Resources for supporting you and your employees with loss 

 

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II. As a company and nation, we collectively mourn the loss of our longest-standing monarch. We understand that for you, and your employees this may be a difficult time. Feelings of sadness, grief and loss are to be expected.  

We have pulled together a list of support services and resources that we hope will be of use in the weeks ahead: if it can be of use to you, or your teams, please share. 

 

Support following a bereavement – Validium guide to the stages of loss  

PDF download  

 

Compassionate Friends – Helpline for bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents 

Helpline: 0845 123 2304  

(for N. Ireland: 0288 77 88 016)  

Email [email protected]  

Website: tcf.org.uk 

 

Cruse Bereavement CareAdvice for anyone who has been affected by a death, including bereaved military families. 

Helpline 0808 808 1677 (for England, Wales and N. Ireland) 

Helpline 0845 600 2227 (Cruse Scotland) 

Email [email protected] 

Website: cruse.org.uk 

 

Child Bereavement UK 

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. 

Helpline 0800 02 888 40 

Website: childbereavementuk.org 

 

Useful websites 

NHS – Grief after bereavement or loss

The Loss Foundation 

https://www.ataloss.org/ 

 

We wish you all the best at this difficult time. 

 

 

Is it essential to have a sense of purpose in life?

Having a sense of purpose can keep us motivated, help us to fulfil our personal and professional potential, and benefit our mental and physical health, too.

Why are we here, and what is our purpose? These are questions that we all ask ourselves and that many people have tried to answer. Some find purpose in religion or faith or helping those less fortunate than themselves. Others believe their role is to raise a family, while some view power and wealth as their life’s goal. While everyone has their own definition of a purposeful life, research has shown that people who have a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility; or who engage in altruism, like donating their money or time to a good cause, have a greater sense of purpose than those who don’t. Research from Harvard Health shows that having a purpose can enrich and prolong our lives and leave us happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Here are some ways we can help bring a sense of purpose to our lives.

Create some space

Create some mental and physical space to assess what’s currently happening in your life and think about what’s really important to you. A clear mind and uncluttered environment reduce stress and irritability and improve sleep. Practising daily mindfulness or meditation can help calm your mind, leaving you feeling more grounded and in control of your thoughts and emotions. Research shows this helps boost your ability to think clearly and concentrate, helping you develop and prioritise your sense of purpose. Give a little, gain a lot Many people find a great sense ofpurpose in life by helping others. For example, doctors and nurses devote their lives to helping the sick. First, responders like firemen and women constantly put themselves in harm’s way for others. But we can all be of service and “pay it forward” in small ways each day. Being there for a friend in need, offering our skills or experience as a volunteer, or doing something kind for a neighbour, can help enhance our own sense of purpose. Shifting our focus away from our anxieties, stress, and worries is beneficial for our mental well-being.

Run your own race

It’s easy to feel somehow “less” than others by comparison. Learning to be happy in our own shoes and skin isn’t always easy. Many of us suffer from “imposter syndrome”, where we may feel that everyone else has life sorted while we’re struggling or pretending we’re in control. The truth is that nobody’s life is perfect. Spending some time each day focussing on what you’re grateful for in your own life will help you work out what makes you happy, what you want, and where your own personal priorities lie.

Pursue your passion

It’s never too late to identify your passions or interests, which could become hobbies or careers or even develop into a greater purpose. We may not always be aware of them. Still, the things or activities we enjoy and care deeply about could actually be fantastic motivators, fulfilling and enriching our lives and sustaining us through more challenging times. Your sense of purpose may or may not end up being linked closely to your work. Still, it’s the things we love that brings us joy and inspire us to act. Identifying and pursuing our true passions is also a way to meet others we’re more likely to connect with too.

Trust in yourself

Many of us feel constrained by expectations whether from within ourselves, friends and family, or society. While it’s essential to respect other people’s opinions, remember that your life is your own. Focus on your own goals, interests and happiness: what will bring you joy, give you a sense of satisfaction, and make you want to live life to the fullest. Others may see you as a partner or parent or have a specific career they want you to pursue. Still, there are no pre-written rules for living a purposeful life. Your life has meaning when it has meaning to you.

