With all the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic brings, looking after our mental health is essential to our overall health and wellbeing. Taking care of our emotional health not only helps us to feel more able to cope with challenging events, it helps to protect our physical health too, in many different ways.
The Power of Kindness
One good way to support our mental health is through kindness, doing something towards yourself and others motivated by a genuine desire to make a positive difference. The benefits are such that this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18 – 24 May) is focusing entirely on the power and potential of kindness. Kindness strengthens relationships, provides an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism.
Research shows that kindness is deeply connected to both our mental and physical wellbeing.
The most notable benefit kindness has on our health is that it counteracts the effects of stress. Whilst the feelings of stress produce stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, when you are being kind or someone is being kind to you, it feels very different from stress. The warm and connected feelings that accompany being kind produce the hormone oxytocin (the “kindness hormone”) and create the opposite effects in the body to those of the feelings associated with stress.
Stress suppresses the immune system, increases blood pressure and inflammation and damages the cardiovascular system. Kindness, on the other hand, boosts the immune system, reduces blood pressure and inflammation and protects the heart. And whilst stress can trigger depression, kindness can protect against the development of depression.
The more acts of kindness we do in a day the more our level of stress and negative emotion goes down. Being kind can help to buffer the negative effects of stressful events, taking some of the ‘sting’ out of them. Balance is key here. It’s important that we remember to be kind to ourselves too, to practise self-care. This may mean saying “no” from time to time, or at least “not yet” or “maybe later”. It may mean dedicating more time to yourself, to relax and do something you enjoy. The fact is, if we don’t look after our own needs and energy levels, we become physically and mentally drained through over-giving.
So spread some kindness, do a good turn for someone and do something positive for yourself too. As well as increasing oxytocin levels, kindness increases levels of serotonin in the brain, a chemical that boosts mood and aids sleep, sleep of course being a fundamental factor in looking after our mental health.
If you are struggling with stress or depression during this challenging time, hypnotherapy can help. This relaxing and enjoyable process is a combination of talking therapy and hypnosis (a deep state of relaxation).
Hypnotherapy sessions are provided online via Zoom.
Talking therapy is also available by phone.
To find out more about these services, call 07514 931 096 or email me using the contact form.