Kindness originates from the old English word ‘cynd’ – which means community. Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme chosen because of the pandemic experience we’re all going through is Kindness.
Kindness is about our common humanity, and is what has shone through in recent weeks. Donations of food and essentials, contributing much needed funds and resources, or volunteering time, skills and energy to support others. Whether you’re the giver or receiver of acts of kindness, evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health.
But kindness is also scary. There’s the risk we might look foolish or be taken advantage of. That’s why we so often retreat from it in practice. We usually associate kindness with trust in others, we expect kindness to reward us ‘in kind’, at least with gratitude, and even kindness in return. Sometimes if our kindness is taken for granted, or even abused, we can lose confidence and seek to defend ourselves.
So being kind takes courage, and we need to support each other to spread small acts of kindness and celebrate the giving and sharing that helps to build mentally healthy communities. This coronavirus pandemic gives us pause to think about what’s most important in our lives and in our communities – let’s not squander this opportunity in the haste to return to ‘normal’.