Mental health is such a big part of the support needed by our families here at Home-Start. And in these unusual times, it is even more important that we look after ourselves and one another.
This week (18th to 24th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week (hosted by the Mental Health Foundation) and this year the theme is kindness.
With that in mind, one of our wonderful volunteers penned her thoughts on the concept of kindness and shares them with us…
What is Kindness?
We are all experiencing both unique and uncertain times at the moment. We have witnessed some sad and difficult news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, but, we are also noticing the power of kindness during this time.
There are some amazing examples of this power of kindness; from stories of fundraising for our NHS, communities helping the vulnerable, Thursday’s NHS clap, and people making scrubs for our hospitals and hospices, to name but a few.
Kindness makes us feel happy and puts a smile on our faces.
I recently read a book about kindness called “The Five Side Effects Of Kindness” written by David R Hamilton, and have come to learn that kindness makes you feel better, happier and live longer too.
Kindness uplifts us, whether we witness it, receive it or show it – it produces a feeling of elevation. Major Tom Moore raising millions of pounds for our NHS is a fine example of this.
Kindness helps our hearts. When we feel kindness it causes the release of oxytocin (a hormone produced in our brain) and other chemicals. These chemicals help dilate our arteries reducing blood pressure and also protects our arteries from plaque build-up, which reduces the chance of heart attacks and strokes. A hug a day (an act of kindness) really will keep the cardiologist away.
Kindness can also help to slow ageing. Consistent thoughts, feelings and acts of kindness has been known to boost depleted hormones in our bodies as we get older. This, in turn, helps with:
- muscle regeneration
- reducing inflammation in our bodies
- boosting our immune system (which can help fight off viruses such as the coronavirus)
Kindness also helps with our relationships and is a quality we find attractive in people and ourselves. Our ancestors learned to keep safe when they stayed together in numbers, this is why kindness is partly in our nature. Historically, it kept humans safe and healthy. Kindness helps makes our relationships and friendships successful.
Finally, kindness is contagious… something we are really witnessing during the pandemic. The acts of kindness we see are being transferred from one person to another, proving that there is no such thing as a small act of kindness.
The poem below was written before the current coronavirus pandemic, but the way it explains how something as simple as a smile can travel around the world has never been more relevant:
The Smile Virus (Author Unknown)
Smiling is infectious,
you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner
and someone saw my grin
When he smiled I realized
I’d passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile
then I realized its worth,
A single smile, just like mine
could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin,
don’t leave it undetected
Let’s start an epidemic quick,
and get the world infected!
Kindness helps us shine, it helps us be our best selves and we learn and grow from the experience of kindness. And it really does matter to the people we help. It helps to connect our communities and reminds us of who we are and what life is about.
On a personal note, I notice at our family groups the acts of kindness our families and volunteers share and feel privileged to be part of such a special community.
In a time when we have less control, kindness is something in our lives that we can control.
A fun activity to try at home is The Kindness Family Challenge. Each day carry out an act of kindness to each member of your family, see how it makes you and them feel. Perhaps extend your kindness to a stranger or neighbour?
Take care and keep well.