In the last couple of months, we have all experienced a new world due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. We have been faced with a constant flood of information, precautions, rules, opinions and changes, which have taken a toll on many of us, especially when it comes to our emotional wellbeing.
Lockdown has meant we have had different routines; have not seen the people we would like to or enjoy the freedoms we now appreciate more than ever. We have also had to contend with additional worries such as health, finances and caring for others in difficult circumstances.
For some of us, we have also begun to rediscover what is important, with time to think about who and what we miss most; how we are fulfilled in our lives; and the vulnerability of people, humankind.
The thread that connects these thoughts is kindness to ourselves and to one another.
Kindness is one of the most ancient words in the English language, and originally meant “nature”. So, in essence, kindness is natural, or, of our nature. It is also related to “kin”, so in kindness we have a relationship with ourselves and others, which helps us to belong, a key value in good mental health.
Over the past weeks, I have witnessed amazing acts of kindness in many forms, including individuals in communities coming together, sharing, volunteering help, contributing and making a difference to others. Working in health and social care, I have seen the sacrifices people have made to help others, share laughter and make the lives of others just that bit better.
Research has shown that being kind has a positive effect on our mental and physical health, as well as our emotional resilience, helping us to become happier and more confident as our self-esteem and optimism grows.
Being kind and indeed witnessing acts of kindness have been shown to help reduce blood pressure by stimulating the production of oxytocin. This causes the release of nitric acid in the blood vessels which effectively expands them.
From my experience, thinking “outside of myself” is a great way of reducing fear. Taking action can reduce anxiety, by imposing some control, so thinking about what I can do to help others who may be more affected by the virus than me is a win:win.
What can you do to help?
- Dedicate some time to listen to others and be a good listener.
- Compliment others whenever you can. Don’t just think it, say it.
- Volunteer, there are lots of organisations looking for help and ways to do this.
- Get involved in a fundraising campaign.
- Share what you can with others, this may even be your time.
- Write to or text message something motivating to someone who might be struggling, lonely or isolated.
- Have a virtual catch-up with someone you know.
- Donate to foodbanks.
- Offer a skill via video call.
- Offer support to a neighbour.
Kindness can also be contagious. Witnessing kindness makes us feel happier, through a release of serotonin: the happy chemicals in the brain.
The outcome is to feel more energised and more inclined to join in, which greatly benefits our mental health. The simple act of giving kindness leads “givers” to be healthier and more resilient.
So, in a time when we are all working hard to stop the spread of coronavirus, we should encourage the spread of kindness as far as possible.
Let kindness be the legacy of this pandemic.
Beth Hendry is a mental health nurse working at Milestones Trust. She has more than 30 years of experience working in health and social care. She also works as a poet and spoken word performer, with a focus on emotional wellbeing.
Main photo: Nicky Takes Photos
Read more: Spreading kindness throughout Bristol