|Bernadette Russell is a storyteller, theatre maker and tree planter.|
– What’s happiness to you?
To find the beauty, fun and joy in the present moment
– Would you say kindness always brings happiness, and so kindness could be one way to being genuinely happy in life?
Actively looking out for acts of kindness can lead to happiness, as you see for yourself how much good there is in the world, and how wonderful your fellow humans are. Receiving acts of kindness and consciously acknowledging and being grateful for them, can make you feel happier too: allowing you see you are cared for and you matter: to strangers, loved ones and neighbours.
But best of all are carrying out acts of kindness at every opportunity: receiving the “helpers high’ endorphins released in our brains when we do something kind. It all leads to happiness as it gives us hope: that with small, simple, achievable acts of kindness we can contribute actively to making the world a better place, simply by putting a smile on someone face. Committing to kindness gives us purpose and meaning, both of which contribute enormously to our happiness.
– How did you become the expert on kindness?
Ah I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert, rather as a student of kindness or kindness activist – just because even after ten years of daily acts of kindness I realise that I still have so much to learn – which is wonderful!
I started way back in 2011 as a response to feeling despairing and powerless at the plight of the world- I wanted to see if kindness could change the world. I know it can because I have seen it work: especially the immense surge of acts of kindness in response to the global pandemic.
How can someone add more kindness to their lives, and particularly
how can we learn to be kinder to ourselves?
Its so important to be kind to yourself, and to do this we need to know ourselves: to take time to know what we need to be happy, to feel calm, to feel peaceful. These things are different for everyone. To be kind to yourself might mean taking a walk in the park, or working out, or chatting on the phone with an old friend, the point is to identify what it is that sparks happiness for you and make sure that you get those things. Celebrate your achievements, look after your physical and mental health, be connected with your support network, take a break when you need one if you are able to, ask for help.
I have a “happy box” – in it I keep reminders of what I need to be happy so that when I am sad I can peek inside and remind myself of what I have and what I need to get back to happiness. These are all ways we can and should be kind to ourselves
In your mind how has the current situation in the world helped people become kinder?
What it has revealed to me is the appetite and yearning we had to help each other, to serve each other, to love each other, to be kind. All over the world mutual support groups sprung up and neighbours helped neighbours, food was donated, errands run, support given. For me, this was a beautiful affirmation of what I knew in my heart and in my experience to be true: people are good, kind, they want to connect. With the countless stories of good deeds and kindness we were restored to good faith in each other. Now we know what we can do, what wonders we are capable of, imagine what a beautiful future we can create together? A kinder, more beautiful, happier world is possible.
Bernadette’s new book “How To Be Hopeful” is out September 2020, published by Elliot and Thompson