Why should we be kinder to others?
“Kindness” announced as new theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, in response to coronavirus outbreak
Mental Health Awareness week is organised each year by the Mental Health Foundation and, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, they’ve announced “Kindness” as the theme for this year. The date for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is 18th-24th May and is a moment for the UK to focus on mental health. Hence this post, Why should we be kinder to others.
What is kindness?
Various dictionaries suggest that Kindness: “is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate” or “is the quality of being gentle, caring, and helpful.”
Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care are words that are associated with kindness. While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength. Kindness is an interpersonal skill, Hall, 2017.
Why we should be kinder to others
Research shows that people who are kind and compassionate are more satisfied with their own lives, have better mental and physical health, and have healthier relationships. Being kind helps others, and make you feel good too.
However, before you rush around being kind to everyone, picking up more toilet rolls for your elderly neighbours, making cakes to put in kids’ packed lunches or knitting scarves and making masks for the homeless during COVID-19, there’s something very important you have to do first. And that, as clichéd as it sounds, is to be kind to yourself.
Having been kind to ourselves, we can now show kindness to others, do go deeds and look out for our fellow-human beings, during this unprecedented time. It’s a great time to step up, connect or reach out, where we can do so safely, to try to make our world a better place as we emerge from this pandemic.
Mental Health Awareness Week
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Now more than ever, we need to re-discover kindness in our daily lives.
“We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health.
“Kindness unlocks our shared humanity and is central for our mental health. It has the potential to bring us together with benefits for everyone, particularly at times of great stress.”
What is an act of kindness
An act of kindness is a spontaneous gesture of goodwill towards someone or something such as an animal, our fellow-man and the world around us.
We don’t have to make huge gestures like buying flowers or gifts. Simply refraining from things like picking fault, backstabbing or being judgemental is also an act of kindness.
While you might not be aware, you probably carry out lots acts of kindness each day i.e. smiling or holding doors, greeting colleagues or friends in a warm and friendly way and saying please, thank you or excuse me, even by telephone.
I love acts of kindness and the joy it brings. As a mental health nurse I really enjoyed greeting 20-28 patients each morning and always looked for something different to say to each of them — anything from complementing their hair, eyes, dress, tie or even for making the effort to get out of bed, to look after their self-care or for getting someone else’s breakfast for them. A simple smile or a sheepish grin in return from a patient would brighten my day and always remind me why I became a nurse.
When my sons were small they thought kindness was giving to the poor and who knows how many times they tried to make me stop at every beggar in the street. They also loved Christmas Day when we’d go down to London Embank where lots of homeless people slept under the bridge and we’d take huge trays of leftover lunches and desserts. The first time they came with us, they were amazed to see the recipients call out to all the others to share the food — I think it was then, they understood what kindness was.
What to do when you don’t feel like being kind
Of course there’s times when we’re not being particularly kind to ourselves so we certainly don’t feel like being kind to others. Some of that might come from our own crappy feelings of say hurt, disappointment, anger, sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness. What you can do when you feel this this is:
Acknowledge when you don’t feel like being kind. If you want to be unkind because you feel sad or you’ve been hurt, acknowledge that part of you that feels hurt and try being kind to yourself. When you’re ready, which generally doesn’t take long, when you see someone else in need, go and be kind.
If it’s too late and you’ve already been unkind, try to learn from it and how you felt afterwards. Did it ease your own hurt? Probably not and it might have added to your already rotten feeling. You could also apologise “I’m sorry. Yes, I was cross about what you said, but I shouldn’t have said what I did.”
Put yourself in another person’s shoes. We all know how we’ve felt when we’ve been in need and how much we’d appreciate it if someone stopped to help us.
Think of another person’s happiness. Many a time, we’ve been unkind because we’re being selfish, we can’t be bothered or we’re miserable. But helping that little old lady struggling through the high winds to get to the other side of the street will make her feel safe and happy. And we’ll feel happier, perhaps only momentarily but hey, I’ll take that.
We know what it feels like when we’ve carried out a good deed or an act of kindness for someone, and if we all just practiced this a bit more…….
You certainly don’t need me to tell you how you can be kind or what kind of good deeds you can carry out. So, how about you tell me – how do you feel when you’ve done a good deed? Do you get days when you don’t feel like being kind? I look forward to your comments and I’m happy to answer any questions.