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Focus on ‘Kindness’ this Mental Health Awareness Week

Most runners will be aware of the positive effects of physical activity on mental health, but it's likely they'll know less about the similarly positive effects of Kindness: the theme of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week (18–24 May).

As Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, the Host of the Week explains: “Kindness unlocks our shared humanity and is central for our mental health. It has the potential to bring us together with benefits for everyone, particularly at times of great stress.

“The research clearly shows that acts of kindness can help improve emotional wellbeing. This is true whether we are giving or receiving it." So how can we, as runners, bring more kindness into our socially distanced world this week?

While our traditional shows of kindness – high-fives, pats on the back, finish-line hugs – are impossible, there’s so much more we can do. In the virtual world, encouraging others in their efforts, giving advice when asked or just taking the time to listen are all ways we can show kindness.

Resisting the temptation to be judgemental or mean-spirited from behind our phones and keyboards – the polar opposite of being kind – is also important, and something runABC has addressed before.

Out in the real world, we can show kindness by acknowledging other runners with a smile or wave, and making sure we give all users their due space on the pavements and trails.

We can show kindness to our running clubs and groups by supporting their efforts to keep the spirit of our sport alive – whether that’s by taking part in the virtual challenges and meetings they work hard to organise or just making sure we still pay our annual fees on time.

We can also reach out by phone, text or social media to thank club members or fellow runners who have inspired us, supported our running journeys or got us through tough times.

We can also offer to share any special skills we have – from baking the definitive lockdown banana bread to demonstrating a few favourite stretches – with others in our own running communities online.

We can show kindness to others less fortunate than we are by sorting through the running kit we no longer need, and getting it ready to donate to charity when lockdown ends. We can also show kindness to those same charities by taking part in virtual races, or setting our own fundraising challenges.

As Rowland says, “Now more than ever, we need to re-discover kindness in our daily lives.”

And for runners, there are plenty of ways we can do just that – this week, next week, and all the weeks to come.

More information here about – Mental Health Awareness Week (18–24 May).

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