Today is the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week. The original theme for this year was sleep, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact this has had across the world, a new theme was announced. Kindness.

In these difficult times, the nation coming together has certainly lifted our spirits. Mark Rowland, the Chief Executive of Mental Health Foundation stated that ‘Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity’. Our hearts have certainly been full as we’ve watched the likes of Captain Major Tom walking in his garden to raise over £35 million for the NHS and as a nation, we have joined our neighbours to cheer on our doorsteps and out of our windows on Thursday evenings, to show our support to key workers. It has been amazing to see how the nation has come together to support one another and the connection these acts of kindness have had on our mental health.

We are excited to announce our partnership with Healing Clouds, an online platform that offers mental health support with accredited therapists. We spoke to Healing Clouds CEO, Asim Amin about understanding the importance of looking after our mental health, the science behind how kindness can support our wellbeing, and small ways we can support ourselves and each other at this time.

In these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever to care for our mental health and wellbeing. What impact are you seeing on people’s wellbeing?

While the loss of life and the impact on people’s life has been very painful and tragic, I believe, this moment has given us some time to stop and think. This is bringing about a paradigm shift in lives and work cultures. Even though we are locked inside our houses, the internet is full of options for not just physical fitness but mental wellbeing. We are reflecting and finding different ways to not just cope with the situation but also thrive during this time. This is not just in terms of how much time we have or what we are doing individually but even as a community, we seem to be going in the right direction. One of the most important factors here has been kindness, facilitated by this shared experience. We are standing together through this crisis and that has enabled us to focus on our wellbeing more than ever.

Acts of kindness across the globe have brought people together. What impact does kindness have on our mental health?

Humans are predisposed to kindness since birth. We depend on each other for survival and well-being. We are caregivers inherently. An act of kindness releases Oxytocin (also known as the love hormone). This helps lower blood pressure and improves heart health. Practising kindness also releases endorphins (your natural pain-killers) and helps relieve pain.

Being kind to yourself is the first step towards wellbeing. It is important for us to treat ourselves with kindness and compassion, draw boundaries, find time for yourself and seek help whenever needed. With each one of us doing it, we could transform into a kinder, accepting and inclusive society.

During this period, what advice do you have to support our own mental wellbeing?

One of the things that I do without fail is practising gratitude. Every morning I express my gratitude for all the small and big things in life. It’s amazing how it completely changes your perspective towards your day.

It’s also a good idea to take a break from social media and the news. You don’t need to be constantly updated. A combination of meditation and workout is an excellent addition to your routine. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you can either share it with someone you trust or write it down.

A lot of us are also working right now. To avoid feeling exhausted and saturated, it is good to take a pause, step back, and draw boundaries if you need to.

Plus, a healthy diet and good sleep can go a long way in improving your mental health. I would also suggest some positive self-talk during the day. This will give you a good boost. Most importantly, take it one step at a time and pat yourself on the back for what you have done so far.