You’re probably already aware that this week (18th – 24th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week.
This is a week that’s organised every year by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of Mental Health Issues and to help drive positive change around mental health problems.
Each year the Foundation assigns a theme for Mental Health Awareness week and for 2020 it is Kindness.
“One thing that we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times. We have learnt that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope.”
Never has the concept of kindness been more relevant, important and recognisable than during the last few weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown which is why I wanted to jot down just a few of my own thoughts on kindness and in particular showing kindness towards yourself.
The Kindness of Strangers
Despite it being an incredibly uncertain time, there are actually lots of things that I’d like to keep about lockdown once it’s over and one of those is the kindness of strangers.
Just yesterday, my Husband and I went out for one of our daily walks, we passed by several dog walkers, families out with their children and couples enjoying the warm afternoon. Without fail, each and everyone one of them smiled and said ‘hello.’ I’m not sure that would have happened pre-lockdown.
I know it sounds a bit soppy but every time someone smiles at me as I jog near them through the park, or as we both step aside in order to observe social distancing my heart is warmed a little and I hope that my smile and greeting in return has the same effect on them.
Of course it’s not only this, there have been so many acts of kindness during this pandemic and it’s something that we should all be proud of, whether it’s clapping on your doorstep for key workers, shopping for an elderly relative or neighbour or being the designated organiser for your family Zoom Pub Quiz.
Kindness Starts With You
The other thing about kindness I believe; is that it starts with you.
You have to be kind to yourself as well as others.
Perhaps it’s been all the uncertainty of late or just the slower pace of life making it seem louder, but my inner critic has gone into overdrive these last few weeks. And believe me, when she wants to be, she can be a bit of a cow!
I’ve always found this idea of the inner critic a strange one, why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to another person?
Some psychologists believe we’re hardwired to think this way, that it’s part of our prehistoric brain and the functions it has in place that protect us from harm and danger. Your inner critic wants to keep you in a nice safe comfort zone where you won’t come to any harm.
It’s because of this, and in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share with you some of the things that I do to show kindness towards myself as well as some tips on how you can be kind to others whilst still observing social distancing.
1. I Am Awesome….
This is the practice of writing down every day at least three reasons why you are awesom. Your reasons will be unique to you and it doesn’t matter whether you think they’re small or big; just think of something that makes you awesome and write it down.
This is probably one of the most powerful things that I do whenever I feel that inner critic rearing her ugly head. It’s not always an easy practice and takes a bit of getting used to because no, it isn’t bragging or big-headed, both of which were thoughts I had when I first started this practice. It’s neither of those things, it’s simply a way of singing your own praises because let’s face it, we ARE all awesome in our own indvidual ways and the more you do this, the more you will benefit it will have so it’s back in my morning routine at the moment for sure.
I’m a huge fan of meditation and it’s been a part of my life for around 15 years. Meditation for me, is the route to finding that inner part of me that is at peace, and isn’t hindered by negativity or attachments – the real me if you like.
It’s the version of me that has dropped all the layers of attachment that have built up; the ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ thoughts. It’s the me that has complete clarity and in the context of the inner critic, it’s the me that can see through all the BS that my inner critic comes out with and is able to move forward positively.
3. Self Care
This seems to have become a bit of a buzzword of late, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant and it’s amazing what a difference a small act of self care can have on your mental wellbeing.
Self care doesn’t mean you have to lounge around in a bubble bath if that’s not what you enjoy. Self care is about finding something that you enjoy doing, something that puts a metaphorical deposit in your energetic bank account.
It could be a hot bath but equally it could be cooking, reading, or listening to your favourite guilty-pleasure song on full blast and singing into your hair brush. If you have a pet it might be some chilled out cuddles or a walk in fresh air to your local park. Make a self-care appointment for yourself today.
4. Practise Gratitude
A bit like with the I Am Awesome practice, taking a few minutes each day to write down at least three things that you’re grateful for can be a fantastic way to boost your mental wellbeing, make you feel a greater sense of satisfaction with your life and help you sleep especially if you take the time to write at night before you go to sleep.
5. Complete a random act of kindness for someone else.
It’s really amazing how offering a little gesture of kindness to someone else can boost our own happiness as well as the person you’re giving to. And as I mentioned at the start of this blog there have been so many everyday acts on display during lockdown that it’s actually easier than you think whilst still social distancing.
- Write a letter to a friend or send them a hand-written card
- Offer to do some essential shopping for a relative or neighbour
- Set up a virtual Spa hour via Zoom – get your face masks at the ready, maybe a glass of fizz. Start out with a good chat, finish up with softer skin.
- Send an inspiring quote or poem by email or text to a friend who you think it might help
- Say hello to that dog-walker you see on your daily walk and maybe ask them how they are today.
What’s so amazing about kindness is that even the smallest of gestures can have a huge impact, it costs absolutely nothing and its contagious in a totally good way.
And if you want to find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week click here to visit the Mental Health Foundation Website.