Kindness has a huge effect on both our physical and mental wellbeing. From a neurological perspective, when we practise kindness and compassion, our brain releases oxytocin (also known as the “love hormone”) and this as a result causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which lowers our blood pressure and improves heart health.
Kindness has many benefits including increased happiness and a healthy heart. It slows down the aging process and improves relationships and connections, which indirectly boosts our mental health and well-being.
Humans are social creatures who historically until now, need connection to survive, evolve and develop, as only through human connection, interaction and team work humans can become stronger in confidence, physical stamina, spirit and ability/skills, all important elements contributing towards a balanced mental well-being and mental health. It has been shown since history that only through kindness humans can peacefully overcome conflicts and create unity and peace between dissimilar groups as by having a perspective of kindness, peace and compassion and not a perspective of competition, one can see how similar human beings are between them rather than how different.
Acts of kindness have a tendency to draw us closer to each other; having positive relationships with friends and family has been shown to have positive impact on our mental health. According to research that has been carried out by to Robert Waldinger, an American psychiatrist, it has been indicated that people with healthier relationships were the ones who were healthier and lived longer. Now, good relationships by default are based on kindness being given and also being received as it is only that way that trust and connection can be built and good and healthy connective relationships can be created. Simply knowing that we are loved and supported can reduce the effects of anxiety and depression.
Happiness is spread collectively through each and every one of us. The sense of being kind is innate in humans as it is shown in little toddlers where by instinct they try to help one another, but it is not until later that competition is learnt and reinforced and that kindness instinct can be consciously placed on the side.
How many times we see humans become emotional or moved and cry when they witness an act of kindness, such as people or nations running to save others in a state of an emergency, relevant to nowadays clapping all of us together for the front line staff that fight every day to help COVID patients. This emotional/moving state is triggered because we are humans and we cry and are moved because an act of kindness or an act of bravery resonates with our ‘humanness’.
Kindness can come across in different ways and can also be encouraged through different actions. Some ideas around acts of kindness can be:
Smile (it has been shown that try to smile a lot increases endorphins as the muscles of your face when you smile send the signal to your brain that you are happy even when you are not and then by default you become happier)
Offer your help. (I met someone who challenged himself to offer his help to one person every day and they experienced a more balanced mental health)
Say thank you. You might say thank you 100 times a day.
Hug (it has been shown that only 5 minutes of close hug can increase the oxytocin hormone, the ‘love hormone’)
Hold a door for someone
Be grateful towards someone and show appreciation
Pick up litter
Let someone into your lane while driving
Give a small present to someone
Take a neighbour’s garbage bins to and from the curb
Compliment a friend, co-worker, or family member
Send a text to a loved one
Notice someone who seems lonely and invite them along with you
Let someone who wants to help you, help
Offer food to a homeless person
Kindness can also be encouraged through:
Modelling acts of kindness
Giving responsibilities and opportunities
Inspiring positive actions toward others
Teaching empathy and compassion
Giving and receiving kindness is a way to connect at a deeper level and can be broken into two main categories:
Receiving kindness from others
Being kind sometimes can be easier to some people from receiving kindness. Most people, paradoxically, find it easier to be kind than to be on the receiving act of a kind act. For example, when someone compliments them, they will tend to reply, “it was nothing” or “no problem”. This is usually the result of many people having adopted this learned behavior as a way of being humble or selfless, but what this actually does is stops the flow of the energy of giving and receiving. If someone gives you a compliment, not receiving it stops its power for both the giver and the receiver.
Vasia Toxavidi, Counsellor at Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster said;
According to my experience as a therapist, I have noticed that people who don’t allow themselves to receive kindness or support, are the ones who struggle with interpersonal relationships as they cannot balance the connection to flow within their relationships and also the ones who do not practice compassion for themselves- if they only care to be kind to others and they never allow kindness to them how this reflects a sense of self love, nurturing and compassion to one self?”
If you have a story of how a kind act made a difference in your life, please share it @BWWMind #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek #KindnessMatters. You never know how your story might impact the life of another.
Exercise is great for our mental health and there are plenty of ways we can continue to do this, even in isolation.
