December 6, 2022

Spreading kindness

Mark Rowland, chief executive of Mental Health Awareness Week, believes a little kindness will go a long way in the current crisis…

Recently as I waited in a socially distanced queue outside the supermarket as the rain started to fall. One of the staff noticed we were getting wet. He scurried away to find a pile of umbrellas, carefully disinfected the handles and passed them out with a smile. To my surprise, my eyes started to well up. At a time when I felt alone, I suddenly felt connected.

If I asked you the last time you gave or experienced kindness, you would tell me stories of when you felt moved, protected, held, seen, loved. This year’€™s Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) in the UK is focusing on the power and potential of kindness. We think it could be the most important week we’€™ve hosted, not least because our own research shows that protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic – with the psychological and social impacts likely to outlast the physical symptoms of the virus.

We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.

Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism.

But kindness is an intrinsically risky endeavour. It can risk us looking foolish or being taken advantage of, which is why we sometimes retreat. To receive or to give kindness is an act of courage. We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to support each other to take that brave step and harness the benefits for both giver and receiver.

We have a once in a generation opportunity not only during but also following this pandemic for a reset and re-think about what kind of society we want to emerge from this crisis. We know that one act of kindness can lead to many more. This is the type of community action that we need to inspire others as we discover our connection to each other and extend kindness to ourselves.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, we are asking you to do three things:

  • Reflect on an act of kindness. Share your stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • Use our resources in your family, school, workplace and community to join with thousands in practising acts of kindness to yourself and others during the week
  • Share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • Reflect on an act of kindness. Share your stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • Use our resources in your family, school, workplace and community to join with thousands in practising acts of kindness to yourself and others during the week
  • Share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

    mentalhealth.org.uk

MOST READ

RELATED ARTICLES