February 1st marks Mind and Rethink Mental Illness’s 2024 #TimetoTalk Day. 
A decade ago, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness launched Time to Talk Day as part of their enduring campaign to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. This annual initiative encourages open discussions about mental illness, fostering empathy, compassion, and patience, it endeavours to normalise the discussion of mental illness - making it easier for those experiencing mental health challenges to open up and share their experiences safely, whilst also creating opportunities for friends, families, communities, and workplaces to practice and develop vital skills to help and support those who need it when it’s #timetotalk. 
Over the past decade, there has undoubtedly been a significant shift in the perception and understanding of mental health, and this is in no small part thanks to campaigns such as #TimetoTalk. As an organization dedicated to empowering individuals to enhance their mental fitness, #TimetoTalk day prompts us here at Strive to explore proactive measures that can encourage dialogue and connection even before mental health concerns take centre stage. For additional information on engaging in and promoting conversations about mental health, we wholeheartedly recommend visiting #TimetoTalk.  
But for now, we would like to talk about some of the ways we at Strive like to build and maintain connections with those around us so that, if and when we do need to have a trickier conversation, we know that we are ready to both give and receive support. 
One of The 10 Keys of Happiness we frequently refer our Strive members to is Relating. This key focuses on our relationships and how these relationships are intricately connected to our personal well-being and mental health. In this key, we don’t only consider the importance of our personal and close relationships with family and friends, but also the importance of our wider groups and communities, which we find are often overlooked. Membership of these wider groups is a significant factor that helps inform our sense of personal identity; a shared group value or goal provides an enhanced sense of purpose and meaning, and these groups can contribute greatly to our personal strength and resilience. Like all relationships though, they can be both hard to develop and maintain – they can also be challenging to leave when they are no longer a healthy place to be. 
Our online member resources include tonnes of helpful information about how to attend to and nurture both our close personal relationships and extended community and group relationships. We look at how to develop and maintain healthy relationships, manage conflict, develop and implement personal boundaries, how to give our relationships active consideration so that we can not only identify them (as there are often many more than we first realise) but also determine if they require more attention and whether they are healthy and helpful to us or not. We also provide information on how to leave relationships that are unable to meet our needs in a way that is both compassionate and respectful. For those who need a little extra support, our Strive mentors are also very happy to help you make the most of these resources and to provide a friendly ear while you work towards getting the most out of your relationships. 
One thing we don’t often get the opportunity to talk about, though, are the small steps we can all take to improve our relationships with those around us.  
Whether it’s a partner, a friend, a colleague, a shop assistant, the receptionist trying to find the earliest available appointment after you’ve already spent 20 minutes on hold, a boss, an employee, a child, a grumpy customer or client who just can’t be pleased no matter how hard you try, or anyone and everyone in between... 
These are just some of the things we try to bear in mind when relating to others: 
Here at Strive our compassion focus underpins everything we do. It informs all of our work, and it is something we endeavour to carry into our lives outside of Strive too. It is something we actively practice on a daily basis but must admit that, even for us, on some days this feels much more challenging than others! 
We believe though that, with practice, being compassionate gets easier. Whether it’s extending compassion to others when we are having a rough day, or they are really testing the limits of our goodwill; accepting compassion from others when we’d rather not feel the vulnerability that all too often accompanies asking for or accepting help; or being compassionate with ourselves by taking a minute to challenge those negative thoughts that tell us that we’re not doing well enough - it’s not always easy and we’re not always successful! 
One of the most compassionate things we find we can do (almost consistently) though, is to forgive ourselves and others when we are not perfect. 
So, for those times when… 
- we simply forget to extend compassion in the moment. 
- we don’t have the resources that allow us to be our most compassionate and understanding selves at that time. 
- when someone else seems unable to extend us the compassion and understanding that we deserve. 
- and especially for those times when we are struggling to give and receive compassion from ourselves. 
