A little attention goes a long way with loved ones

I had a sharp reminder of what regret feels like last month.

To avoid the environmental catastrophe that is sending invitations from New Zealand all over the world (and to save money), Nick and I made a wedding website and sent the link to our guests.

I was going to make an exception for my dad's mother, because I knew she would not be able to make it to the wedding. I wanted to send a card to let her know she was in my thoughts - and she likes getting cards and letters.

I had decided to send her an invitation four months ago. Three weeks ago, she fell and died unexpectedly. I had not even created the invitation yet.

I always procrastinate over this kind of thing and it usually means giving a belated birthday present or forgetting to reply to an email. But I missed out on a last chance to show my grandmother I cared about her.

It made me realise how important these attentions are.

It takes me only five minutes to send a short email with a few pictures to my Swiss godparents or my French grandmother. I know it makes them happy and yet I regularly fail to do so.

Even with friends here it is easy to get caught up in little problems and forget to give time and energy to people you take for granted. I have not bought a birthday or Christmas present for Nick in two years, for example. Last year I was studying, so I could not really afford it, but I could at least have cooked his favourite meal and baked a cake.

So, after my Swiss grandmother died, I slowly started making more of an effort. I emailed my godparents and my French grandmother, organised Skype calls with my parents and my sister, emailed friends overseas and sent a card to my English friend for his birthday.

I congratulated a friend who had just bought her first house with a present (and helped a bit with the painting and cleaning of said house) and vowed to cook and bake for Nick more often (although this resolution has yet to materialise).

According to a 2012 report from the British Mental Health Foundation, helping others and doing good deeds can help to reduce stress, improve emotional wellbeing and physical health, produce a sense of belonging, reduce isolation and get rid of negative feelings.

What's more, kindness is contagious, so giving more could make our communities nicer places to be.

I enjoyed selecting silly cards for my friends and hearing from my family.

Caring about others around me meant a bit of time and energy, but it also increased my own levels of happiness.

I cannot go back in time and send the invitation to my grandmother, but I can make sure that my friends and family know I care about them any time I want.

The Press