The world might be an anxious and chaotic place right now, but here’s five things you can do to give yourself an instant boost, while helping others.
In times of struggle, nothing is better for mental health than kindness. Experts say a small act can go a long way – not only in doing good for others, but giving value and worth to our own lives, thrown into chaos through the coronavirus crisis. Here are five quick and easy ways to give yourself an instant boost – and for all the right reasons.
GET CREATIVE FOR KINDNESS
Don’t underestimate the joy of receiving mail. Make a card for a nurse you know, write a letter or email for someone isolated in an aged care home. Creative outlets can be freeing on the mind, and the small gesture of thinking of someone else could change their whole day – even week. Many people think that kindness involves some kind of sacrifice on our part, for someone else’s gain, said Ali Walker, social scientist at the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW. But science tells us that being kind is actually one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Kindness boosts our mood and makes us happier. Try online ways of connecting – don't just shut down. I’ve started Facebook group Ality People, to try out new kind ways of coming together. Get on the phone, FaceTime, Skype, or send a text to any frontline health workers you know to thank them for everything they're doing.
SMILE – IT’S FREE
Check in on neighbours and extended family to see if they’re OK, and smile and wave to strangers – it’s the simplest display of kindness there is. You can also offer to walk the neighbour’s dog if they can’t get out, or shop for the vulnerable or immune-impaired.
“We need connection now more than ever,” Dr Walker said.
“Be positive by focusing on gratitude – emotions are contagious and there’s always a silver lining, especially when talking about this to children or people who might be particularly vulnerable during this time.”
COOK FOR COMFORT
Home cooking has become pride of place for many Australians stuck at home and looking for things to do. Why not whip up a double batch for dinner, or try your hand at a fresh loaf of bread, and leave it on the doorstep of a friend or neighbour you know is having a hard time.
“I have relaunched my little business Miss Breakfast and am making meals for people who need a night off – someone doing it tough through ISO or life in general,” NSW nurse Rani Gale-Driscoll said.
“Giving to people is what I love to do and dropping the meals off helps me get through the very slow isolating weeks away from family and friends.
“I am cooking new recipes and cooking stuff from scratch – cooking brings me so much joy and helping people is literally why I do it.”
CONTRIBUTE TO A CAUSE
Now is the time to act. If you can have an idea that can help the country’s vulnerable, put plans in place and make it happen – your conscience and community will thank you. NSW mother-of-two and former nurse Michelle Barry has created a Health Staff Appreciation Project, and is focusing on helping workers at her local hospitals.
“It really is a challenging environment to work in currently,” the health and safety consultant said.
“There is a lot of stress, anxiety and fear of the unknown.
“I wanted to do something to help, to let the staff know that their community cares and values them.
“I reached out on social media and within an hour I had six collection points with more than 100 offers of donations for chocolates, snack foods and drinks.
“The community also fundraised for coffees and over the weekend we raised $440 – so 110 coffee vouchers were given to staff.” Regional manager of GoFundMe Australia, Nicola Britton, said there has been a massive influx of people using the crowd-funding site in response to coronavirus. She said the response is “nothing like we have witnessed before”.
“As always, community and compassion is at the heart of this. Yet the requests for donations cover needs many would never have ever imagined in our lifetime,” Ms Britton told news.com.au. “The shift has been rapid. Over the past fortnight alone the nation has responded and now one in three GoFundMe pages relate to COVID-19 in Australia.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Now is the time to ramp up any contemplative practice that calms us down, whether that’s exercise, yoga or meditation. NSW pilates instructor Claire Neil said self care has never been more important. At a time when so much is going wrong and we are facing so many challenges, you really have to look after yourself, take a breath and focus on what’s important. It’s like being in an emergency on an aeroplane – you have to fit your own mask first. Take care of yourself so you feel good and can help others too. It might be taking an hour for yourself every morning to do a pilates class, or trying yoga for the first time, or using meditation to get into the best mental health space you can. It's also important to keep your body moving in times of crisis as the body gets stiff due to stress – and it’s important for the mind to stay grounded too.