Having a “growth mindset” and looking for and embracing new challenges and opportunities helps you to pinpoint, pursue and realign your sense of purpose. Purpose is often found in taking action, not waiting for something to happen.

5 Tips for switching off at the end of the day

It can be tough to switch off after a long day. Your mind is still racing with thoughts of everything you need to do, and it can be hard to relax.
Here are five tips for how to calm your mind and unplug from work at the end of the day. Especially important as more of us move to remote and hybrid working.

1. Keep your evenings phone-free

We know how tempting it is, but try to resist checking your phone before bed. It will only make you more alert and stressed out. Your body needs time to wind down before bedtime. Research has found that people who switch off their phones before 9 pm sleep better than those who don’t, because they’re less distracted throughout the night.

Constantly looking at brightly lit screens like phones and TVs also inhibits the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, which lets our bodies know when it’s time for bed. Dimming the lights in the evening (even with things like dimmers or using candles) can help boost how sleepy we feel, and how well we sleep.

 

2. Create a relaxing end-of-day routine

A shutdown ritual is a predetermined set of tasks you do in the evening before bed. It helps tell your mind it’s time to wind down, so you can relax before bedtime. There is no single perfect shutdown ritual for everyone but here are some ideas that might help get your creative juices flowing.

Have an evening routine in which you gradually lower the energy levels in your body. For example, turn off the lights one by one in your home, do some deep breathing exercises or have a warm bath. When you are ready to wind down how about turning on your bedside lamp and reading a book for 20 minutes? Fill your mind with positive thoughts before you switch off for the night – how was your day? How can you improve tomorrow? What are you grateful for? Create your own shutdown ritual and reap the physical, mental and emotional benefits.

 

3. Set specific intentions for tomorrow.

Another way to switch off is to set an intention for how you want your day to go. This involves reflecting on how the current and previous days went and how you can make tomorrow better.

It might sound like a lofty goal, but it really does work. Setting an intention gets you thinking proactively about how you want to feel at the end of the day instead of obsessing over how much there is left to do. Plus, research says that writing down intentions improves focus and elevates energy levels.

You can create or choose from a list of daily intentions or simply pick one area where you’d like more success tomorrow, such as “I will have a productive morning” or “I will be kind to myself and acknowledge how far I’ve come.” Taking a few minutes before you go to bed to set an intention can help put your mind at ease.

 

4. Don’t let work invade your personal life

Work life can be stressful, but how about coming home from a hard day at the office and still having to deal with the stress of work?

You’re probably thinking that you can just ignore your mobile phone or computer. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. However, it is possible to reduce how much work chat interferes with your private life so you can relax during your downtime without worrying about deadlines and figures. Try turning off work notifications and checking them only during work hours, rather than constantly struggling to maintain healthy boundaries between your personal and professional lives.

If you’re not ready to put your work out of sight, then at least minimise how often you check your electronic devices by leaving them in another room. This way if there are any urgent messages, you’ll still hear your phone ring and you can to excuse yourself from evening plans if necessary.

 

5. Practice mindfulness before bed

Have you ever tried meditating before bed? Practising mindfulness helps release tension by making you pay attention to how your body feels through a relaxing routine of stretches and breathing exercises. That way you can reach a clearheaded state that will make sleeping easier.

The easiest way to practise mindfulness? Sit still for a few minutes with your eyes closed while focusing on breathing techniques. New to meditation? There are plenty of free online resources for beginners. Practising mindfulness in the evening is proven to help you sleep better at night. It puts your body in a state of self-awareness and helps you quieten your body and mind.

Why not try it tonight?

We all know that it can be tough to switch off after a long day. If this resonates with you, speak with one of our team members at Validium about putting these tips into practice.

 

5 easy ways to be a better active listener

When you take the time to listen to others and care about what they have to say, not only will your relationships grow stronger, but you will also learn something new that could be of value in your life.

What is active listening?

Active listening means being present and engaged with another person. It involves paying attention to what they are saying, asking them clarifying questions if needed and reflecting back on what you hear. This helps people feel heard, understood, and respected. This skill is often overlooked in our fast-paced society, yet it is one of the most important skills we can develop. The best way to practice active listening is to ask yourself “What am I hearing right now?” before reacting.

