Last year, I started watching a TV series on Prime Video called New Amsterdam, a story that revolves around a public hospital in New York City. I am more of a crime drama/thriller type person and this series honestly didn’t feel like a fit, yet somehow I got hooked onto it. The main character of New Amsterdam, is the medical director of the hospital Dr Max Goodwin who is the kindest person I’ve ever seen, well at least on TV! His punch line is “how can I help?” Of course, keeping in mind that this is TV drama, I’m still hooked episode after episode and I think the reason is I’m in awe of the message the series depicts – Kindness Counts. Whilst crime thrillers still keep me on the edge of my couch and pumps my adrenaline, New Amsterdam shows me that we need to make the world a kinder place through good deeds, favours and helping others. And, that perhaps is the best message in this pandemic era.
This week (18th – 24th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week in the U.K. and the theme this year is kindness. The focus on kindness is a response to the coronavirus outbreak with many facing its harsh impact on their mental health and wellbeing. This outbreak and its consequences is a difficult and stressful experience individually and collectively with “coronavirus trauma” probably here to stay for a while. Kindness, therefore, is then the perfect theme for this year. Research conducted by the Mental Health Foundation shows that almost two-thirds of us say that when people are kind to them, it has a positive impact on their mental health. Three-quarters of those surveyed also say it’s important that we learn from the coronavirus pandemic to be more kind as a society. I just couldn’t agree more. One of the strengths I research and study at my Master’s programme in Positive Psychology is kindness. Studies show that people who practice kindness show more compassion and are more willing to help people in need. When we add more kindness into our lives, we can alleviate some of the negative effects of stress and anxiety. Kindness is also associated with other important character strengths like gratitude, leadership and love. There is fascinating evidence that shows how kindness can improve our mental and physical wellbeing, boost our immune system, produce more oxytocin and serotonin, enhance positive mood, slow ageing, increase positive energy and so much more. Kindness really is a habit of giving, it humanises us and lifts us spiritually. Interestingly, even the simple witnessing of others being kind can release the same “feel good” chemicals that engaging in an act of kindness can produce.
So what are some of the simple acts of kindness we can perform during these tough times?
Help a vulnerable neighbour with groceries and errands.
Listen and witness the struggle a friend or a family member who is going through a hard time. Hold the space for them in a safe and non-judgemental manner.
Tell someone how grateful you are that they are in your life.
Donate to food banks.
Donate hot food to NHS and key workers using Deliveroo and similar platforms.
Share a joke or an inspirational article or post.
Use social media to be honest and share meaningful messages.
Exercise with your family members.
Help with chores around your home.
Have a meal with a friend over video chat.
Make a cup of tea for members of your household.
Water your plants.
Tell someone how proud you are of him or her.
Catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while and arrange a phone call with them.
Donate to a charity.
Ask for help, if you need it. Being kind to you totally matters too.
If you are in a queue, ask someone vulnerable to take your place and you move back to his or her space.
Follow government guidelines so we can all stay safe.
Teach someone a skill you know.
Share an inspiring podcast or song.
A simple act of kindness can have a massive impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. My friends, every day this week, I invite you to pick at least one random act of kindness from the list above or choose your own to make a difference. The beauty of practising simple acts of kindness is that you don’t need to have a lot of time or money – you just have to have the willingness to make someone’s day a bit brighter and follow through to accomplish it. Ask yourself what kind of a society we want to shape as we emerge from this pandemic and be a part of this change. And finally, in the words of my TV friend Dr Max Goodwin – how can I help? Please reach out to me and I will do my best to help you. Stay safe and be kind.