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Embracing kindness to combat loneliness

11 June 2024

3 mins

A person holding an umbrella out in a rainy sky, orange light is beaming from under the umbrella.

Loneliness is an invisible struggle that affects many of us. It can stem from various factors, including a lack of social connections, remote working or excessive stress.

When we feel disconnected from other people, it can lead to decreased productivity, lower morale, and health issues.

Human beings not only crave interactions, but we need them in order to thrive. Even very small interactions with others can boost a feeling of connection. In an interview from Loughborough’s Cuppa with a Scientist podcast, Professor James Goodwin, a Visiting Professor in the School of Design and Creative Arts said:

“If you’re lonely for a long period of time, that’s exceptionally damaging to your general health and to your brain health.

“Social media, emails, phone calls, letters, nice little thank you notes, talking to people – even if at a distance – helps with loneliness.

“A University of Essex researcher even found that you can alleviate loneliness just by saying hello to someone as you walk past them on the road!”

Listen to the full podcast episode where Professor Goodwin reveals what other activities are good for brain health.

A great way to connect with others is by showing kindness. When you go about your daily activities, aim to be present in the moment, simply smiling at a stranger and a simple “How are you?” can make someone’s day and also your own.

What’s more, kindness is contagious. It has been found that witnessing an act of kindness triggers others to carry out selfless acts themselves.

This video from BBC Ideas explores the story of Bernadette Russell and what happens to your brain when you’re kind.

Challenge yourself to do an act of kindness every day

  • Smile and say hello to someone you haven’t spoken to before
  • Invite a colleague out for lunch
  • Share positive feedback
  • Send a thoughtful message
  • Bring treats into the office
  • Listen actively, being mindful not to use your phone during conversation
  • Celebrate colleague milestones
  • Organise a fun activity to do with your team
  • Tidy a shared space
  • Donate some of your unwanted items
  • Buy from a small business

Feel-good films which may help to inspire kindness

  • ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ (1988)
  • ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006)
  • ‘Up’ (2009)
  • ‘Wonder’ (2017)
  • ‘Paddington’ (2014)
  • ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)

You can also show kindness through volunteering in your local community. The University offers staff one day of paid absence per year to undertake approved volunteer work, find out more about the Supported Volunteering Policy.

If you’re thinking about volunteering in sport, there is a range of voluntary opportunities for University staff to get involved in as part of the Community Volunteer Programme. You can also find volunteering opportunities in the local area from Active Together

You can read about different volunteering experiences from our staff members in our blog ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing: Give’.

If you want to volunteer, start small and be mindful not to overdo it. If you find yourself giving too much of your energy, this probably means it’s time to take a step back. Make sure you leave enough energy to look after yourself too.

Health and Wellbeing

Wellbeing means being in a positive physical, social and mental state. Wellbeing is important to us as happy, healthy people who achieve harmony in their work / life mix are more creative, productive and help to create a great place to work.

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