Those already struggling with their mental health may have found the past few months even more difficult than usual, with the inability to see loved ones or pursue coping techniques, such as sports and other leisure techniques, putting a strain on people’s wellbeing. Kindness is a fitting theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week. At a time when it feels particularly difficult to be optimistic, small acts of kindness by individuals all over the country – from delivering free meals to NHS staff, to sharing baked goods with neighbours – these can give us a sense of hope. But while individual acts of kindness are undoubtedly important right now, it equally feels necessary to think about how we can imbue the society and systems we all rely on with kindness too. Now more than ever, small acts of kindness can go a long way in helping everyone cope with our current reality. Research shows that kindness can reduce levels of stress and anxiety, increase happiness and self-esteem, and that in only one week, counting one’s own acts of kindness can improve happiness. Studies have shown that practising kindness can boost serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain, which are known as the ‘feel good, happy hormones’. While negative emotions such as anger and jealousy contribute to the production of cortisol - the ‘stress hormone’ - which in turn, can lead to a weakened immune system and weight gain. Simply put, being kinder in our daily lives can reduce stress and improve our emotional wellbeing and physical health. Kindness in action, can be seen on a daily basis in our community. Collecting shopping or prescriptions, delivering essential items, checking up on their neighbours – so many are going out of their way to help one another. The beauty of selfless love, and genuine care, is wonderful. And, it’s here in Torbay, in abundance. One of many incredible local pioneers of kindness is Zoe Masdon. Zoe, who lives in Torquay, set up a group through Facebook and Instagram last year, called Torbay Let’s Talk. The group was created to encourage not only community kindness but also to empower people to start talking about mental health. “People spend so much time on social media so creating positive pages is so important.” writes Zoe. “I also wanted to bring together Torbay and show people how they aren’t alone in their struggles. “We’ve all got demons and we’ve got to help each other out.” Reflecting on Covid-19, and its impact, Zoe believes there has been a positive change. “I think the main thing people are seeing, is the importance of kindness and community. “A lot of people are talking about their emotions more whether they’re new or old feelings as we’re forced to have a bit more time to process them. I just hope the support continues once this is over.” Looking to the future, Zoe believes that, as a community, the kindness will and can remain. “I hope that we continue this amazing spirit and support of each other! I hope we remember how much Susan down the street helped with the shopping or Jim over the road worked 80+hrs at the hospital. Kindness is key to good mental health and I hope everyone remembers the importance of helping one another.” We have demonstrated, as a community, how we can change the lives of others, through simple acts of kindness. It would be remiss to ignore the importance of this continuing, beyond Covid-19. So, let’s now Incorporate the smallest acts of kindness into our everyday life and notice the ripple effects.