The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, had many of us thinking about two things: (1) how we can be kinder to others and (2) how we can be kinder to ourselves. With everything going on in the world right now, everyone would agree that compassion is needed now more than ever. Whether that’s through checking in with loved ones, supporting key workers or small businesses, a small act of kindness can have a great positive impact on our mental well-being.
Kindness has a profound impact on the receiver and the giver. Being kind is good for our health. Not only does it make us feel good, it also boosts our immune system, reduces stress and increases energy.
Let’s look at this biologically:
1. Taking part in acts of kindness increases a chemical called Serotonin in the body, also known as the ‘happy chemical’, this helps to improve mood and has been shown to even heal wounds.
2. Being kind boosts Oxytocin, this is the ‘cardioprotective hormone’ which helps to take care of the heart by releasing chemicals that lower blood pressure. Oxytocin also slows ageing and increases optimism and self-esteem.
3. Kindness produces endorphins, hormones that reduce stress and pain.
These effects can be seen in those observing kindness too. All it takes is one small act of kindness to receive these great benefits.
Here are 3 simple ways to be kind to others:
1) Say thank you
2) Check up on friends/family
3) Give someone a compliment
But let’s not forget, being kind to ourselves!
When a friend is going through a challenging time, we are quick to support and reassure them which is great, but most of us forget to apply this to ourselves. If we make a mistake, we are more likely to beat ourselves up about it, rather than accept it as a mistake and be forgiving.
Next time you feel yourself judging or being unkind to yourself, stop and take a moment to look at those thoughts from a different perspective. For example, instead of saying “I failed the test, I’m so stupid”, you can reframe that as, “I failed the test but at least I tried my best.”
Here are 3 additional ways to be kind to yourself:
1. Schedule in daily ‘me’ time - take some time out for yourself to do something you enjoy.
2. Recognise your own achievements, no matter how small- next time you achieve a goal or target that you set yourself, give yourself that pat on the back that you deserve.
3. Comfort yourself- especially after a long day it’s crucial to do something relaxing whether that is soaking in a warm bath, putting on some music or simply writing it all down in your journal.
Most importantly, just because Mental Health Awareness Week has come to an end (for this year), that does not mean that the awareness stops here. Let’s continue to be kind to ourselves and others.
-Written by Senada Merkulaj (Inside Out UK Team)