Benefits of active listening

Active listening helps you understand what other people are saying. It also helps you understand yourself better. You learn how to listen to others without interrupting them or getting distracted by your own thoughts.

The benefits of active listening include:

  • Builds trust and relationships.
  • Helps you to avoid and resolve conflict.
  • Prevents you from missing important information.
  • Helps you to identify and anticipate problems before they arise.

 

How to be a better active listener

1. Make eye contact
When you make eye contact with someone during a conversation, it shows that they are the only person in your world for now. Looking at them while speaking makes for an engaging conversation and removes any doubts about where your attention resides. A few things to bear in mind about eye contact: not everyone is comfortable with gazing directly at someone or being looked at. Some people may be shy or uncertain, others may be on the autistic spectrum, or there may be cultural aspects to consider. This is ok so long as you remained focused in a relaxed and gentle way on the other person.

 

2. Be patient
Judging and jumping to conclusions compromises your ability to communicate effectively. The only way you can connect with what that person is saying is by opening yourself up to their point-of-view. Show empathy and patience when listening by allowing the person to speak at their own pace. Don’t interrupt them, give solutions before being asked for your opinion or try rushing through as if you don’t have time. Wait to be asked for your opinion, and if you really can’t wait to give it, take some time to check with the other person if they would like to hear it.

 

3. Put yourself in their position
Empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes, aiming to understand what it feels like for them and using that knowledge to guide you. Empathy is the core skill of a good listener, and although it takes effort and focus, it is what good communication thrives on. Here’s a thought that sums it up from American research professor, lecturer, and author Brené Brown: “Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgement, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.”

 

4. Reflect on what’s been said
Little gestures are important in showing that you’re listening to what the person is saying. They can include nods, words of affirmation like “I see,” or “Yes,” even responding with an “uh-huh” every now and then. Reflection can be a powerful tool for validating the other person’s feelings and understanding. This doesn’t mean repeating what they say verbatim, but rather showing that at certain points in the conversation you understand where this person is coming from. You can do this by using similar language or paraphrasing what they’ve said. For example, if someone tells you “I’m so fed up with my friend, every time she calls, she starts off by saying she just wants to see how I am, but then she always ends up asking me to do something for her”. You might respond by saying, “It sounds like you’re feeling used by your friend” – not exactly the words said to you, but it captures the essence of their meaning.

 

5. Check your understanding
Listening is an art that takes patience, skill and practice to master. One of the most important skills in being a good listener is asking meaningful questions. Try not to interrupt. Wait for a pause, and ask the speaker something like: “Can we go back to what you said a bit earlier? I want to make sure I understand…”.

 

In a nutshell

Relationships are hard to maintain these days. Between work, family commitments and social media, it can be difficult to find time for others in your life. But when you do, take the time out of your busy schedule to listen to what they’ve been going through. It’s always good to get outside our own heads once in a while too. If any of this resonates with you, speak with one of our team members at Validium about how best to utilise these tips.

 

Understanding addiction: Why do we get addicted to substances?

Addiction can be caused by many factors including genetics, trauma, stress, depression or anxiety disorders. Those who are genetically predisposed may find themselves more likely to develop an addiction if they suffer from chronic stress or abuse substances as a way to cope with their problems.

What causes addiction?

There are many different reasons why we become addicted to things. Some people are born with genetic predispositions towards certain addictions. For example, many genes contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to alcoholism. Yet, scientists don’t know how these genes interact with each other which makes it difficult to identify individuals who are more likely to develop alcohol abuse problems.

Others may experience traumatic events early in life causing them to develop addictive behaviours later in life. People who struggle with mental health issues like depression or anxiety often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and some people simply enjoy the high of being able to escape reality through substance use.

There are many different factors in play but the most prominent ones include dopamine release (the pleasure hormone), a hedonic adaptation which means we get used to those experiences which end up becoming less satisfying over time. But no matter how it started, everyone reading this article should know that recovery from addiction is possible.

The pleasure principle

People who are highly sensitive to pleasure (HSP) may be more likely to engage in addictive behaviours. This could be due to HSP individuals being reactive and seeking out positive stimuli, which leads them into addiction-like behaviour patterns more often than those without the trait. Another possibility is that these people have trouble differentiating between real life rewards versus imagined ones; resulting in greater reward seeking behaviour overall.

