Why kindness matters for our mental health

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What kindness does

It’s mental health awareness week 2020, the theme this year is ‘kindness’ and I’ve just been asked to go to the BBC Radio Ulster afternoon show to discuss it with the ever-wonderful Nuala Mckeever. #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2020 #KindnessMatters #Bekind

What will I talk about – Nuala and I could talk for hours about these wellbeing subjects – I want to make sure I get across a few key points.

  • Kindness is good for you – this is proven by science. Numerous research studies have shown that we get a ‘helpers high’ when we help others. This is why volunteering is good for us. We feel we’re making a difference and we feel better. When researchers at the University of British Columbia gave people money in the morning with instructions to either spend it on themselves or spend it on others they found that at the end of the day those who spent the money on others were happier.

  • Practising kindness can be an antidote to depression, when we focus on the needs of others it takes us out of ourselves allows us to see the bigger picture and get new perspectives, instead of spiralling down we can rise up.  The side of effect of kindness is feeling good. (This not to take away anything from the experience of depression where it can be hard to do anything positive because our brain chemistry is so depleted. When we have good days that’s when we can deliberately practice kindness to give ourselves a boost.) Kindness has physical effects on the brain, the heart, the immune system and thought the body.
  • Kindness produces happy chemicals in the brain. It also changes the brain for the better, the brain is plastic and just like building biceps we can build the kindness muscle in our brain.  Our empathy regions in the brain (the insula) and the left side of the prefrontal cortex our compassion region and seat of positive emotion will grown when we are kind. If you want to live a long life – a key factor is warm social connections i.e kindness
  • We all know about the negative effects of stress, fear and worry on our body and brain but did you know that the opposite of stress is kindness and that kindness produces the opposite physiological response. When you are being kind or you are the recipient of someone else’s kindness you feel warm and connected – your body is producing the ‘kindness hormone’, oxytocin.  So instead of adrenaline and cortisol – which are produced by fear, worry and stress you are being loved up and cared for by oxytocin.
  • Other hormones dopamine and serotonin are also produced when we are kind but oxytocin is famously known as the ‘cuddle chemical’, the ‘hugging hormone’ or the ‘hug drug’ or the ‘molecule of kindness’ or the ‘love hormone’.  It makes me so happy just to know about this because with so many people isolating right now and not able to give or receive hugs its really helpful to know that you can get your dose of oxytocin without physical touch.  Oxytocin is produced in abundance when we’re in love, when we hug and when we have a baby – it’s also known as the ‘bonding hormone.’ So many names because it’s such lovely hormone J Deliberately practicing kindness and meaning in from your heart will flood your body with this hormone 🙂
  • I forgot to bring this one up but kindness is a really attractive quality in a person. One study of over 10,000 young people over 33 countries, 6 continents, asked, ‘what would you most desire in a long-term partner?’ At the top in all 33 countries, over all 6 continents was someone who is kind! It came above a great sense of humour, it came above good financial prospects, it came above good looks. Someone who is kind, was the number 1, the top thing that people wanted, in a long-term partner. So if your single and looking to mingle – practice kindness. In fact, I found kindness to be one of the most attractive qualities in my boyfriend who became my husband. We had only just met but he came to an event I organised. Everyone was there to hear the speakers, but he was there for me. When he was leaving, he put £10 in the ‘dana’ collection box. He didn’t know but my friend saw that, and she came up and reported it to me. He has still never met this girl so he didn’t know she was my friend, but I felt really happy to know that he was kind and generous. It was a good sign. It’s def a top tip for dating – are they kind?
  • And finally, self-kindness is crucial. As the renowned meditation teacher Jack Kornfield says: ‘our compassion is not complete if it does not include ourselves.’ We must include ourselves in our circle of compassion. Self-kindness is not selfish – its an intelligent act, it is wisely selfish to care for ourselves. Once we have our own tank filled up, we are more able to be there for others. Looking out for ourselves putting our own oxygen mask on first we have more capacity to help and be kind to those around us.

So just don’t #BeKind – actively practice kindness. Take a seven-day challenge and do one random act of kindness everyday – report back to me how you feel at the end. I’m pretty sure your experience will reflect the results of world-wide research… You will feel happier, more contented and connected.

I am wishing you well 🙂

If you missed it, you can listen again to my chat with Nuala on Radio Ulster here. I’m on about 38 minutes in, after the brilliant song from Jason Mraz Living in the moment…. I go on till the show ends and they play another fab track ‘try a little kindness’ by Glen Campbell.

Next week is Nuala’s last on the show as she has been filling in for Lynette Fay who’s been on maternity leave. Why not send her some kindness and appreciation for the past seven months? You can call the show on 03030 805555  or text on 81771 or tweet them @bbcradioulster  

And while I’m at it HUGE thanks to the brilliant producer Cathy Quinn for booking me again. X

You may have heard me mention about the power of ‘loving kindness’ meditation in the Interview. I have two FREE tracks of loving kindness meditation available here on the Insight Timer app. You can access them here: https://insighttimer.com/bridgeen/guided-meditations/bridgeens-oxford-befriending-practice


Also just to note the accompany picture here is Page 17 of Dr David Hamilton’s book ‘The little book of kindness’. Dr Hamilton is a kindness expert and advocate I highly recommend his work x

Go practice kindness now and generate some of that lovely oxytocin x

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