This year, the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. During such a challenging and strange period for us all, being kind to one another has never been more important - a worldwide pandemic is an issue we only combat when working together, building harmony and relying on our communities to help society function as normally as possible.
On top of the amazing work and sacrifice we’ve seen shown by our incredible NHS and frontline workers, there have been incredible individual displays of kindness, such as the fundraising effort made by the inspirational Captain Tom.
With more spare time on our hands than ever, many of us are challenging ourselves to be more selfless and kind, and with mental health being tested so robustly during lockdown, there has never been a better time to make that extra effort - to not only benefit others, but boost your own sense of purpose and happiness as well.
A simple idea that many communities are embracing, swap stations are often left at the end of somebodies driveway in an easily discovered place, so that people out on their daily walks can simply happen upon them. Usually a large box filled with books, board games, CDs or DVDs, the premise is simple - for every item you take, you replace it with another.
Mental Health Benefit: This allows people to find new sources of entertainment during these extended periods of home, and facilitating something that is entirely reliant on community involvement provides a sense of belonging and achievement for those who’ve taken the time to organise it.
These don’t have to be elaborate, but letting somebody you’d usually be spending time with know they’re being missed and thought of allows for a degree of intimacy our lives are currently missing. Whether it’s a few chocolates and sweets, a face mask or some bubble bath, a little handwritten note or something you’ve taken the time to bake, allowing someone to have that moment of surprise on their doorstep will go a long way right now.
Mental Health Benefit: Thinking about others and distracting yourself from any notions of isolation will brighten your day and broaden your horizons. Not only will the recipient feel loved and taken care of, you will have the benefit of knowing you’ve done something good and selfless for somebody you care about.
Simple? Yes…but none the less important. In the world of smartphones and Zoom calls that we live in, nothing is stopping you from simply getting on FaceTime to somebody you know might be feeling alone, or organising a quiz with your family and friends one evening to give everybody something to look forward to and feel a part of.
Mental Health Benefit: Allowing somebody the chance to talk is hugely important, especially if they’re at home alone. A friendly face, a virtual shoulder and kind words will mean a lot, and could be the difference between somebody feeling alone or not. For people you’re missing, this is a chance to miss them that little bit less.
Many communities have set up local groups to volunteer within, so you know who needs help with what and where. With so many older people much more vulnerable during times likes these, if you don’t have somebody within your immediate family or friendship group requiring assistance, it’s highly likely you have a neighbour nearby that does. Helping with shopping and giving them some companionship is one of the most important tasks currently available.
Mental Health Benefit: Not only will those vulnerable members of society feel looked after and safer during such a worrying time, you will have a renewed sense of purpose and achievement which may be lacking for those who aren’t currently working.
Meals out and takeaways are either completely off limits or increasingly hard to come by, so why not treat those you live with to a nice home cooked meal instead? With more time to try different recipes, you could even split tasks and make a starter, main and desert individually. Staying in is the new going out, after all!
Mental Health Benefit: Cooking is widely recognised as one of the most calming, meditative and fulfilling tasks you can perform. Learning new skills is a huge bonus, but letting your mind focus on something that you can later enjoy the effort from is genuinely gratifying for all involved, not just yourself.