Risk factors

People are different when it comes to developing addictions and some people are more susceptible than others. It can be triggered due to genetics and poor social support networks, but some people develop addictions because they were trauma victims or suffer from co-occurring mental illnesses such as depression which made them more susceptible in general than someone without these illnesses would be. A recent study also found that 74% of people who entered drug rehab were under the age of 30 making these demographics most likely candidates for future addictive behaviours if left unchecked.

What happens to the brain when a person takes drugs?

Addicts continue using even when they know this behaviour is harmful. If you’ve ever taken a drug, you know it’s not just a physical experience. It has a profound effect on your mental state.

Drugs change the way your brain works. They affect neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine – chemicals that play a role in regulating mood, motivation, attention, and memory. Drug use causes surges of dopamine in your brain’s reward centre making you crave more. Over time our brains adapt by reducing the ability of neurons in the reward circuit to react.

This results in addicts feeling less pleasure than before they started using drugs. They may also need to take more of the drug to get the same feeling and eventually, they stop enjoying anything else. Long term, drug use affects other parts of your brain besides the part that’s stimulated. This includes things such as learning, judgment, decision making, stress, memory, and behaviour.

Why do some people become addicted to drugs while others don’t?

It’s not yet clear why some people develop addictions while others don’t. Some experts believe it has to do with the way our brains process rewards and punishment, which is also called incentive salience, in other words, the difference between “liking” and “wanting”.

Another explanation could be that those predisposed towards addictiveness are simply born with certain personality traits. For example, being easy-going yet self-centred might qualify even though neither trait alone directly causes someone to become addicted.

Do you have an addiction?

You may be addicted if you answered yes to any of these questions.

  • Have you ever felt like your use of substances has caused problems in one or more relationships?
  • Has your work or school performance ever suffered due to drinking or drug use?
  • Do you use substances when alone or when you first wake up in the morning?
  • Do you think about drugs or alcohol between using them?
  • Have you ever needed medical attention for the misuse of a substance or had a health scare because of it?

What to do if you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction

If you or someone you know has developed an addiction, it’s important to seek treatment. A person who suffers from addiction may be suffering from depression or other mental illnesses as well. To get help, they need to know what your problem is, so talking to someone about how they feel is an important first step on the road to recovery.

Before you go…
If you think you might have an addiction problem, talk to your doctor or a specialised therapist first. They can help you figure out what kind of treatment would be best for you.

7 Easy Ways To Become Financially Healthier

Achieving financial health means being able to relax when it comes to your money.
It’s feeling in control of your spending, being able to plan for the future, and having a safety net in case of emergencies. From being more mindful with your spending, to setting a budget, we’ve outlined seven habits to help you on your quest for financial happiness.

1. Track your spending

Sounds simple, but one of the easiest ways to help you on your journey to becoming financially stable is to keep a watchful eye on what you’re spending. While you could view your statements every month, others find it useful to write down their expenditures or use a money management app such as Plum, which gives you a real-time view of your daily spend and suggests how much to set aside in your savings based on your spending pattern. Another app we recommend is Emma, which connects to all your bank accounts and pension, and even lists which subscriptions you have. You’ll have a clear picture of your spending habits (hello takeaways and coffees) with which to set your money goals.

2. Make a budget

No, really: make a budget. It’s another simple task that can have a genuinely big impact. If you track your spending as above, you should develop an accurate picture of your average spending. With that, you can now create a monthly budget for your disposable income as well as a plan for saving. Start by putting down your total monthly income, which includes your salary, pension, benefits, extra income, and any investments.

In another column, write down your fixed costs including your rent or mortgage, bills, childcare, and groceries. Include any other necessities such as hobbies and debt repayments. Allow for larger amounts that might only come out once a year, such as water bills, and divide these by 12.

Give yourself a budget for any emergencies and add in anything you’re saving for – like holidays. Subtract your outgoings from your income, and you’ll be able to see what you have left to live on per month.

Having this picture means you can quickly see where to increase your savings or reduce your debt. Perhaps you might need to curtail how many rounds you buy at the pub or look for offers at the supermarket. Being more mindful of where your money goes will help you resist impulse shopping and reach your money goals quicker.

