This week (18th May – 24th May 2020) is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme this year, in light of Covid-19, is kindness. You might not know that the original theme was sleep; and I certainly have a thing or two to say about that. The Mental Health Foundation switched the theme in the hope that, given the global situation in 2020, the theme of kindness will encourage people to share tips, ideas and anecdotes that will see others inspired and renewed in these unprecedented times. The inspiration for this? A socially distanced queue outside a supermarket, funnily enough.
Queue for Kindness
The story goes that people were waiting in queue; anxious, scared and uncertain. To make matters worse it started to rain. Noticing that the potential customers were getting wet, one member of staff fetched some umbrellas, disinfected them and handed them out with a smile. This delightful moment led to the charity feeling that kindness would be a more appropriate theme this year. I can’t help but agree!
Taking Things into Consideration
When I think on what kindness means, I don’t think of grand gestures; little things come to mind, small actions with big implications. I think most people would agree that it’s those little acts of consideration which really hit home. And of course, that’s exactly what the story which inspired the theme this year was; an action taken in thoughtfulness of how everyone else in that queue felt. These things matter.
Kindness through Empathy
Empathy is a powerful instigator of kindness. For example, in lockdown, there are so many people helping others; going shopping for vulnerable members of the community, collecting medication on behalf of others, or assisting autistic families such as ourselves find specific essential items.
These acts of kindness, from strangers and friends alike, come from a place of understanding and compassion. It’s a sad truth that sometimes people fail to see beyond their own situations, for a number of reasons. However, it is also clear that many can and do try to understand and support the struggles of others. This restores hope and faith in humanity, and strengthens commumities too, which then inspires more people to do the same. It is absolutely heart-warming.
More than that though, relieving the pressure on someone who needs it, and the sense of support provided, really does boost mental health. This applies to both the person on the receiving end, and the one carrying it out too!
Don’t Just be Kind to Others Though
Being kind doesn’t mean taking on all the world’s burdens though, or feeling obliged to take action at the expense of your own wellbeing. I think it is important not to do these things; be kind and gentle on yourself too. It’s OK to have limits; that isn’t the same as being unkind.
I’ve uttered the words “don’t be so hard on yourself” or “you need to be kinder to yourself” many times and I very much believe it. Whilst I should, on occasion, be a bit kinder to myself as well; I struggle to see others failing to show the same compassion to themselves as they would others, especially loved ones. It is all too common though. Be kind to yourself, as well as to others!
Find out more information on Mental Health Awareness Week here.