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Why goodwill is good for your mental health

By Libby Taylor

Design by Ellen Stanton

Now that the festive season is finally upon us, we are enjoying a time where we can spoil our friends, family and strangers – and feel good about it too.

The festive season is widely associated with giving, as we dedicate our time and finances to treating our loved ones. Of course, our intention is to make them happy and see a smile on their face, but how can participating in acts of kindness and generosity be good for our own mental health?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, undertaking acts of kindness is linked to increased feelings of well being and improved self-esteem. So, when you spoil your loved ones, and see them opening up the gifts you specially picked out for them, you too will reap the benefits.

Despite goodwill’s festive connotations, its effects are most significant when it is practiced all year round. In normal circumstances, this might be donating or raising money for a charity, buying a meal for a homeless person, helping an elderly person cross the road, or even just giving up your seat on the bus. Yet, with social distancing measures in place these small acts of kindness can be a lot more difficult to carry out.

With the current restrictions, perhaps the best act of kindness one can carry out is to make sure people don’t feel alone. Arranging a virtual catch up with a friend or relative, making a cup of tea for someone you live with, doing the chores or simply just telling a loved one how much they mean to you will not only make them feel loved and appreciated, but it will give you a sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Participating in random acts of goodwill, whether it be over the festive season or any time of the year, is highly beneficial in making you feel grateful, compassionate and empathetic. These feelings lead to you having a better sense of belonging and community. Furthermore, according to Healthy Living Online, kindness releases chemicals such as oxytocin (a love hormone) which helps us to form better bonds based on trust.

Acts of kindness can help those who feel isolated connect to others in a way that can improve their mental health, creating bonds of solidarity and a sense of community. Undertaking selfless acts to help those in need is so important, whether it be volunteer work or a sponsored walk, it all helps.

Christmas is going to look very different this year, so making sure friends or family you aren’t seeing, as well as those you’re lucky enough to spend the day with, feel loved and happy will in turn make you feel so much better. A win-win!

So, over this festive season as you’re wrapping up those presents and putting them under the tree, remember that your generosity is helping you too. Kindness is something that we can practice daily and it enriches our own lives, as well as other people’s.

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