What type of activity might work for me?
Being physically active tends to be easier if you choose an activity that you enjoy, and that fits into your daily life. If you force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, you’re much less likely to keep it going and experience benefits to your mental health.
There are lots of different things you can try – not everybody will enjoy or feel comfortable doing all of these activities, so you may need to try a few before you find something you like. You may also find that different things work for you at different times, depending on how you’re feeling.
If you think you might find it hard to get going with any of these things, check out this link and read on.
Activities at home
Try to sit less – if you spend lots of time sitting down, try to get up and move around a bit every hour. If you’re worried you might forget, you could set an alarm to remind yourself.
Chair-based exercises – if you have mobility problems, a physical condition, or find it difficult spending time out of a chair, the NHS has activity routines you can try while sitting down.
Play an active computer game – there are a few different gaming consoles you could try which involve actively moving your body while playing computer games.
Do exercises or stretches at home – the NHS has lots of different routines – click here to try them – or you could try an exercise CD or DVD.
Do an online activity programme – there are lots of free, online exercise regimes designed for you to try at home, including everything from chair-based exercises to yoga and cardio workouts.
Do active household chores – like hoovering, tidying or DIY.
Include more activity in your day-to-day routine – run up the stairs instead of walking, carry your bags of shopping in one at a time or do some gentle stretching while you’re watching TV.
Dance – put on some music while you’re cooking and dance around your kitchen, or have a mini dance party. There are also lots of online dance classes including some of which are free. Check out these ones for kids.
Activities out and about
Now that we are able to have unlimited time to exercise outside, why not take the opportunity to get out and do more?
Walk a bit more – just go a little bit further, be it round the park or to the end of the road and back.
Play a game in the park – if you have someone to play with there are lots of games you can play that keep you safe and 2m apart. Try frisbee, tennis or kicking a ball.
Exercising on a budget – be it indoors or outdoors there are lots of ways to try new things out and exercise without it costing money. Click here to find our more.
Outdoors gyms – some local parks have free outdoors gym equipment you can use. You can try your local council website to find the location of any outdoor gyms near you.
Cycling – whether riding for short or long distances check out Sustrans for lots of ideas to get you started.
Gardening or seated gardening – the Carry on Gardening website has information about gardening for emotional wellbeing and with particular disabilities.
Be active in nature – our information on nature and mental health click here.
Motivation and extra support
Music – putting music or a podcast on your headphones can help distract, entertain or motivate you while you exercise.
Online communities – you could check in with other people are who also trying to get more active on an online community, such as Mind’s community Elefriends. This can help you stay motivated and connect with others in a similar situation.
Apps and programmes – check out the NHS’s Strength and Flex and Couch to 5K programmes. They give you step-by-step programmes and help keep you motivated.
Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster is delighted to announce Dr David Spalter as the new Organisational Clinical Lead and latest member of the Senior Management Team.
During 2019, Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster conducted a strategic review of mental health needs and support, which identified the growing need for clinical services to support an increasing level of acuity. This led the charity to strategically reposition and deliver more NHS commissioned clinical services. This important new role was created following this change and will ensure that Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster safely, effectively and ethically provide support for people with more complex mental health needs.
Dr Spalter will lead all clinical policy, delivery and auditing with responsibility for supporting all colleagues on clinical matters. He will support the Board of Trustees on governance matters, including membership of the Quality Sub-committee and lead on clinical certifications.
Simon Thompson, CEO said ‘As a clinician myself by training, I have found a well-respected and knowledgeable senior clinician, that puts his colleagues and service users at the very centre of what we do. We know that to be sustainable and continue to grow and provide safe services having a dedicated person to champion this vital role will give assurance to commissioners, colleagues and service users alike.”
Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep problems are very common and even more common in people who misuse substances. Sleep deprivation affects your psychological state and mental health.
How sleep affects mental health
Every 90 minutes, a normal sleeper cycles between two major categories of sleep — although the length of time spent in one or the other changes as sleep progresses.
During “quiet” sleep, a person progresses through four stages of increasingly deep sleep. Body temperature drops, muscles relax, and heart rate and breathing slow. The deepest stage of quiet sleep produces physiological changes that help boost immune system functioning.
