With a growing cultural focus on nurturing our wellbeing and mental health, many of us are becoming increasingly more in tune with our signals when we need more support. And by developing a greater connection inwardly, we’re able to better support others outwardly too…
Watching our loved ones experience difficulties in their lives can be very distressing. We want to offer the right words of support; make ourselves available to them, while also giving them the space they need to heal. When we watch a loved one struggle, we can often feel helpless. So how can we use our own healing journey to help nourish someone else?
As Ram Dass, the great spiritual leader, once said: ‘We’re all just walking each other home.’ These words serve as a reminder of how interconnected we are with all beings: when we participate in an act of self-love, we’re not only serving ourselves, but others too.
This month, as we approach Mental Health Awareness Week (May 9-15), it’s a good opportunity to consider ways we can rise by lifting others. Whether it’s making plans for time together, or considering the ways in which we’re showing up for our loved ones, here are some ideas for acts of kindness that can ripple outwards:
1. Focus on listening, rather than speaking
It can be easy to think it’s just our words that have power in conversations, but actually it’s the time we spend listening too. Next time you’re talking with a friend or family member, see if you can practice opening your ears to what they are saying a little more. Rather than being quick to speak, or rushing to offer words of comfort, let there be a pause after they’ve spoken. You might find that in those spaces, they can open up more as they feel really held by you and your presence, rather than feeling that their words haven’t been given time to air.
2. Try not to compare
We all thrive on our interconnectedness. Which is why, when someone talks about a situation where you feel you have a shared experience, we are often quick to detail it back to them. While these times of similarity can be helpful, it can often make the other person feel as though their individual experience has been devalued. If a loved one shares their story with you, try to hold off on offering a comparison for a time. It might be helpful later down the line, but initially let their story have a chance to land and be heard.
3. Consider body language
When we’re wanting to hear how our loved ones’ are doing, or what they might have going on in their lives, it can be helpful to read how open they might be to talking about it by considering their body language. Before you launch into questioning, consider how they’re holding themselves: are their arms crossed over their chest as if they’re protecting their heart? Are their hands on their hips as thought they’re in a defensive mood? Often choosing the words, the subjects of our conversations carefully to begin with can allow them to soften and open up as they feel more safe. And consider your own body language as well: Are you posing a threat in the way you’re holding yourself? Can you allow your body to appear open and receptive? As they become more comfortable, you might be able to sense a change in their body language, such as their arms relaxing by their sides; a visible change in their stance, or their shoulders softening as they feel more comfortable to be open with you.
4. Seeking support from trained therapists
When we are feeling low, or suffering from depression, sometimes speaking to an intermediary person can feel easier than someone we have a strong relationship with. This can be down to many factors; but sometimes it feels too personal to speak openly with someone who knows us well. We might fear being judged if we open up to a person who we’re close with. So supporting someone having a difficult time in their lives can sometimes mean suggesting a trained holistic practitioner who they can feel safe and comfortable with. In the practice of kinesiology at the Balanced Health Hut, we are able to use biofeedback from the body’s muscles to indicate a person’s needs on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. This can be helpful for someone struggling to identify the cause of their imbalance, offering them a safe sanctuary in which they can open up and reflect on ways they can support themselves.
5. Meet them in a safe place
Choosing where you meet a loved one to help facilitate a more open and honest discussion can be a really considerate option. If they’re having a difficult time at home, or finding work to be a pressure in their lives, consider meeting them away from these places for some light relief. You might choose a beautiful walk in nature you can take together, or even participate in an activity together that you both enjoy. Remembering never to pressurise someone into sharing, but offering them plenty of opportunity should they choose to.