This is called good medicine. Yet, it’s not small, white or round, nor does it come via a medical prescription or in a bottle with a few scary alerts regarding possible side-effects.
This is a nebulous quality without a singular shape. It comes in numerous forms and can be experienced by everyone. This medicine is free, and it’s known as good old-fashioned kindness – a quality now being promoted as a therapeutic support in the management of mental health illnesses.
When something is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate, it can’t help but leave a good taste in your mouth. The same as ‘being kind’ is described as doing intentional, voluntary acts of kindness, it’s a winner in the positive health stakes.
Just ask Sunshine Coast resident Nate L’Estrange. Nate founded The Kindness Collective in 2016, saying the inspiration came from a period just after he graduated from biomedical science at the University of the Sunshine Coast and friends and community came to support him in what he says was a difficult
time in his life. He says he was shown kindness, and for him that meant an acceptance of his personal struggle. Kindness worked so well as a healer for him, he wanted to share it with others who may be suffering mental health problems.
Mr L’Estrange believes kindness has a very broad definition. “But I think empathy is the foundation of kindness; we need to value each other’s story. He adds that respect is also an integral aspect of kindness,“Sometimes views can become so polarised in social situations, that people forget about respect.”
Not only did the experience show Mr L’Estrange the value of friendship and kindness, but it also made him realise that in an area such as the Sunshine Coast, there are a lot of new arrivals who may not have any contacts. To counteract this, he set up events such as yoga classes and hiking trips, where the only payment was for participants to take a kindness card and reach out to others in the community. Today, The Kindness Collective is alive and well, reaching out to schools and organisations to speak about the importance of connection and mental health.
“The mission is to build a culture of openness and non-judgement, while encouraging greater empathy, kindness and compassion,” he says.
His words correspond with those of medical doctor, author and speaker Dr Deepak Chopra, known globally as a pioneer and expert in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Dr Chopra writes: “If there was one magical cure for many of the woes of the world, it might be the power of kindness. When the epidemic of stress, anxiety and depression threatens to overload the medical system and impede progress toward a greater sense of common humanity, and when the world can seem more divided than united, giving and receiving kindness is a way to connect at a deep level. Kindness is a means of acknowledging that the needs of others are worthy of attention and that actions on their behalf are meaningful.”
In May this year, renowned Australian psychologist, social researcher and author Hugh Mackay published his book, The Kindness Revolution where he asks us to think about what sort of society would we like to be and then challenges us to ‘dare to dream of a more loving country – kinder, more compassionate, more co-operative, more respectful, more inclusive, more egalitarian, more harmonious, less cynical.’
Finally, he points to all the displays of kindness during recent natural disasters, weather calamities and COVID that went to support the community’s mental health and asks: “Could we become renowned as a loving country, rather than simply a ‘lucky’ one?”
In March 2020, Melbourne-based doctor, educator and researcher Dr Catherine Bennett, started The Kindness Pandemic to help people impacted by COVID. Today, it has more than 550,000 members and is founded on one basic message – be kind to each other. The Facebook site is the area where a vast range of people share how acts of kindness have helped them. A survey of the group members found 86 per cent said that being a members of the Kindness Pandemic Facebook group improved their mental wellbeing.
DID YOU KNOW?
That when you display kindness, you increase dopamine to the brain, leaving you feeling happier and more energised? Here’s some ways to make yourself and others happy.
- Recognise and validate positive changes
- When someone cuts you off on the road, gently wave them in – you never know what kind of day they are having
- If you hear gossip, change the conversation toward praise and gratitude about the person or situation
- Give a compliment to a friend
- Make eye contact – we need more connection in the world, so lift your attention from your smartphone and look at everyone you see, offering a smile and acknowledging their presence
- Give someone the benefit of the doubt
- Offer to listen to a problem
- Write a card and send it by mail
- Do the dishes when it’s not your turn
- Apologise if you need to
- Offer to give someone a ride who doesn’t have a car.
The positive feedback loop
The Australian government website Health Direct refers to a ‘positive feedback loop’ and says research shows this comes from a simple equation: “The more you give, the more positive you feel. This, in turn, fuels greater happiness”. Acts of kindness and compassion can increase wellbeing, contribute to healthy relationships and improve self-esteem.
Furthermore, there are now many studies to have found that kindness, compassion and giving are associated with:
- improved happiness
- good mental health
- a stronger immune system
- reduced anxiety, stress and depression
- improved relationships
- a longer life.
Sharing, caring and kindness
Sunshine Coast mental health charities and organisations are joining forces to showcase their messages and form new collaborations at the inaugural Nurture Festival, to be held in May 2022. WORDS: Caitlin Zerafa.
In the spirit of sharing, caring and kindness, the creation of a new festival will see a group of charities acting as one to showcase ways to ‘nurture’ change for the most vulnerable age-group in our society, the 15 to 25-year-olds.
The Nurture Festival is an initiative of endED’s Mark Forbes and Nathan Taylor from Comunite’z, and it came about while chatting over a drink.
“Over the years we have got to know each other from our charities, and I was saying how competitive it is on the Coast, with some 360 charities, and it’s a shame we don’t do more together.
“He mentioned he’d always wanted to put a festival together and that’s how it started. It’s grown leaps and bounds from there.”
Tapping into the hundreds of connections he had made over the years, Mr Forbes says he is receiving a positive response to the festival, which will include live entertainment, guest speakers and rides.
“I haven’t had a single negative response yet, he says.
“And we already have representatives from many different Coast organisations on the event committee board.
The inaugural Nurture Festival, to be held on May 7, 2022, at Mooloolah Valley will bring together charities, organisations and professionals and provide a safe platform for youth to reach out and connect and for parents to seek support for themselves or a loved one.
“The Nurture Festival isn’t targeting one specific aspect of mental help, like an eating disorder or suicide prevention, it’s tackling all forms of mental health.”
Mr Forbes says it will also be an opportunity for professionals, sporting clubs, schools, and tertiary education facilities to connect, create new relationships and communicate with each other.
“It is a festival for the community built by the community,” he says.
“With the festival, we’ll have everybody in that space. People looking for help can walk in and go it’s all here; I can put the laptop down and it’s all here.
“Anyone from Brisbane to Noosa who wants to be involved in mental health in the festival and have a presence can be part of it.
“What we see the festival doing, is connecting people together so they can see what each other provides and they can start to form their own networks.”
Mr Forbes says the event, which will cost around $260,000 to start up, already has support from Sunshine Coast Council and interest from the federal government, with Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace leading the charge to gain funding.
A fundraiser will be held on October 12 at Mooloolaba Surf Club and the festival is looking for sponsors.
A website for the event is currently being built and will launch in the coming weeks.
For enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org.