3. Find a better deal with your providers

We can all be guilty of choosing the easy route. Renewing the same providers each year might be easy – but it’s not always the best option when it comes to your finances. Comparison sites such as Compare the Market and Confused.com are brilliant at surfacing the best deals for things like your broadband and mobile phone subscriptions. Most providers won’t want to lose you, so ask them to better what you’ve found rather than simply matching it. Before speaking with your existing provider, check the terms and conditions of your contract, as exiting early may incur charges.

4. Save for emergencies

It’s always worth putting money into an emergency fund as you never know when you might need it. MoneyHelper and MoneySavingExpert recommend having an emergency fund of between three to six months’ worth of savings. This financial “safety net” is there in case your financial status changes. With a budget in place, you can work out how much you can afford to save knowing that every penny is helping you in the long run. A good tip is to create a separate account for your emergency fund, so you’re not tempted to spend it and set up an automatic direct debit to save yourself time each month. Watching your money grow here can be a great motivator to save more.

5. Pay off your debts

When you let your credit card debt build up it can feel as though your salary disappears before you’ve even had a chance to save or spend. Set automatic payments each week. These regular repayments will also help you achieve a better credit rating, saving you money when on things like taking out a mortgage. Make sure you always pay on time, and prioritise debts that have a higher interest rate. If you’re lucky to have a windfall one month, be disciplined enough to pay off your debt first.

6. Find additional sources of income

The internet is a great way to generate more than one source of income. There are many ways you can find yourself stuck in an economic rut, but it’s never too late for a change! Try turning what was once just a hobby into a mini-business opportunity or selling your second-hand wares on places like eBay.

7. Have more open conversations with friends and family

Remember, the key to financial health is that you don’t have to deal with this alone. Break down the taboo of talking about money by being open about your financial situation with friends and family. You may be surprised to find friends to share advice with. Whether it’s the name of a cheaper energy supplier or a great deal at a supermarket, exchanging tips and best practices is a fantastic way to save more money.

Conclusion:

By instilling new mindful money habits around budgeting and tracking your spending, as well paying off your debts, saving for the future, and being more candid about money, you’re likely to feel happier and freer than ever before.

How to develop better food habits without depriving yourself

BANT Registered Nutritionist Anjanette Fraser shares her top tips for how to change your food habits for the better

Are you looking for ideas to get your eating back on track? We all know that eating more healthily is good for us, but how do we make changes to our habits that we can stick to? One of the common mistakes people make when trying to eat healthier is to deprive themselves of their favourite foods, which can lead to cravings that make building new healthy habits really hard. In this article, I’ll show you how to develop better food habits without depriving yourself. And, remember – be kind to yourself. There are significant health benefits from even the smallest of changes.

Add, don’t take away

Gradually introduce healthier options into your diet like adding just one more vegetable to your plate. It may seem a small change, but it works! The increased fibre will fill you for longer so you’re less likely to crave sweeter foods. Here are some simple ways to eat healthier across the most common food groups:

Carbohydrates
Switching to wholegrains like wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta and brown rice can help increase feelings of fullness and reduce sugar cravings. That’s because fibre, particularly the soluble type, absorbs water and swells leading to a greater feeling of fullness. It also helps to stabilise blood glucose levels, by slowing down the absorption of glucose into blood, and reducing the desire for sweeter foods.

Protein
Try reducing your red meat intake to less than twice a week due to it’s saturated fat content and eat at least one portion of fish per week. Fish is a great source of protein, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and kipper are also fantastic sources of omega-3 which contributes to healthy hearts, strong bones and improved mental health. Lean animal products such as eggs, milk and yogurt are also great protein sources that will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Plant-based proteins such as beans, peas, and lentils are low in saturated fat while also being good sources of protein and fibre too.

Fats
A common mistake when trying to eat better is to cut out fats. However, fat has a satiety effect by slowing down the speed the stomach empties, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Instead, reduce saturated fats such as butter and coconut oil and increase unsaturated fats like omega-3, which can be found in salmon, nuts, and avocados.

Fibre
Fresh fruit and vegetables may appear the most nutrient-dense, but frozen and tinned can be equally as good. They’re picked when ripe, flash-frozen to lock in the nutrients, cost a fraction of the price and create less food waste.

