Recent times have been a period of enormous change. With the challenges posed by COVID-19, the world has certainly become a lot smaller as the virus has penetrated every corner of society.
No one has been unaffected by the disruption, lockdown and social distancing measures.
COVID-19 has not only brought change but also a sense of loss; loss of normality, of diminished human connection and especially of the little things like that casual cup of tea with a neighbour or friend.
In its wake it has left fear, economic uncertainty, with additional stress and feelings of anxiety for many. At home, at work and in life.
Apart from the physical health risks of the virus itself, there’s no doubt that all of these measures are having a detrimental impact on our collective mental health.
Furthermore the main strategy to suppress the virus is social distancing, which is a highly unnatural practice for us as human beings, albeit necessary at present.
One of the most important ideas I have come across in terms of health and vitality is this idea of acceptance
For people suffering from mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety this can be a particularly trying time, as well as for their partners and loved ones.
One of the most important ideas I have come across in terms of health and vitality is this idea of acceptance. To accept what you can’t change and instead to focus as much of your time and energy on those things you can control.
Right now, that includes your degree of self care (restorative sleep, nutrition, exercise and movement), self-development (reading, podcasts, online learning etc) as well as the support structures you build around you.
Even if this is just a telephone conversation, it’s so important to have some people around you to strengthen and support you at this challenging time.
Keep it kind
This month sees National Volunteering Week from 18-24 May. As such, I thought it would be timely to have a look at the topic of giving and kindness, to highlight just how beneficial it can be, not just for the mental health and wellbeing of those people around you, but your own wellbeing as well.
Giving and receiving are both part of same universal flow of energy, the yin and yang of life
Do you view kindness as a weakness or strength of character? While we make a living with what we get, we make a life with what we give. I believe we should give to live and live to give.
Giving and receiving are both part of same universal flow of energy, the yin and yang of life.
One of the great benefits of kindness is that it’s not possible to help someone else without also helping yourself.
Kindness can be so good for your physical health. Perhaps because of activation of the vagus nerve, which runs from the back of the heart to the brain.
It controls the body’s relaxation response, known medically as the parasympathetic nervous system (the yang to the yin of negative stress).
Kindness is a great way to build realistic optimism and resilience
This results in the release of hormones like oxytocin making you feel more relaxed and connected to others. At the same time, it reduces levels of stress hormones and feelings of hostility or helplessness.
Kindness is a great way to build realistic optimism and resilience. You develop more perspective; you are better able to see your own problems in a more realistic light, better able to see both the wood and the trees!
Kindness encourages you to be more open and more confident about your own intrinsic good nature.
Kindness allows you to feel more grateful and appreciative for what you already have. It can boost your self-esteem, helping to bring out the best in you.
Perhaps one of the best things about kindness is how contagious it is
Kindness can allow you to see the world as a more generous and caring place, building trust and becoming a catalyst for positive change. Being kinder feeds into your values, sense of purpose and meaning. It’s a terrific way to boost your relationships as you are seen by others in a more positive light.
Perhaps one of the best things about kindness is how contagious it is.
How it can spread positively through your social networks creating a feel good ripple effect. The bottom line is that your commitment to be kinder can inspire others to be more kind and generous too.
Just like the expanding ripple that spreads outwards across a pond when a pebble is thrown in, kindness can start a similar chain reaction of positivity, spreading outwards.
Random acts of kindness
Research from evidence-based positive psychology has found that five random acts of kindness once a week over a six-week period can lead to a significant upsurge in your wellbeing.
These can be really simple things like reaching out to renew contact by calling up an old friend, or volunteering some of your time to support others.
You become more aware of being in the moment in terms of your time
As you read this, you might be thinking to yourself that you’re already kind and generous. I’m sure you are! The key point is that when you do the five random acts of kindness on one single day of the week it makes you more finely attuned to your thoughts, feelings and actions on that particular day.
You become more aware of being in the moment in terms of your time and more appreciative of the impact that your words or actions are having not only on other people, but on yourself.
Doing them over the entire week doesn’t seem to work nearly as well as their positive impact tends to be overshadowed and diluted by everything else that is going on in your life. My suggestion is to try out this regular kindness day and see how it can become a new tipping point for your mental health and wellbeing.
Volunteering your time to support others strengthens your sense of interdependence and connection to others
Perhaps every so often do what I call a “silent act of kindness”. This is where you do something anonymously for someone where there is no possibility of them ever finding out. Try it and see how it makes a difference.
Volunteering your time to support others strengthens your sense of interdependence and connection to others. As you develop helping habits, it can bring a sense of fulfilment, enriched purpose and meaning to your life.
Social distancing requires us to distance ourselves physically but not emotionally. Social distancing is not emotional distancing.
Cut yourself some slack during these tough times
Maya Angelou, the brilliant American poet and writer put it so well when she said that as you go through life, to look at your two hands as a reminder that one hand is to reach out and support others, whereas the second hand is to help yourself. In other words be kind to others but remember to also be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack during these tough times.
As human beings we thrive on the basis of our human relationships. Let’s all reach out and reconnect. Call, text or use social media. Who can you reach out to and call today? Let’s help to build connection and beat isolation and loneliness. Remember we are all better together.