For the new school video that our brilliant marketing team is putting together, I was asked many interesting and challenging questions and one of them was ‘Snap my finger to change one thing in the world’. My answer to this question is ‘I would make everyone kind. It costs nothing to be charitable and makes you more friends than enemies!’. My message here is ‘if you can be anything in life be kind’. The great thing is that it isn’t difficult to be kind. As the Dalai Lama said, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.
At Northampton High, I often come across two distinct ways in which kindness manifests itself. Firstly, and perhaps most frequently, in showing kindness to others. For example, old-fashioned good manners are the norm – you are greeted with smiling pupils who hold open doors, make eye contact, and engage in conversation. Secondly, and much less consistently, in showing kindness to ourselves.
The focus for Children’s Mental Health Week, 6-12 February 2023, is ‘Let’s connect – connecting with others in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways to support our mental health’. Our wellbeing team has devised an ingenious way for us to celebrate the week and staff have been asked to write kindness notes anonymously to students, and for Year 7 and 8 students to do the same for our Junior School pupils. Kindness causes elevated levels of dopamine in the brain, helping us feel happier. Therefore, a little act of kindness can arguably go a long way in making someone feel valued, appreciated, and connected, which is an essential strategy for whole school wellbeing and mental health.
A survey published by NHS Digital in 2021 highlighted that one in six children have a diagnosable mental health issue and the likelihood that mental health issues would be identified as a probable disorder increased with age, with young women aged 17 to 22 being most at risk. It pointed out that many young people have found it very challenging to negotiate the milestones of leaving school or home, starting work or study or looking for jobs in very different circumstances. Therefore, it’s really important to help each other out when we can, and to find ways to take care of our minds. One very simple but powerful way to connect with others is through kindness.
Acts of kindness can make a real difference, but the point is not to be known for your good deeds but to do a little something for someone else to make the world a slightly nicer place in that moment. It’s a life philosophy which centres on radiating human kindness and gratitude. My message here is simple: when we ourselves perform an act of kindness, this is likely to encourage others to act in a similar way. Being treated with kindness can have an enduring and endearing impact so let’s not overlook this simplest of words – let’s value this most important human trait and all make a little more effort to act with kindness towards one another.
Many scientific papers have shown that kindness and giving to charity stimulates activity in brain regions associated with pleasure and reward. Doing good reduces stress levels and leads, when it becomes a habit, to long-term improvements in the life satisfaction of those who do good deeds. A recent study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, showed that acts of kindness can be better than therapy for people suffering depression, by comparison with those undergoing a particular form of CBT and those asked to take part in social activities. Dr David Cregg of Ohio State University, who led the study, said: “Social connection is one of the ingredients of life most strongly associated with wellbeing. Performing acts of kindness seems to be one of the best ways to promote those connections.”
In closing, doing good does you good. It is important to look out for each other in and around our communities, and that includes here at Northampton High. My hope is for everyone to keep an eye out for an opportunity to help someone with a random act of kindness or hold onto that warm feeling when someone helps you.
It would be wrong of me not to end this blog with the most enormous THANK YOU to all who support us: our pupils who are so keen to make a difference, our staff who always go the extra mile, and all the parents and alumnae who have given so generously in so many ways – through financial support, through your advice, through your contacts, through your time and through your spirit. Thank you! You are the best school community in the country, of that I am certain.
Dr May Lee
NHS Digital (2021): ‘Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2021’. Available at: Mental Health of Children and Young People in England 2021 – wave 2 follow up to the 2017 survey
Cregg, D.R and Cheavens, J.S (2022) Jennifer S. Cheavens. Healing through helping: an experimental investigation of kindness, social activities, and reappraisal as well-being interventions. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1 Available at: 10.1080/17439760.2022.2154695