Behavioural change

Strengthen the connection between the mind and stomach by being more present when eating. Consciously thinking about what is on the plate prepares your stomach for digestion and will help you become more in tune with your body. Placing your cutlery down on the table between mouthfuls will help slow the speed of eating and allow the stomach more time to communicate to the brain that it is full.

Snack wisely

There’s nothing wrong with snacking, particularly when there’s large chunks of time between meals. But be mindful, some pre-packaged snacks are high in sugar which causes your blood glucose to spike and crash leaving you craving more. Here are some tips for better snacking:

Think portion size
Portion snacks into a bowl before you start eating to help you keep track of the suggested portion size.

Avoid impulse buying
A recent study showed how online shoppers spent less on unhealthy foods like sweets and desserts. The same is true about shopping when you’re hungry, so write a list before you go to help keep focused on the more nourishing foods and avoid the less nutritious foods you may be craving.

Plan ahead
Planning a few days ahead will not only reduce the stress of thinking about what to eat every day, it’ll also save you money. Here are some of my favourite quick, easy and healthy snack suggestions:

  • Natural yoghurt + fruit
  • Apple and celery + nut butter
  • Carrot, celery, pepper and oatcakes + houmous
  • Granary and seeded toast + nut butter
  • Banana + nut butter + wrap
  • Boiled egg
  • Toasted pitta bread + houmous

Prioritise sleep

Insufficient sleep disrupts the appetite hormones ghrelin and leptin. Not having enough sleep raises the level of ghrelin and reduces your levels of leptin. This simultaneously triggers hunger, particularly for high-calorie foods, and reduces feelings of fullness. Eating meals close to bedtime also makes it more difficult for the body to digest and may also lead to acid reflux making it more difficult to get to sleep.

Habit stacking

Build new habits by taking advantage of old ones. For example, when serving dinner at your usual time, put vegetables on the plate first. Another example is to follow each cup of tea or coffee with a glass of water.

Use a food diary or app

If you’d like help tracking your food intake or would like some gentle nudging in the right direction, here are some apps to choose from:

  • Noom – uses psychology to change eating habits incorporating food, exercise and mental health aspects.
  • MyFitnessPal – tracks what you eat and when you exercise.
  • MyNetDiary – lets you easily record your food choices.

Conclusion:

Depriving yourself of things you enjoy often leads to overindulging and feelings of guilt. It’s time we were a little kinder to ourselves. Drastic calorie-cutting is not the key to maintaining healthy eating habits – in fact it often results in yo-yo dieting. Picking one or two small changes you can make every day will have a far greater impact, like adding in one more vegetable or one more glass of water a day. Make them a habit. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD)

International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD) was established by the United Nations in 1992. Each year this is held on 3rd December and represents the actions we should be taking every day to ensure that we create diverse and accepting communities.

The WHO World Report on Disability states that there are more than 1 billion people, which equates to 15 per cent of the world’s population, who are living with some form of disability. Of this number, it is estimated 450 million are living with a mental or neurological condition. Two-thirds of these people will sadly not seek professional medical help, largely due to stigma, discrimination and neglect.

The number of people with disabilities is growing. This is because populations are ageing – older people have a higher risk of disability – and because of the global increase in chronic health conditions associated with disability.

The aim of IDPWD is as follows:
Celebration – regardless of our differing abilities, we should appreciate the diversity of our global community
Learning – those living with disabilities should help us to understand and learn about the challenges faced every day
Optimism – we should look forward to the day when people are characterised by their abilities, rather than their disabilities
Action – we should all support this day and commit to creating a world characterised by equal human rights

The theme for IDPWD this year is “Fighting for rights in the post-COVID era.” The aim of this theme is to celebrate the challenges, barriers and opportunities for people who live with disabilities, in the context of a global pandemic.

Since March 2020, there has been a worldwide impact from drastic political, social and economic change due to the domestic and international responses to COVID-19.

This year, International Day of People with Disabilities should be used to recognise those living with disabilities are among the most affected populations amid the COVID pandemic. Where marginalisation, discrimination, vulnerability and exploitation are every day factors for many people, the increased risk of poor outcomes have been magnified with the reduced access to routine health care and rehabilitation services, more pronounced social isolation, poorly tailored public health messaging, inadequately constructed mental health services, and a lack of emergency preparedness for people with special needs.