The other sleep category, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the period when people dream. Body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing increase to levels measured when people are awake. Studies report that REM sleep enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health — in complex ways.
Although scientists are still trying to tease apart all the mechanisms, they’ve discovered that sleep disruption — which affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, among other things — wreaks havoc in the brain, impairing thinking and emotional regulation.
Psychological effects of sleep deprivation
More than 70 types of sleep disorders exist. The most common problems are insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep), obstructive sleep apnea (disordered breathing that causes multiple awakenings), various movement syndromes (unpleasant sensations that prompt night fidgeting), and narcolepsy (extreme sleepiness or falling asleep suddenly during the day).
Type of sleep disorder, prevalence, and impact vary by psychiatric diagnosis. But the overlap between sleep disorders and various psychiatric problems is so great that researchers have long suspected both types of problems may have common biological roots.
Depression. Studies using different methods and populations estimate that 65% to 90% of adult patients with major depression, and about 90% of children with this disorder, experience some kind of sleep problem. Most patients with depression have insomnia, but about one in five suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Insomnia and other sleep problems also increase the risk of developing depression. A longitudinal study of about 1,000 adults ages 21 to 30 enrolled in a Michigan health maintenance organization found that, compared with normal sleepers, those who reported a history of insomnia during an interview in 1989 were four times as likely to develop major depression by the time of a second interview three years later. And two longitudinal studies in young people — one involving 300 pairs of young twins, and another including 1,014 teenagers — found that sleep problems developed before major depression did.
Insomnia and other sleep problems affect outcomes for patients with depression. Studies report that depressed patients who continue to experience insomnia are less likely to respond to treatment than those without sleep problems. Even patients whose mood improves with antidepressant therapy are more at risk for a relapse of depression later on. Depressed patients who experience insomnia or other sleep disturbances are more likely to think about suicide and die by suicide than depressed patients who are able to sleep normally.
Bipolar disorder. Studies in different populations report that 69% to 99% of patients experience insomnia or report less need for sleep during a manic episode of bipolar disorder. In bipolar depression, however, studies report that 23% to 78% of patients sleep excessively (hypersomnia), while others may experience insomnia or restless sleep. Longitudinal studies suggest that insomnia and other sleep problems worsen before an episode of mania or bipolar depression, and lack of sleep can trigger mania. Sleep problems also adversely affect mood and contribute to relapse.
Anxiety disorders. Sleep problems affect more than 50% of adult patients with generalized anxiety disorder, are common in those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and may occur in panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias. They are also common in children and adolescents. One sleep laboratory study found that youngsters with an anxiety disorder took longer to fall asleep, and slept less deeply, when compared with a control group of healthy children. Insomnia may also be a risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder, but not as much as it is for major depression. In the longitudinal study of teenagers mentioned earlier, for example, sleep problems preceded anxiety disorders 27% of the time, while they preceded depression 69% of the time. But insomnia can worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders or prevent recovery. Sleep disruptions in PTSD, for example, may contribute to a retention of negative emotional memories and prevent patients from benefiting from fear-extinguishing therapies.
ADHD. Various sleep problems affect 25% to 50% of children with ADHD. Typical problems include difficulty falling asleep, shorter sleep duration, and restless slumber. The symptoms of ADHD and sleeping difficulties overlap so much it may be difficult to tease them apart. Sleep-disordered breathing affects up to 25% of children with ADHD, and restless legs syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder, which also disrupt sleep, combined affect up to 36%. And children with these sleeping disorders may become hyperactive, inattentive, and emotionally unstable — even when they do not meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.
Things that interfere with sleeping
Medical problems, particularly pain and conditions affecting the bladder.
Certain medicines can effect sleep.
Emotional upset (bereavement) or depressions and anxiety.
Stress, anxiety and worry.
Bad sleeping environment (i.e. bed, room, noise).
Changing your sleep routine.
Taking naps during the day.
Caffeine – especially tea, coffee and Red Bull.
Stimulant drugs like cocaine, amphetamine and crystal meth.
Things that help sleeping
Getting into a good sleep routine.
