The Mental Health Foundation shares advice on the benefits of kindness to mental health at Christmas
Over half (54%) of UK adults are worried about the mental health of someone they know this Christmas according to a survey published by the Mental Health Foundation.
As we approach Christmas, significant numbers of people are expressing their concern for the mental health of relatives (38%), friends (31%), partners/spouses (27%) and children (28%).
Reflecting on the findings, Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: “We will remember this year for a cruel pandemic and how it exposed deep inequalities in our societies but also for public outpouring of kindness in our communities as we faced great challenge. With hope on the horizon, these findings show that compassion is still alive in the UK, with more than half of British adults concerned about the mental health of someone in their lives.”
The YouGov survey of 2,109 adults in the UK, commissioned by Mental Health Foundation, also found that nearly one in three adults (31%) reported that they were personally feeling anxious or stressed as we enter the festive season while two in five (42%) said they are feeling happy, hopeful or excited about the season.
Mr Rowland added: “Given the huge challenges we have faced in 2020, people have a range of emotions right now including anxiety, relief, hopefulness. Many people are concerned for the wellbeing of others, which is especially important as we know the pandemic has not affected all communities equally.
“Now is a time for re-discovering the power of kindness – both in private and public life. Research shows that an act of kindness demonstrates our concern for another’s vulnerability. It can help someone feel appreciated and has the power to reduce stress, improve mood, self-esteem and happiness. It’s a gift that has the potential to protect our collective mental health.
“As a society, we have to start taking kindness seriously; applying kindness in public policy has huge potential for a healthier and happier country. Kindness builds the social capital we need in communities to address the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis that could last for years to come.”
Five ways that kindness can help protect and improve your mental health according to Mental Health Foundation research:
1. Reach out to others – Reach out to someone who might be experiencing isolation or loneliness. Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. By arranging a phone call, video chat or posting a note or a card you can help to combat this loneliness and make a big difference to how that person is feeling.
2. Give thanks – Research suggests that feeling grateful, particularly in response to someone else’s kindness, is associated with greater wellbeing and an increase in behaviours that benefit others. Taking a moment to reflect back on the small acts of kindness you have received in the past, can make you feel a little bit more positive. By thanking someone you’ll give them a boost too.
3. Be kind to yourself – In the Mental Health Foundation’s nationwide Kindness survey earlier this year, only two in five (41%) people in the UK said that they actively made time to be kind to themselves. If things are hard right now, prioritise some “me” time, so you can relax and reflect on how you’re feeling and how your day or week has been so far.
4. Celebrate traditions – Even with the current restrictions in place there are still things you can do to keep a tradition alive while following government guidance. Whether it’s cooking a special meal or decorating the house, by maintaining these traditions you can provide an act of kindness to yourself and people close to you.
5. Think about alternative gifts – This year, the thought of gifts might feel stressful due to restrictions or money worries. Making time to call someone who might be alone or writing a heartfelt message in a card is a thoughtful gift at this time of year.
Giving your time to someone you care about, a worthy cause or donating to charity can help us feel a sense of belonging and connection with our communities. This year, the Mental Health Foundation is focusing its Christmas appeal on loneliness. The funds raised will help ensure that people have the advice and information they need to feel more connected and less alone. Visit mentalhealth.org.uk/donate-christmas-appeal for more information.
If you, or someone close to you, is in distress or despair, or having suicidal thoughts, phone Samaritans on 116 123 (UK); 116 123 (ROI); text 07725 90 90 90 or email [email protected].
The Mental Health Foundation has published a guide on how to talk to someone about their mental health and how to help in a crisis - available here.
Kindness was the chosen theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. To see the Mental Health Foundation’s policy and research papers on the connections between kindness and mental health click here.
Notes to editors:
Interviews with expert spokespeople are available on request. Imagery available to download here.
For further information and interview requests contact Muireann Kirby in the Mental Health Foundation Press Office on 07761274159 or at [email protected] or [email protected]
About the polling:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,109 UK adults 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th – 25th November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
Regional differences: Reflecting the festive season (period between 1st December and 1st January) this year, there were some differences in feelings or worries based on locality.
Feeling anxious or stressed
Worried about someone's mental health
Yorkshire and the Humber
East of England
About the Mental Health Foundation:
Our vision is of good mental health for all. The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems. We will drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week