World Kindness Day 2021

World Kindness Day was introduced in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement. The organisation was formed at a Tokyo conference in 1997, when Japan brought together kindness organisations from multiple nations and emphasized the necessity of a global kindness movement. Hence the World Kindness Movement launched in Singapore in November 2000, with over 28 countries currently participating. Their mission is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and to connect nations to create a kinder world.

On World Kindness Day we are all encouraged to make an extra effort to be kind to others as well as celebrating the good deeds others already do. By demonstrating an act of kindness, we can all unite with others dedicated to changing the world, one kind act at a time.

In these days of dealing with COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we all show kindness to each other. You can make someone’s day with an act of kindness, however simple the gesture may be. Below are just a few ideas:

  • Smile when you walk by others
  • Write positive messages on post-it notes and leave them for people to find
  • Call a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while
  • Tidy up around your house
  • Pick up any litter you see on the ground outside
  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Chat with a stranger and ask them about their day
  • Pay for a stranger’s coffee or meal
  • Compliment someone
  • Send a positive or encouraging text to five people in your contacts
  • Surprise someone with flowers
  • Tell a family member or friend you love them
  • Offer to help with someone’s errands
  • Send a kind care package or note to a friend
  • Surprise work colleagues with a home-baked cake
  • Plant a tree
  • Volunteer for a charity
  • Give someone a hug

It is also important to recognise that being kind to others, as well as ourselves, can have a positive effect on our psychological wellbeing. Studies have indicated the benefits of kindness can increase positive biochemical responses in those showing kindness and those who are receiving it. Being kind causes an increase in oxytocin along with a dopamine rush, both of which lead to increased feelings of happiness. Kindness has also been shown to increase self-esteem, empathy and compassion, and decrease blood pressure and cortisol – a stress hormone, which directly impacts stress levels. People who demonstrate kindness also tend to be healthier and live longer.

“In a world where you can be anything – be kind”

World Mental Health Day 2021

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) was founded in 1948 to promote advancements in mental health awareness and advocacy, prevention of mental health disorders and ensuring best practice in recovery-focused interventions. The first World Mental Health day, held on 10 October 1992, had the theme Mental Health Advocacy. Further themes have covered a range of topics from trauma, ageing, young people and suicide prevention.

In 2021, the WFMH’s theme is ‘Mental Health in an unequal world’. The aim of this theme is to highlight that access to mental health services remains unequal, with between 75-95% of people with mental heath issues in low and middle-income countries unable to access mental health services at all, and access in high income countries is not much better.

The stigma and discrimination experienced by people who suffer from mental ill health not only affects their physical and mental health, stigma also affects their educational opportunities, current and future earning and job prospects, as well as affecting their families and loved ones. This inequality needs to be addressed because it should not be allowed to continue. We all have a role to play to address these disparities and ensure people with lived experience of mental health are fully integrated in all aspects of life.

To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Mental Health UK are partnering with ITN Productions Industry News to produce a programme called ‘Forward Together for Mental Health’ which airs on 10 October. The aim of this programmes is to raise the profile of mental health in the UK, from those severely affected by mental illness, to people whose mental health has worsened during the current coronavirus crisis.

Mental health is indeed a precious commodity – an asset, which is valuable on both a communal and individual basis. The World Health Organisation states “There is no health without mental health”. Mental health relates to the core of what makes us human. As Freud famously said when we have mental health we can “Love, work and play”. Good mental health supports the capability of individuals to display healthy behaviour, which keeps themselves and others safe during a pandemic. It also supports people to perform in key roles within families, communities and societies.
Prioritising our own mental health needs is important too. Taking personal time out to rest, reflect and rejuvenate will increase your sense of wellbeing and build mental health stores to stress inoculate from some of the frustration and losses caused by the threat and disruption of coronavirus. Learning to develop positive mental health habits will increase your capacity to interact, connect, learn and work to create a more emotional balance in your life.

Why not invest in your mental health today? Consider a mindfulness meditation, go for a walk in nature, or even take time to connect with a friend or colleague.