Nightingale Hospital Lead Therapist for General Psychiatry, Dr Miriam Dookhun, shares her thoughts on the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year, #Kindness.

Kindness is about being friendly, generous, considerate. Kindness is contagious. For example if someone smiles at us, we tend to break out into a smile back. There is a strong evidence-base that illustrates that acts of kindness improve emotional well-being.

Kindness is proven to:

  • Reduce stress and depression
  • Minimise anxiety
  • Build resilience
  • Reduce loneliness and eases a sense of isolation
  • Develop compassion
  • Improve optimism
  • Builds self-esteem
  • Improves physical health; e.g. boosts cardiovascular profile, strengthens immune system, reduces aches and pains, decreases blood pressure
  • Increases happiness (stimulates the production of Serotonin)
  • Stimulates the production of oxycotin (the ‘love hormone’)

The current unprecedented, uncertain and difficult times the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us, has also highlighted the kindness of many people. For example, people collecting and delivering groceries for vulnerable people, checking-in on people whom we both know and don’t know.

Being kind to others

There are so many different ways to practice kindness to others, for example:

  • Smiling at someone
  • Eating locally to support small businesses
  • Offering someone your seat on public transport
  • Fundraising

If you are stuck for ideas, the Mental Health Foundation has also developed a Random Acts of Kindness Generator. .

Being kind to ourselves

Often kindness is thought about in terms of acts towards others however, we can also explore kindness towards the self.

Practising kindness towards the self can take form in:

  • Saying ‘no’ to things that don’t serve us
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Working to challenge self-criticism
  • Asking for help
  • Having some ‘me-time’

Many people find this type of kindness the hardest form to engage with.

Meditation can help strengthen empathy towards the self. The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you can be to others.

Being kind to the earth

We can also think about kindness to towards the earth, which sustains life for us. The global pandemic has prompted some to think more about the planet we call home.

Examples of ways to be kinder to the earth could include:

  • Recycling
  • Picking up litter
  • Walking or cycling to work

Dr Dookhun’s favourite quotes on kindness:

  • “You never know what someone is going through, be kind. Always.”
  • “Kindness is free, sprinkle that stuff everywhere.”

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  • Dr Miriam Dookhun

    Dr Miriam Dookhun

    Chartered counselling psychologist (sessional)

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“When you have a problem and you drink, take drugs or gamble, the problem won’t go away. Stay and tackle the problem”