What is kindness and why does it matter?

kindness weekMental Health Awareness Week 2020

Today kicks off the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, held by the Mental Health Foundation, and the theme of the week is kindness.

As a way of participating in kindness week each day we, Marjon, will be sharing stories of kindness and tips on how to be kind across different media platforms.

We would like to encourage you to join in and share the acts of kindness that you have been part of and let us know how they made you feel. Let us know in the comments.

What is kindness?

If you look kindness up in the dictionary it is described as the quality of being friendly, generous or considerate. But to me kindness is so much more than just these words.

If I had to describe kindness I would say that it is doing something good, something that improves upon another person’s day, without expecting anything in return.

An example I have of kindness comes from about 20 years ago when I was food shopping with my young son sat in the trolley asleep. A worker at the store appeared with a cushion for my son to rest on, instead of the cold and uncomfortable trolley frame. A simple act, but it has stayed in my mind for all this time.

Why does kindness matter?

There are so many negative images in the world almost everywhere you look, social media, for example, is flooded with them.  And kindness is one of the weapons we have to combat this negativity. Unfortunately, as people we are more inclined to take note of the bad that we see in life than we are in the good. So, kindness offers us something positive to focus on.

Kindness brings people together and acts as a way to strengthen the relationships we have and to build new relationships.

On a personal level, when you engage in an act of kindness your body does two wonderful things. Firstly, your brain produces endorphins, those lovely feel good chemicals that reduce pain and enhance pleasure, and secondly, it releases oxytocin, dubbed the love hormone, into our bloodstream. This is great for both your mental and physical health.

And, of course, it matters to the person you are being kind to. Your act of kindness has an important impact on their mood too. Thinking back to the worker that brought my son a cushion, I felt that my sons needs were not only seen, but important enough for a them to be met, and this moved me.

Exercising kindness

The truly wonderful thing about kindness is it’s easy! It can be as simple as giving a compliment, holding a door open, helping someone carry their bags or just sharing a well-timed hug.

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself!

It’s important to offer ourselves the same level of kindness as we would to everyone else. Being kind to yourself can be as simple as taking a little time from your day to spend on yourself, whether it be to read a book or take a bath. It can be investing in yourself and doing something your future self will thank you for, such as exercising, looking after your physical health or learning something new. Or, perhaps most importantly, talking to yourself gently in an understanding and accepting way.

Kindness and COVID-19

We are living in strange times right now, COVID-19 has stripped us of so many things we have always taken for granted.  Luckily for us kindness is not one of them.

In the village I live in a COVID-19 group has been set up on Facebook and people are helping strangers out on a daily basis. Collecting prescriptions, doing shopping, donating to foodbanks and calling each other to ‘check in’. These groups have popped up all over the country.

Final thought

I guess what I’m trying to say is kindness is free, kindness is easy and kindness is needed. So go ahead, send that motivational text, smile at that stranger and pamper yourself.

Thank you to Carrie-Anne Riding in the Student Support team for writing this.

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