By Laura Bradley

Last week I wrote a piece about one of the best books I’ve read in a while, which has been a source of great comfort and hope for me during these uncertain times: The Resilience Project by Hugh Van Cuylenberg.

The book posits that in order to be mentally healthy and happy, one must integrate gratitude, empathy and mindfulness into their lives. My last piece covered practising gratitude in isolation (you can have a read of it here), and this week I’m focusing on empathy, or the ability to psychologically feel what someone else is feeling.

Hugh points out that when we do something kind for someone else, our brains release oxytocin – otherwise known as the love chemical – which allows us to feel joy, happiness and love. There are many ways to practice empathy, such as volunteering, lending support to a friend in need or paying it forward at the supermarket. One of my friends recently told me she’s been using her time indoors to sew scrub caps for nurses.

Practising empathy doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, Hugh’s suggestion is to think about someone you know who is going through a tough time and to write them a letter.

“But we’re all going through a tough time!” you cry.

That’s true. But shouldn’t the fact that we’re all feeling down in the dumps increase our feelings of empathy?

Perhaps someone you know recently lost a loved one, or their job, or a hefty deposit on a holiday to Italy, or is processing the aftermath of a divorce while being stuck inside with nothing to do but think about it.

Go ahead, have a go and see how it makes you feel. My two pieces of advice would be that if you do go for the letter option, you should place the focus on them and not yourself and your own struggles, and that any act of kindness should not be plastered over social media. The feelings of happiness should come from inside, not from external validation.

Tune in next week to find out how to integrate mindfulness into your life during isolation.