Mental Health Awareness week this year is campaigning for kindness and encouraging people to start conversations about mental health.  Now more than ever we need to re-discover kindness and make it part of our daily lives.  During these uncertain times it’s easy to feel discouraged, depressed and worried about what the future holds.  However in the face of the Corona crisis kindness has prevailed and touched the hearts of everyone all over the world.

Who could forget those moving images of our NHS heroes risking their lives for us, many having to live apart from their families, together with all our amazing carers, teachers and other brave key workers? The touching sight of people coming together in Italy and singing on their balconies.  Restaurant owners working hard to deliver food to all those on the frontline, people offering support to the elderly and vulnerable, those volunteering to make urgently needed face masks for hospital workers, our corner shops reminding us that they are the beating hearts of our towns and villages, PE with Joe Wicks, Zoom videos keeping families connected, the power of rainbows to spark hope or give us a boost of encouragement, the heart warming sound of clapping, cheering, fireworks, banging pots and pans as we come together every Thursday to show our appreciation for all our carers – the list goes on.  It’s shown us that amid the fear there is community, support and resilience.  It restores our faith in humanity and above all reminds us what is really important in life.

There are so many lessons we can learn from this.  As we emerge from this pandemic we need to keep on being kind.  Kindness has the power to transform our schools, places of work, communities and families.  Even small gestures make the biggest impact and produce a ripple effect with the power to flood the world with kindness. It makes us more open, loving, grateful, compassionate and forgiving.  What’s not to love?

Being honest about our thoughts and lives is a form of kindness.  Once I had the courage to face myself and open my heart up to change, I was able to stop living life with a victim mentality and take responsibility for how I was feeling.  Just by having real conversations and losing the façade of how you think you should be is so bloody liberating! You begin to wonder how the hell you managed to carry all that mental baggage around for so long! It also frees you up from superficial relationships and gives you the chance to build meaningful friendships that allow you to be yourself without fear of judgement.  It is these close connections that are so beneficial to our mental health, but can only exist if you’re willing to expose your vulnerabilities.

Being kind to ourselves no longer a luxury but an essential part of our wellbeing.  We need to ditch the outdated view that self-care involves spending a fortune on the latest beauty treatment or holidaying in some far flung detox clinic! (Although that would be nice right now!).  It’s making the time to check in with yourself every day and learning to take care of our needs. This is super important if like me you have suffered childhood trauma.  I spent years self-medicating and ignoring all the cries for help my body was showing me.  It’s something that is a work in progress for me. Having binge eating disorder, food addiction is something I still battle with.  Like my previous addictions, for me it’s just another form of self-punishment.  Kind of like taking the stick off my abuser and beating myself with it instead.

I have however learned to be kinder in the way that I talk to myself.  I quite often picture myself as a little girl and hug her and tell her I love her and that I’m so proud of her.  I don’t know if that sounds weird or not but I find it really helpful?  I need to keep working on changing my relationship with food and remind myself that I deserve to be nourished, nurtured and worthy of love.  I am also working hard on reconnecting my mind with my body and releasing the shame and guilt that I have held on to for a long time.  The lovely Louise Rumball has recently recommended a book to me, ‘The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert, so I look forward to reading that thanks Louise.

I have however learned to be kinder in the way that I talk to myself.  I quite often picture myself as a little girl with me hugging her and telling her that I love her and that I’m so proud of her. I don’t know if that sounds a bit weird or not but I find it really comforting.  If you can, just spend a day really listening to your inner voice.  What’s the tone of your voice?  Is it helpful or is it criticizing your every move?  If it’s really negative then try turning the volume down and making it more gentle and encouraging.  This was a game changer for me.

By being more accepting of myself and taking time every day to meditate and be mindful has made a huge difference to how I feel.  Once you do better, kinder things for yourself and others then you let the good things in your life grow.  I think it’s also important to show your kids that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.  It’s really helpful for them to know how to practice their own self care too.  I sometimes meditate with my son and when we’re out walking we take some time to be mindful (I’m not going to lie, he does usually say “oh no! Not mental health again Mum”!  Bless him, he doesn’t have much choice but to go with it!  However they are really valuable tools for recharging their batteries so they can feel balanced and happy and are essential for helping to manage ADHD symptoms.  It’s so lovely that if I’m feeling stressed Alfie will tell me to take nice deep breaths and focus on the present! That makes me one very proud Mama! Kids need to be able to talk about exactly how they’re feeling and know how to regulate their emotions. This I think then teaches them to show kindness to their family and friends and care for them if they are upset or hurt.

I think we could all do with taking a look at ourselves and our attitudes to others.  Do we smile, even if the person is not smiling back at us? Maybe that person has lost a loved one or is struggling?  We shouldn’t judge people or children on their size, behaviour, skin colour, appearance or job alone. Just accept people and focus on the good.

Do you know that kindness actually changes our brain chemistry?  You can actually get off your head on it! It produces endorphins and gives us a totally legal and natural high! Seriously though the possibilities are limitless when we come together and do good.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to create a world where we all respect and treat ourselves, each other and the planet with kindness?  Let’s plant those seeds now, tend to them and watch them grow every day.

Lots of love

Sarah xx