Mental Health Awareness Week 18th – 24th May 2020
This year, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Kindness’. One thing that we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times.
We have learnt that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope.
The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress and improve your emotional wellbeing.
How important is kindness to you?
The Mental Health Foundation has conducted a new survey into kindness, which has found almost two-thirds of us say that when people are kind to them, it has a positive impact on their mental health.
The results also found that almost two-thirds of people find that being kind to others has a positive impact on their mental health and almost three-quarters of us say it is important we learn from the coronavirus pandemic to be more kind as a society.
48% percent of the people surveyed said being kind “to myself” had a positive impact on their mental health.
The benefits of kindness
Being kind can significantly improve our physical and emotional wellbeing – whether we are giving or receiving it.
There have even been scientific studies into the effects of kindness, showing that acts of kindness help your immune system, reduces stress, gives you energy and are good for your heart!
The power of being kind goes even further, it has been proven to slow ageing, improve relationships and it’s contagious!
Good for your heart
Kindness can change the chemicals in our body.
Committing acts of kindness produces a hormone in the body called oxytocin, sometimes called the ‘kindness hormone’ and the ‘cardioprotective hormone’. Which means it protects our hearts!
Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which opens up the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. It is the main contributor to keeping our hearts healthy after exercise.
This important hormone also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re feeling anxious, nervous or shy.
Kindness can spread far and wide pretty quickly!
The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone – whether you are giving, receiving or observing kindness. This improves their mood and makes them significantly more likely to act kindly themselves.
Kindness creates a ripple effect that can improve the day of loads of people!
One of the factors that plays a role in the aging process is oxidative stress – which is an imbalance in your body.
Scientists found that if you introduced oxytocin (the kindness hormone) to skin cells put under stress, the levels of oxidative stress got significantly reduced.
Gives us energy
Engaging in acts of kindness can give us more energy. A study by the University of California Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center showed that people feel stronger and more energetic after helping others.
Makes you feel happy
Alongside oxytocin, being kind also produces serotonin in your body. This is often called the ‘happy chemical’ and has been found to heal your wounds, calm you down, and improve your mood.
When you are kind to another person your brain’s pleasure and reward centres light up, which makes you feel good.
Reduces stress and anxiety
Having low levels of the chemical serotonin in the body has been linked to anxiety and depression.
So kindness can help as it increases serotonin. When we’re kind we get the opposite emotional and physical effects on our body to when we are stressed.
A study by the University of British Columbia found that kind people have 23% less cortisol – the stress hormone – and age slower than average.
In their research, a group of highly anxious people did at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in their positive moods, their relationships with other people had improved, and they avoided social situations less.
Supports your immune system
How you feel emotionally can physically effect your immune system – which is the system in the body that helps fight off infection and viruses.
If you feel a connection with someone either by being kind to them, someone being kind to you, or even seeing kindness in action it can spike the immune system into action.
Kindness produces endorphins, the brain’s natural painkiller. Endorphins are hormones that deal with stress and reduce feelings of pain.
It’s important to be kind to yourself as well
Whatever you can manage today is good enough. Some people feel that the lockdown is giving them the time and chance to learn new skills or try new things. That may be you, and if so, enjoy and celebrate that.
If this isn’t you, try not to beat yourself up about what you see others doing. If things are hard right now, try and find some small things to celebrate each day. Getting up and washing your hair can be just as much of an achievement as someone else posting about a 5k run on Instagram.
Try to tune out the voice of judgement and comparison and tune in to the voice that says you are enough.
Be kind to yourself
Prioritise some “me” time, so you can relax and reflect on how you’re feeling and how your day or week has been so far
Turn off from your social media channels for a day, or even a week
Treat yourself to something small, such as buying or planting some flowers
Do something you enjoy, like listening to a favourite song or dancing in your kitchen
Spend some time in nature, which is good for our mental health
Useful organisations and information
Mental Health Foundation
Our vision is of good mental health for all. The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems. We will drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Action for Happiness
Action for Happiness is a movement of people committed to building a happier society. They also run the International Day of Happiness.
Volunteering made easy. Quickly find ways to help in your community by searching their online database of volunteering opportunities in your area.
Promoting, sharing and uniting kindness. Take part in the first ever nationwide kindness survey.