Mental health and kindness

From the 18th to 24th May 2020 it was Mental Health Awareness Week. This is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems. This year’s theme was kindness and as we are in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic it was the ideal time to think about being kind, to do kind things, celebrating acts of kindness and talking about mental health. Here are my thoughts on kindness and mental health.

Be kind to your mind

It is super important to be kind to yourself and be kind to your mind. We often think about our physical health but not our mental health. But our mental health can decline when we ignore how we’re feeling.

Try to take some time to prioritise your mental health and check in with yourself.

  • How are you feeling really?
  • What would help you feel better?
  • Do you need to do some more self care?

It’s also important to be understanding, kind and considerate to yourself – however you feel or whatever your mood is do not beat yourself up. Before I really understood mental health I would be confused, angry with myself and ashamed for what I was feeling – consequently making my mental health worse.

Be kind to your body

It’s very easy for us to hate our bodies. Stereotypical beauty is drummed into us as the ideal by the media, by celebrity culture and peer pressure. We are told that looking different or being bigger is a bad thing and something to be ashamed of. And once you’ve got those negative thoughts in your mind, they can become automatic and tricky to stop.

Perhaps it’s not about how you look, perhaps your body has let you down? I get panic attacks, lots of headaches, at times I can barely walk with sciatica and I have more spots now than when I was a teenager so at times I really don’t like my body!

Try to take some time to prioritise your mental health when thinking about your body.

  • What do you like about your body? Find your positive features and concentrate on them.
  • Think about what you can celebrate about your body. Has it carried babies? Ran a 5k?
  • There is so much evidence that physical activity is good for your mental health. Can you fit some exercise into your self care?
  • Can you treat your body with some self care? How about a luxurious bath, a lovely smelling moisturiser, some gentle stretches or yoga, a massage, brightly coloured nail varnish or meditation?

Be kind to each other

As mental health problems can affect everyone and anyone doesn’t it makes sense to be kind? Before you judge someone remember that you don’t know what it’s like for them or what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Before the words leave your lips consider how they would make you feel if they were being said to you.

When you’re in the midst of depression or battling a barrage of anxious thoughts it can be a very lonely place. It feels like you’re the only one struggling with your mental health. Depression tells you that no-one cares and that you are on your own. Feeling like you belong can counteract these thoughts, makes you feel hopeful and supported.

How can you be kind to each other?

  • Contact a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  • Ask your neighbour if they need any help.
  • Send some post – it’s lovely to receive a surprise through the letterbox!
  • Help with the household chores.
  • Say hello when you pass someone on your daily exercise.

Being kind to others is proven to help yourself aswell! Helping others is proven to reduce stress and improve your emotional wellbeing.

Think kind thoughts

Lastly let’s look at our thoughts and how thinking kindly can help your mental health.

It’s very easy for thoughts to be negative and once you’ve got those negative thoughts in your mind they can become automatic and tricky to stop. Without you even realising your mindset can be very negative and your thoughts can bring your mood right down. Try and think kindly about your mind, about your body and about other people.

Try to take some time to prioritise your mental health with your thoughts.

  • Try and notice when you have automatic thoughts.
  • Question these automatic thoughts – where have they come from? Why do you think that? Are they true? What’s the evidence for it?
  • Are there any triggers for these negative thoughts?
  • Practice mindfulness meditation, noticing these thoughts and let them go.
  • Try and concentrate on and emphasise positive things, thoughts and skills.