice. However, that’s not all we can do.
Many business owners are concerned for their livelihood right now. Why not by a gift certificate from their website for when they reopen? Many restaurants are still offering limited delivery services. You could treat yourself to a delicious meal – while supporting a local business you love.
Many of us are rediscovering their local milkman. You could sign up to start getting your milk delivered (all though these services might be oversubscribed in your area). This supports your local economy and means you won’t have to nip to the shops when you run out of milk. You can also sign up to receive other fresh produce – like bread and baked goods, fresh fruit and veg, and meat and fish – from producers in your local area.
Some of the more vulnerable people in your community could really be struggling in the current circumstances. If you can spare it, you could donate money to a food bank or another good cause. Some people have also posted letters to their neighbours with contact details and an offer of support, should they need it. As well as giving support to a vulnerable person, this can also help bring the community together and help you to get to know your neighbours.
4. Being kind to virtual connections
With the internet shielding us from human contact, it’s all too easy to punch out an angry post or sarcastic reply. Remember, though, there’s a real person with real feelings on the other side of the screen.
Sharing positive stories helps to drown out the avalanche of negativity. If someone gives you great service, post a great review. If they fall short of your expectations, speak to them privately, instead of inflaming the situation with a public humiliation.
If someone on social media has you seeing red whenever you read one of their posts, consider unfollowing them rather than giving them the power to make you angry. You could also report them to the platform if their posts seek to offend, hurt or mislead and block them.
5. Being kind to the whole world
Yes, you’re only one person but your actions do have an impact. Take time to make good choices: don’t waste energy or food, eat more local, seasonal produce, and buy clothes and household goods from ethical suppliers.
But don’t take it all on your shoulders. If you sometimes look at the news and feel overwhelmed, it’s good to remind yourself that you can’t fix it all.
Every person has the power to make the bit of the world that they occupy a little bit better. You can do that just by being kind - and that’s enough to change the world.
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