Being kind to others – a boost for their mental health and yours

A photo of Naveen Puri
Associate Clinical Director, and Lead Medical Appraiser, Bupa Global & UK
12 May 2020
Next review due May 2023

From weekly clapping for frontline healthcare workers to volunteers helping vulnerable people, there are so many examples of kindness that have happened since lockdown began. Kindness is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) and it couldn’t feel more timely. Here’s why kindness is important for all of our mental health, and some ideas for how you can be kind in lockdown.

Why being kind is good for everyone’s mental health

Being kind can have several benefits for both your own mental health and that of others.

  • Kindness can have a positive biological effect. When you connect with others through kindness, a hormone (a substance in your body that acts a bit like a messenger) called oxytocin is released. It travels around your body and makes you feel good, while your act of kindness does the same for the person you’ve helped.
  • Kindness creates a connection. A kind act creates a social bond and establishes trust. Being connected to others is vital to our wellbeing, while on the opposite side of the scale loneliness and isolation can contribute to mental health problems. In the present time this is hugely important.
  • Kindness builds feelings of confidence and being in control. It can do this both for you and the person you're kind to. Knowing you have helped another person can give you a sense of purpose. And at the same time, it reminds those you are kind to that people around them in the world are looking out for their wellbeing.

Five ways to be kind during lockdown

  • Volunteer. There's evidence that volunteering is good for your mental health, aside from its obvious value in giving help to those who need it. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has details about volunteering safely during the COVID-19 outbreak, if you feel able to do this. It could be anything from shopping for elderly neighbours to giving telephone support and company to someone who’s isolated right now.
  • Fundraise for charity. There are lots of fun ways to do this from the comfort of your own home: from braving the shave to having a video games marathon.
  • Smile at others. COVID-19 has created a lot of anxiety for many people. For some, that may include feeling very worried about being outside and passing other people by – even when they maintain the recommended two metre distance. A smile from you in that situation might just reassure someone or brighten up their day.
  • Let someone know you’re thinking of them. Perhaps there’s someone listed in your phone or social media contacts who you haven’t connected with for a while. Or maybe you have family or friends who are vulnerable or living alone. Why not say hi? It doesn’t matter if the message is short or brief. The simple fact that someone has thought of us (particularly someone we haven’t heard from for some time) can be a real boost.
  • Try compassionate meditation. Kindness doesn’t just come in a physical form. You can practise it within as well. In particular, loving-kindness meditation is a type of Buddhist practice that’s all about ‘thinking kind’ to help increase your positive emotions.

Ultimately, by being kind to others and being kind to yourself, you’ll both feel good yourself and make others feel the same.

A photo of Naveen Puri
Dr Naveen Puri
Associate Clinical Director, and Lead Medical Appraiser, Bupa Global & UK

    • Mathers N. Compassion and the science of kindness. Br J Gen Pract. 2016 Jul; 66(648): e525–e527
    • Kerr SL, O’Donovan A, Pepping CA. Can gratitude and kindness interventions enhance well-being in a clinical sample? J Happiness Stud. 2014;16(1):17–36.
    • Mental Health Foundation. What are the health benefits of altruism?, accessed May 2020

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