Kindness in the time of Coronavirus
May 18, 2020
From the 18th to 24th of May, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. This year, the theme is kindness.
Kindness is often thought of as doing something nice for someone, with no expectation of something in return. It is often an act that transcends language and cultural barriers, and kindness is a centre point to our collective human experience. It is a quality that bonds us to one another, strengthens sense of community and contributes to our mental health. Research has shown those who are kinder are less stressed, have more positive relationships, higher self-esteem, and better mental health.
Perhaps in this time, more so than any other, it is the most important thing we can practice. Whilst the health and economic implications of the virus will eventually disappear, the psychological and social impacts will remain for much longer. This will be especially relevant for our young people, front line workers and vulnerable groups. Our ability to cope with and recover from the pandemic depends on our kindness; to each other, and to ourselves.
It can be really easy to become unkind at the moment – we beat ourselves up for not being as productive as we’d like, for eating cake, for not going for a walk; we get frustrated with others who we perceive as being better in some way. We’re not in an easy situation and sometimes it’s easy to forget we’ve been separated from family, friends, our work or school, and all the other things we might have had planned. We have to live in a state of distance from other people, crossing the road whenever someone comes near, being cautious about how close we get in a shop, and worrying about who has what. Most of us have never done this before, and we’re adapting in the best way we can. It’s okay and valid to feel whatever you’re feeling, so let yourself off the hook (but if you are really struggling, please reach out). None of it is ‘normal’, and it’s hard to adapt in just a few months – but we will get there.
In this time, kindness to others can be as simple as messaging a friend, writing a pub quiz to do over a video call, or helping someone with their shopping. Kindness to yourself might be doing exercise where you can, cooking a meal for yourself, or getting enough sleep. There is really no limit on it – if it makes you, or someone else feel good, go for it. If we continue to practice it now, then when we emerge from this, our society will be a much better place to be.