Taking a minute to reflect and remember that we are all mostly just messy humans muddling through and doing the best with what we have, gives us the space to consider that there are an infinite number of reasons why, on some days, both ourselves and others, simply won’t be able to be present as our best selves in the world. This is human, it is a fundamental truth that practicing compassion helps us to understand, it is absolutely fine, and sometimes kind of wonderful too. 
Extending compassion to ourselves and others and allowing, and expecting others to show us compassion in return, takes courage. It opens us up to potential hurt and disappointment, it makes us vulnerable, and it forces us to take action under difficult circumstances. But, having the courage to confront those uncomfortable feelings, and to accept that it is inherently human to need support from others (just as they need support from us), opens us all up to honest and authentic connections that provide us with a sense of fulfilment, purpose, and belonging. 
At Strive we understand that showing courage and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is a much easier task for some of us than others. Those of us with strong and compassionate support networks will require less courage to deal with certain feelings and circumstances than those who do not have that support - or do, but they are not yet used to having that support – and it is our privilege to be able to help our members tap into and build on their unique set of skills and resources in order to find the courage that they need to make real and lasting changes in their lives. 
On a daily basis we get to see our members show the courage to communicate honestly and openly even when it feels awful, the courage to be vulnerable and ask those around them for patience and support, the courage actively choose to keep themselves safe and well despite the compassion they feel for those who may be doing them harm, the courage to know when something is not their fault, the courage to take responsibility when it is, the courage to make difficult decisions, the courage to choose to do the right thing even when it’s not the easy thing, the courage to engage in a mental fitness journey that will at times be challenging, and the courage to trust us to help them as best we can along this small part of that ongoing journey. 
Whilst many understandably think that kindness and compassion are essentially the same thing, there is a distinct difference. Compassion, as a thought or feeling, does not inherently lead to kindness as an action. Kindness is what you can put into the world when you are compassionate and show courage. Kindness is how you pass on the compassion and courage that you have worked to develop and maintain onto others. 
Acts of kindness can be as innocuous as a friendly smile, as small as being patient with the person in front of you at the checkout whilst you’re in a rush and they persist in their fumble to find the exact change, they can be big and expressive and take a lot of effort and planning, or they can be simple and straight forward and something that you can bring to the world in all of your interactions with it. One of the most important things about kindness though is that, in order to show kindness to others to the best of your ability, you must show kindness to yourself and allow others to provide you with kindness too. 
Kindness is magic and it grows 
Although, you may not always see the kindness you put into the world come back to you from the place that you put it, the more kindness that you put out there, the more you enable others to pass it along – even when, for many reasons, they may not be able to return it to you directly. 
Allowing others to be kind to you is itself an act of kindness. 
Receiving kindness from others graciously makes those offering that kindness feel good and, normalising receiving kindness, encourages others to allow themselves to receive kindness too. 
Kindness also encourages collaboration, where you can kindly use your unique strengths and abilities to help others so that they are able to use their unique strengths and abilities where it helps too. 
In short: It’s cool to be kind. 
Kindness: Where compassion and courage meet. 
Whilst many Strive members show themselves kindness and join Strive as individuals, we are extremely privileged to work with compassionate employers, who have had the courage to take a proactive approach to their staff wellbeing. That compassion and courage kindly enables us to provide their staff with the tools, resources, and support needed to improve their mental fitness and wellbeing - not only at work but in all other areas of their life too. 
We are even more privileged to work with members who are courageous enough to engage with us and are compassionate enough to commit to getting the most out of their membership and the opportunities it provides and, whilst we of course like to consider ourselves as kind in our dealings with clients and members, we cannot overstate the kindness we receive from those who allow us to do what we do. 
It is an absolute pleasure to see our clients invest in the wellbeing of their staff and even more of a pleasure to see our members make the most of our resources and to support them on this short part of their ongoing journey. 
Allowing us to do what we do well so that you can do what you do well really is a kindness, and we can’t thank you enough! 
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