Kindness and why it matters

20/05/2020 – During Mental Health Awareness Week, we invited HeadStart, our partners in the Pan-Newham Partnership, to feature on our blog with an article republished from their own website. Here, HeadStart’s Becky Dawson delves into the focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week – kindness.

“As lockdown continues, the decision of the Mental Health Foundation to focus Mental Health Awareness Week on kindness seems entirely appropriate. I have been struck by how many wonderful stories of kindness I have seen in the news and on social media.

What is it about a global pandemic that brings out kindness in so many people and why is it so important?

Most of us have experienced a complete overhaul of our normal routine and are now getting used to a new normal.  This has knocked many of us for six and with social distancing and shielding becoming common terms we have had to rely on the kindness of others for tasks we ordinarily take for granted.  I have made contact with more neighbours on my street in the past three months than in the previous 15 years and we have been helping each other get through.

Kindness is scientifically proven to improve our well-being, releasing those all-important happiness chemicals of serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. The fantastic thing is if we complete an act of kindness, both people involved get the rush of well-being chemicals, it also means the person on the receiving end is highly likely to go on to doing something kind for someone else which must be a good thing.

The greatest thing of all about kindness is that it doesn’t take any training, is generally free and can be handed out in mere minutes. All it takes is an awareness of those around us and consideration of the small things that can make a difference; a smile, giving a compliment, striking up a conversation with a stranger, doing a chore for someone.

Finally, it isn’t just kindness to others we should remember.  The saying goes ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and so kindness to yourself is really important. What do you need to feel that sense of well-being? A walk in the fresh air, speaking with friends, eating your favourite food?

We have created the All About Me Journal to help young people foster a sense of well-being through a range of activities which include random acts of kindness to others, but also how we can be kind to ourselves, perhaps through getting some exercise or planning for the future. We are focusing particularly on the random acts of kindness this week and will be sharing some of the examples given to us by young people, follow us @headstartnewham on Instagram and share yours.

The activities can be completed alone or with others, there is no special order so you can just choose an activity and give it a go.

We have also sent our schools the Kindness Monster activity, have a go at designing your own monster and think about what it might say/do, this can also be found on our resources page.

There is something for everyone and doing something we enjoy or find interesting is the best way to be kind to ourselves.”

Becky Dawson is the Resilience Training Lead (Secondary Schools) at HeadStart. HeadStart is a mental health service working closely with schools and the community in Newham to transform how young people and their families are supported to stay emotionally healthy.