Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness week is currently underway. The theme this year is kindness. When browsing the website, I read the following two statements:
“We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity”.
“Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging”.
The statements made me reflect on the work of Fulfilling Lives. Over the last 12 months I have had the absolute privilege to visit many of the Fulfilling Lives partnerships, meeting frontline staff, volunteers, experts and beneficiaries. It did not come as a surprise, but I was overwhelmed by the ethos of those I met – a genuine sense of optimism and desire to make a positive difference.
When I read the phrase “kindness strengthens relationships”, it rang true for what I’d experienced. The kindness between beneficiaries, supportive of each other’s recovery journeys. The kindness between staff, supportive of one another’s work. And critical to the work of the programme, the kindness between staff and beneficiaries.
In an earlier blog I explained that just as human emotions like happiness can be contagious, recovery is too. Similarly, I believe acts of kindness can trigger a similar contagion. If we are kind to one another, our sense of belonging is consequently enhanced. As humans, we inherently have a need to belong. For those formerly or currently experiencing multiple disadvantage, the sense of connection – to one’s self, to others and to the environment – may have been diminished. During an individual’s journey to recovery or a more fulfilled life, acts of kindness – to one’s self, to one another and to the environment – can help an individual connect or re-connect.
The benefits of connection are infinite. When we are connected to ourselves, we notice improvements in our health and wellbeing and often feel a sense of purpose and meaning. When we are connected to others, we begin to reduce potential feelings of isolation, develop meaningful relationships – often brokered through acts of kindness – and engage with meaningful activity. Finally, when we are connected to the environment, we become engaged with our communities, in contact with nature and feel a sense of familiarity.
So, I propose these two components – kindness and connection – are integral to our lives and form the base of the recipe for good health.