It is estimated that one in four people experience a mental health problem every year, and one in six experience a common mental health problem every week. After almost nine weeks in lockdown, I think many of us have felt some grip of anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenge recently. Many are struggling, and there are ups and downs, good days and bad days, but we push on and pull together. We are killing Covid-19-induced challenges with kindness.
This year’s focus for Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘kindness’. In this unprecedented climate, I think we can all appreciate the value of looking out for each other. Whether that’s grocery shopping for an elderly or at-risk family member, reaching out to colleagues to offer words of support or encouragement, or volunteering for the NHS, every act of kindness counts. But why does kindness matter?
The importance of kindness
Kindness is ingrained in our biology. It helps us to build connections, develop relationships and work together. It’s an evolutionary-imperative for creatures as sociable as humans. When kindness is experienced in the community, it boosts mood and is then replicated by everyone that experiences it – givers, receivers and witnesses - creating a domino effect of goodwill.
The benefits of kindness are far-reaching and affect everyone. Kindness has been linked to several feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters, including oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. This is known as ‘the helper’s high’. Kindness makes us happier, more energetic, and improves our lifespan. It also reduces stress, anxiety, depression and pain.
Kindness is a sort of superpower for mood-boosting. And it’s so simple.
Kindness and quarantine
To show kindness, there’s no time like the present.
In the UK, it is estimated that at least 7.7 million people live alone. Meanwhile, at least 1.5 million people have been advised by the NHS to self-isolate because of their vulnerability to the virus. These groups in particular are likely to be feeling cut-off from society.
Then consider that one in six people experience a common mental health condition in any given week (see above), and at least 11 million people in the UK could be struggling – likely more, given the extraordinary circumstances we are currently living in.
We could all do with a little more kindness in our lives.
Kindness doesn’t have to be over-the-top. It can be as simple as asking someone how they are, being empathetic or helping when you see someone in need. Kindness is also about practicing self-care and not putting unnecessary stress on yourself or your mental health.
We all have a part to play in supporting people with mental health conditions, especially when the benefits are so universal.
We asked some of our people how they’re coping in lockdown and their experience of kindness this year so far:
“Working parents faced a challenge unlike any other work life or parenthood have thrown at us when we found ourselves overnight required to home school and work concurrently. To me, I see kindness from my colleagues every day in the understanding of everyone’s individual positions without questioning them: the support from my managers and colleagues to flex my hours as I need, the understanding that children do need to be cared for and educated and we can still work – it just looks a bit different to how it did before, the support and understanding from my team who have come together to make sure that collectively we get the work done, regardless of the individual circumstances.
We find ourselves under immense pressure in this situation and that can be relieved to a great extent by the support and understanding of the people we work with. Never before has ‘bring your whole self’ to work been more appropriate. The boundaries have completely blurred and workplaces will be the better for it.”
- Louise Dowding, Head of Marketing
“I have three children and whilst that they are older I underestimated the value of routine that is in their life. “Normal” life consists of days jam-packed full of activities - squeezing in school, clubs, sport, homework and dinner and bed. No time for anything else.
Now that has gone my young adults have lots of time to think, and in some cases, overthink. It is clear to me that they are thinking about all the negative scenarios that could play out, hanging on the word that every daily government briefing brings (which is a change from TikTok!). They are really worried and their anxiety levels are through the roof. I am taking the time to talk it through with them and making sure they see the positives, helping them to see a normal future, and to highlight all the things we have done in lockdown that we never have time to do usually. Being kind is about listening and giving light to someone’s life.”
- David Gettins, Managing Director
“My lockdown experience has seen me get to spend more time with my toddler. There’s no long commute meaning I get more quality time with her, I am able to take my lunch-breaks to eat and play with her and also be there for every bath and bedtime. I have also enjoyed getting to know my neighbours better – we have shared clapping for carers, homemade treats and longer chats now our busy lives have slowed down. Am I missing ordinary life? Yes, of course. But am I cherishing this period? Absolutely!”
- Sophie Leyland, Senior Resourcing Business Partner
“One of the things that I’ve really taken advantage of during lockdown is going for a walk or a run outside. I feel better for the fresh air and it’s good to get moving when you’re working at home. You forget how much you walk day-to-day in the real world. I also like that people take the time to acknowledge each other when out and about now, where normally we would be glued to our phones. Social distancing seems to have made people warmer. I feel really lucky that at Lorien everyone looks out for each other and there’s an understanding that things aren’t the same and we need to be flexible and mindful of that.”
- Bryony Kelly, Senior Content and Bid Executive
“The approach I’ve taken in lockdown is just to try and focus on the benefits wherever possible. For example, in normal circumstances I don’t get to spend much time with my children in the week, however it’s been brilliant having more time with them in the mornings and evenings too. From a work perspective, it’s been great having more time to work that would otherwise be taken up with commuting. I think it’s important to acknowledge that everyone has ‘down’ days and just through having ad hoc conversations with each other I’ve found it can be uplifting to support another person when they are struggling and to receive the same back. It may be bizarre, but in some ways lockdown has brought our teams closer together.”
- Darren Topping, Business Solutions Director
“Kindness during this period for me has been about showing people you care. I’ve been buying flowers for friends to show I’m thinking of them, and my daughter has decorated stones and delivered them to her friends. They’re small gifts, but help remind people that you’re there for them. My neighbours also gave me a massive box of fresh fruit and vegetables for nothing – just out of kindness. This experience is putting things into perspective and making you value the smallest of gestures.”
- Hayley Klaff, Implementation and Supply Chain Director
On this Mental Health Awareness Week, we encourage everyone to embrace kindness. It’s good for us and the people around us. And crucially, every act of kindness given or received gets passed on. The kinder we are to each other and to ourselves, the kinder society as a whole is. And that’s the future world we want to live in.
Lorien is partnered with the mental health charity Mind. We take the mental health of our people and the people we work with very seriously. You can read more about who we are, and what we stand for here.