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All we need is... Love

With today being World Kindness Day, I couldn't very well not write a few words about one of the most important acts of kindness that is within our gift to bestow on others: love. At a time of continued turbulence and significant social divide, arguably we need to double down on love more than ever. The fact is that, as human beings, we need love to thrive. Without it, we merely survive or, worse, struggle significantly. Problems seem so much lighter and hurdles easier to surmount, when we are surrounded by people who care.

I think we have all felt the impact that the various restrictions by local governments have had on our ability to love and feel loved. The physical distance means we haven't been able to hug our friends and family members as much as we might like, often for many months on end. The physical and psychological toll should not be underestimated. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness can have serious mental health implications, caused by the psychological stress that loneliness creates. However, just because we are physically isolated does not mean that we remain socially isolated. The advent of technology has provided us with a rare gift to be able to check-in with one another, no matter where we are in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, the UK's Prime Minister announced a further four-week lockdown, whereby non essential shops would close and social mixing between households would again be prohibited. That announcement occurred just over one week before my wife was due to celebrate a major birthday milestone. I had originally anticipated taking her to one of her favourite restaurants and arranging to meet up with her friends, in line with the lesser restrictions that had been in place. Suddenly, none of that was possible.

Not one to be easily deterred, I went about contacting as many of her family and friends as I could, to record video messages for her. The idea being, that I would surprise her on her birthday with an outpouring of love from those who couldn't be there in person to celebrate with her. The video compilation took on a life of its own and, with my creative juices flowing, the final cut was more than 30 minutes long, complete with a tear jerking soundtrack, as well as many happy memories. I incorporated messages from people around the whole world, from Canada and the US to Australia and Hong Kong.

The best bit was that I had managed to keep the whole thing a secret until the moment my wife started watching it - she was blown away. She explained afterwards that it had felt as if everyone had literally been there showering her with love. It was one of the best birthdays she had ever experienced and not one she was likely to forget in a hurry. While it may have taken me the best part of 20 hours to compile all the messages together, chase some of the stragglers, and edit it all together, it enabled me to forge closer bonds with her friends and family in the process. Plus she then had the pleasure of messaging everyone to say thank you for their beautiful messages, spreading love even further.

While there remain lots of hurdles to us being physically connected, we shouldn't let that stop us from staying socially connected. Our ability to offer kindness and forge connections are everywhere. Offering up a smile (rather than a scowl) when someone accidentally walks into us, can create a positive ripple that has the potential to touch many more people. Our emotions are contagious. Would it not be better to spread a stress reducing smile than an anger inducing scowl, knowing that you will positively affect their day and the days of those people that they later interact with. Similarly, it will leave you feeling good. We know that acts of kindness have a hugely positive effect on the giver, reducing stress and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

If you're looking to bolster those warm fuzzy feelings inside of you or perhaps looking for some inspiration as to what you can do to spread more love this winter, why not check-out John Lewis' latest Christmas advert. Invariably, the research is clear, if we wish to be happy and fulfilled: all we need is love.

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