In which Vicki Sigston looks at the effects tiny acts of kindness can have in Medway and beyond..
It’s February, and that means grey skies full of wind and rain, an impatient wait for Spring and of course Valentine’s day.
As someone who has been in a relationship with the same person for the past 20 years I am perhaps jaded to the whole Valentine’s celebrations. Long ago we gave up trying to book a meal out, fed up of sitting squashed amongst other couples in busy restaurants. We are easily annoyed by the hike in prices of flowers, chocolates and bottles of fizz and thoroughly downtrodden by the quest for a not too cheesy, not too funny Valentine’s card.
So these days there are no cards or chocolates (well extra chocolate anyway) in the Sigston house – we cook a meal together, spend 2 hours convincing the children to stay in bed and then fall asleep in front of a film. It’s basically just like any other night.
But I understand that there are those who enjoy the occasion – the mystery card with just a question mark and some vaguely recognisable handwriting. The bunch of roses to brighten your day, or a token to show that someone is thinking of you.
What I wish though is that we paid more attention to letting those we care about know more often – not just a pre-selected day of the year, but every day, or at least every week or month.
We seem to live in a world surrounded by bad news. Brexit (and British politics in general). Trump/Russia/China (pick a country to add). Dozens of companies shutting down with their subsequent job losses. Depression and mental health issues rising in young and old.
It’s hard to read a paper, listen to the radio or watch the TV without falling into a pit of helplessness.
There are those in Medway who are fighting back against the slump our country is in though.
Charities such as One Big Family and Caring Hands who do fantastic work raising money for and collecting donations on behalf of homeless people. Organisations like Nucleus Arts who do so much to bring affordable and accessible art and creativity to Medway residents. Groups run by just a couple of people, like Animals lost and found in Kent, who run a much needed service reuniting lost pets with their owners and finding safe homes for unwanted animals.
There is a huge community on Facebook, with a group page called Medway Random Acts of Kindness, which, when I last checked, had just shy of 30,000 members and is wholly dedicated to people doing good deeds, or passing goods and services on to those who really could make use of them (it’s wonderful to see the genuine good that can come from a community pulling together).
So, if the thought of Valentine’s day is filling you with dread, or you are just bored by the commercialism and expectation of it all, perhaps pencil in something else to do this February the 14th.
Maybe you have an older family member you haven’t seen for a while who you could visit for a cup of tea and a chat?
Do you know parents with a new baby who could really do with a home cooked meal they don’t have time to cook themselves?
You could donate some old books to your local library, or take the rubbish out for your neighbours.
How about buying a random person a coffee or leaving some change in a vending machine for the next person in search of a sugar hit?
Phone a friend you haven’t seen in ages and tell them how important they are to you (or text/WhatsApp if, like so many of us now, you only use the phone for calling someone in a life or death situation).
Through all of this, remember, there is some great research around proving that when we help others it benefits our own mental health and wellbeing too. It can reduce stress, depression and feelings of isolation, help to get rid of negative feelings and even give our physical health a boost.
We are social creatures, and good things happen in our brains when we reach out and help those around us. A study from 2017 using FMRI imaging, showed that when promising to spend money on others, rather than ourselves, participants made more generous choices about what to spend and showed an increase in their personal happiness too. Another American study proved that people who volunteer regularly live longer than those that do not and have less illness, especially cardiac-related problems.
Basically, forget about bows, arrows, pink hearts and anonymous love notes and instead focus on bringing some joy to your community instead. A small random act of kindness can go a very long way.
Vicki Sigston is an Antenatal Practitioner and Breastfeeding Counsellor currently living in Medway. She and her husband have 2 boys that they home educate with support from Medway’s incredible home ed community. You can follow her work life on Facebook and Instagram.
Vicki has a website called Mum of 2 Boys that she likes to post (hopefully) useful bits and pieces on too. She also suffers with a chronic condition called Endometriosis and she shares her journey with all of that here.