Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 is a chance for the UK to focus on mental health.
This year’s theme is kindness, with the week running from 18 – 24 May.
The focus on kindness is a response to the coronavirus outbreak, which is having a big impact on people’s mental health.
Some people have mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, which means they have feelings that won’t go away and which start to really affect day-to-day life.
Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. And we want to start a discussion on the kind of society we want to shape as we emerge from this pandemic.”
Being kind can significantly improve our physical and emotional wellbeing – whether it is some who is giving or receiving it. There have been scientific studies into the effects of kindness, showing that acts of kindness can help your immune system, reduce stress, giving energy and are good for your heart. The power of being kind goes even further, it has been proven to slow ageing, improve relationships and it’s contagious!
Takes care of your heart
Kindness can change the chemicals in our body.
Committing acts of kindness produces a hormone in the body called oxytocin, sometimes called the ‘kindness hormone’ and the ‘cardioprotective hormone’. Which means it protects our hearts!
Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which opens up the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. It is the main contributor to keeping our hearts healthy after exercise.
This important hormone also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re feeling anxious, nervous or shy.
Kindness can spread far and wide pretty quickly!
The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone – whether you are giving, receiving or observing kindness. This improves their mood and makes them significantly more likely to act kindly themselves.
Kindness creates a ripple effect that can improve the day of loads of people!
Fights the signs of ageing
One of the factors that plays a role in the aging process is oxidative stress – which is an imbalance in your body.
Scientists found that if you introduced oxytocin (the kindness hormone) to skin cells put under stress, the levels of oxidative stress got significantly reduced.
Reduces stress and anxiety
Having low levels of the chemical serotonin in the body has been linked to anxiety and depression.
So, kindness can help as it increases serotonin. When we’re kind we get the opposite emotional and physical effects on our body to when we are stressed.
A study by the University of British Columbia found that kind people have 23% less cortisol – the stress hormone – and age slower than average.
In their research, a group of highly anxious people did at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in their positive moods, their relationships with other people had improved, and they avoided social situations less.
Kindness produces endorphins, the brain’s natural painkiller. Endorphins are hormones that deal with stress and reduce feelings of pain.