This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, and the theme is kindness. Here, we take a look at six easy ways to embrace kindness in 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic is both bleak and tragic, and the lockdown has changed most of our lives in ways we would never have imagined possible. Despite this, there is a glimmer of hope, as it has inspired some brilliant acts of kindness across the globe.
Take, for example, the couple who run a corner shop in Scotland and started creating free ‘coronavirus kits’ at the beginning of the outbreak, in order to help those in need.
Or look at those who were self isolating in Siena, but decided to fling open their windows so they could all sing together and help tackle loneliness.
Whether you help give a stranger directions, or surprise a friend with a bunch of flowers sent to their house, just because, even the smallest gestures can have the power to make a big difference.
According to new research, being kind could even help us live longer, and we already know all about the positive benefit performing random acts of kindness can have on our mental health.
“There is good evidence to show that acts of kindness increase happiness,” Lorraine Sherr, a clinical psychologist and professor at University College London, tells Stylist. “Indeed, this seems to persist when the kindness is shown to people close to you, people without close ties, and self-kindness.
“Life satisfaction measures also go up when people engage in acts of kindness,” she adds.
Lynn Alden, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, agrees.
“It’s more of an attitude change – being alert to things you can do for other people and doing them spontaneously because you want to do them. It has a side effect of making you feel good,” she says. “When others are happy, kind of through emotional contagion, we feel happier.”
Now that we know the potential benefits that come with being kind – for both ourselves and others – we’re sure most of you will be interested in getting started. But where can we start?
Below, Stylist has compiled this list of six easy ways to introduce kindness into your daily routine.
Be kind: think of those less fortunate
We might all be worrying about the impact of coronavirus on our lives, but try to take some time to consider those less fortunate, too.
Coronavirus is set to have a worrying impact on homeless people in the UK, who are already vulnerable and have little opportunity to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser. London boroughs such as Islington are setting up task forces to help, but if you want to do your bit, visit our advice page here.
Be kind: offer to help someone else
When was the last time you turned around and asked someone if they needed help? It sounds so simple, but offering to help another person is a small gesture that goes a long way.
At work, it can sometimes feel like offering or asking for help is a sign of not being in control – but that mentality is outdated. In 2016, Harvard University announced that admissions to colleges were no longer focused on academic or after-school achievements, but on “meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement”. In other words, evidence of how potential students have helped others.
And it even extends to leadership roles in the workplace.
“Improved life satisfaction and happiness can act as a boost to career enjoyment and engagement,” says Sherr. “Kindness as a management style may have some benefits. It may reduce conflict, engage groups, facilitate others in the workplace and become a management and interpersonal strategy of high benefit to group situations and leadership.”
Helping others really can be that easy.
Be kind: pay it forward
There are more ways to financially help someone other than by donating money to charity.
Why not practice giving a ‘suspended coffee’ to a stranger? The Neapolitan tradition, which started during hard economic times in World War II, involves leaving a receipt for a paid coffee for the barista to gift to a stranger. In short: a nice, hot cup of goodwill.
And, in turn, you’ve helped yourself. Studies have shown that after doing a good deed, the human body produces endorphins (AKA happy hormones).
Be kind: turn your frown upside down
People should smile more, right? Living under lockdown means that smiling doesn’t always come easy. But smiling is contagious. Imagine if everyone smiled on their way to the park… cities would instantly become happier places to be.
And science tells us that people instinctively copy the facial expressions of others, so if you’re smiling, so is everyone else. Genuine smiling and laughter not only make us breath better, but they lowers blood pressure and heart rate, too.
Be kind: give up gossiping
You might not think it, but 70% of the time we share positive stories with other people – not negative ones like office gossip. Office gossiping might seem harmless, but it’s a dreadfully unkind act to partake in.
That’s why Dr. David R Hamilton, the author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, thinks ‘survival of the fittest’ should be re-angled as ‘survival of the kindest’.
“Our ancestors thrived by working as communities. It wasn’t the strongest or fastest who survived – it was those who could work well with others. Study after study has overturned the idea that ‘nice people finish last’ in business.”
So, give up the gossip.
Be kind: be interested, not interesting
Being genuinely interested in what someone has to say shows a huge level of compassion and understanding towards another person. But living busy lives means we often fail to properly listen.
One way to achieve this would be to avoid using your phone while in company. Whether you’re on a socially distanced walk or simply chilling with a friend in the park, it’s become commonplace to be on our phones all of the time.
But a recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia, found that using our phones during dinner actually makes us unhappy as it makes us feel distracted and less socially engaged.
“Phone use may be contagious. People are more likely to use their phones when others around them are also using their phones, so that suggests there may be this sort of domino effect,” says Elizabeth Dunn, the study’s senior author. “By putting your own phone away, you might be creating a positive domino effect.”
Be kind: slow down
To be kind to others, you also need to be kind to yourself. Many experts think that the growing trend for random acts of kindness stems from our increased interest in self-care.
While it’s perfectly okay to spend time on social media channels – studies have shown that positive posts trigger happiness in 64% of people – it’s also essential to set time aside for a digital detox, and to slow down.
“Self kindness sounds so simple and straightforward, yet is often a distant goal,” says Sherr. “Active efforts to be kind to one self, to take care, to essentially endorse mindfulness approaches can be of personal benefit. We are often the last person to be kind to – so busy doing, planning, stressing and trying, that we forget to be kind.”
If you’re an avid Stylist fan, you’ll know it’s not always possible to find an issue of our magazine. Often they’re gone before you head into work (they disappear fast!), or you live in a part of the UK where you can’t get your hands on a copy. Add to this the fact that millions of us are not commuting right now, and we wanted to ensure you don’t miss out on the magazine any longer.
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This article was originally published in November 2018