Use your bed only for sleeping.
Avoid any stimulating substances and activities.
Do some exercise during the day.
A Good Sleep Routine
Go to bed at roughly the same time every day.
Start to wind down before getting into bed.
Ensure your bed and room are comfortable and fit for sleep.
Get into bed approximately 20 minutes before you want to fall asleep and start to relax – perhaps by reading or some other form of relaxation.
Turn out light 5 minutes before you plan to fall asleep.
Do not try to fall asleep. Try listening to soft music or attend to your breath.
Do not think about complex or distressing things.
If you can’t fall asleep after a reasonable period of time – get up and do something non-stimulatory like reading.
Do not smoke or drink tea/coffee.
Get up at the same time every morning. Even if it is tempting to sleep later – do not – as this will affect your getting to sleep at night.
My Sleep Plan
Things I can start doing to help me sleep (e.g. exercise)
Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster is pleased to announce a new addition to the Board of Trustees.
James Newman comes with huge experience in the commercial sector. He is currently a member of the executive of a global technology and software company. He specialises in Corporate Affairs, Business Strategy, Communications and Marketing.
James says, “I am delighted to have been appointed to the Board as I was, and am, so impressed by the work Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster deliver, and that of Mind charities nationally. It is essential we tackle the shame people associate with mental health problems and I look forward to supporting the charities sustainability, growth and enabling people to live the life they choose.”
Sue Williamson, Chair of the Board of Trustees said, “We are delighted to welcome James who has a proven track record in the commercial sector and a passion for mental health and wellbeing. He joins a dynamic and ambitious Board and Senior Management Team and will help drive us forwards.”
We are delighted to announce that Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster has been chosen by Brent Council to expanded its specialist housing services for mental health sufferers in Brent.
Dominic Bond, Deputy Service Manager, Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster said: “This is a great opportunity to further improve mental health care for people in Brent. Having specialist mental health housing services will offer sufferers tailored recovery programmes and the chance to lead fulfilling lives.”
The expansion will see Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster managing a further three housing support services across the Borough. The services, like those the charity currently runs in the Borough, will help people on their recovery journey to develop the skills and gain the confidence needed to live independently in the community.
Who are the services for?
The services are for adults in Brent aged 18+. They are designed to support individuals with moderate to high mental health needs, including those with dual diagnosis. Typically, people with moderate to high mental health needs tend to be suffer from discrimination, economic adversity and social exclusion. These services aim to change this.
What do the services offer?
There will be a range of programmes including;
– Financial planning and budgeting
– Addiction management and cessation
– 1-2-1 support with daily tasks
– Community link building
– Individual and group
– Training, volunteering and employment
– Therapeutic arts groups
Does Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster provide similar services anywhere else in London?
Similar services are already in place across Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster.
For more information on the services please contact: Esdras Foxe, 020 7259 8100
Be it a special birthday, religious festival or other time when you would usually be with those you love, the current coronavirus social distancing and self-isolation practices have made these gatherings impossible. This is hard for many of us and whilst there is no replacement for being with a someone you love in person, we hope that these tips and ideas might help.
If the people you love have a smartphone and access to internet connection why not try one of the many apps that allow you to see each other? Having asked around here at Mind in Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster, the team mostly use WhatsApp and FaceTime to talk with and see their loved ones.
Meet in groups
If you want to spend time together in groups why not try using Zoom or the HouseParty app. Both of these online tools allow multiple people to gather, see each other, talk and share. Several members of our team are arranging family lunches and evening meals with everyone gathering on Zoom to celebrate Passover and Easter.
How about setting up group emails, WhatsApp groups or other social media groups? It’s a great way to share photo’s, jokes and updates. You can be in touch with people, pick up messages and share thoughts at whatever time suits you.
You’ve got mail
The Royal Mail is still working so why not send something in the post? Many of the online shops and outlets are still taking orders and delivering too so you could send each other small things like your favourite book.
The good old fashioned phone
And of course, use the phone for either longer conversation or when you just want to talk one to one. Take the time to call at least one person everyday, especially those who re living alone. Even if you just have 5 minutes, we all like to know that someone is thinking of us.