R U OK?
R U OK? Day is a wonderful way of bringing awareness to the importance of staying connected in challenging times and having conversations that may help others through difficult situations in their lives. It’s ‘OK’ to be ‘not OK’ and a simple chat might mean everything to a friend or loved one who may be struggling.
As we ourselves adapt to this changing world, it’s also important for us all to be vigilant about caring for those around us. Don’t underestimate how simple, authentic gestures of support and encouragement can truly help.
Some indications that a person isn’t coping with life’s ups and downs might be:
- Becoming withdrawn
- Experiencing mood swings
- Losing interest in what they used to love
- Unable to concentrate
- Less care with their personal appearance and hygiene
- Behaving recklessly
- Changes in their sleep patterns
Sometimes we may avoid asking a person R U OK because what if they really start talking about why they’re not OK, how are we going to handle that? What if we say the wrong thing or don’t know what to say? The most important thing when responding to someone who is not OK is to give them your full attention and listen with interest, curiosity, and compassion to what they’re saying. Don’t try and fix the problem right now unless you think they need urgent help, then you might encourage them to seek professional help. Affirm to them that they can count on you for support and then check back in with them later.
In these emotionally challenging times when people are often struggling with their mental health, connecting with others, and providing support to others can provide benefits to us as well. Research shows that kindness to others can improve our own feelings of confidence, being in control, happiness, and optimism. It may also encourage others to pay that good deed forward, contributing to a more positive community. Seligman (the pioneer of positive psychology) reported that people who care for others’ well being through acts of altruism seem to be happier and less depressed. Acts of kindness and support (altruism) activate the reward centre in your brain. Neurobiologists have found that when a person behaves altruistically and compassionately, the pleasure centres in the brain become more active. So, in helping others, you are also helping yourself as well as building communal relationships of support and assistance through troubled times.
R U OK? Day encourages a more altruistic culture of proactively caring for others every day and this can have a powerful impact on overall wellness, build relationships and add meaning to life.
Kindness costs nothing and can mean so much.
Leslie Hartley, WLSA Psychologist