Kindness and Mental Health Awareness Week, 18-24 May
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.
- Compliment someone.
- 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:
- Being kind
- 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.