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Meet Judi Swanson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Judi Swanson.

Judi, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I am honored to have worked as a LCSW-R providing counseling and support to people of all ages who are experiencing a range of issues such as life stressors, significant life changes, substance abuse, trauma, and mental health. It is humbling to partner with people who are going through so much, yet are willing to work so hard for positive change.

People are remarkable. The courage and vulnerability of individuals, couples, and families who are in crisis and willing to seek out help is amazing. They were willing to share difficult details of who they are, and events that had happened, with me, initially a stranger who became a trusted partner in their healing. Every person has taught me how to be a better me. I could tell the difference I was making by listening to all parts of their experiences, including the really yucky stuff, with non-judgemental care and love. I observed my suggested strategies that we worked on resulted in positive, beneficial changes in their inner self and outer life. Helping people to see all of their incredible parts, including the dings and dents, with self-love and acceptance humbled me.

The human brain is fascinating. I am a brain geek who loves understanding the brain and the actions we can take to change our brains, which is called neuroplasticity. What you eat has an effect on your body. What you tell your brain and information it takes in effect’s your thinking and feelings. When I worked as a social worker in a high school every week I would share stories of positivity along with information on a variety of topics to school staff. Staff shared feedback of how beginning their day in a positive way made a beneficial difference to their mental health and mood. This simple action helped to improve the school climate one positive story at a time.

While working as a full-time social worker in a high school, a job which I loved, there was an ongoing voice within me to do something else. Something that would touch more lives with love, kindness, and compassion. This voice would not go away as much as I tried to quiet it, and I really tried to quiet it. Studies show that empathy is decreasing in our world. I wanted to take action to increase empathy and kindness in the wonderful world we live in while shining light on all the helpers taking action to help others.

Sharing information about actions a person can take to improve their self worth provides potential and possibility for positive change. Kindness is one of those magical actions that ignites all sorts of positive benefits in everyone’s brain – the giver and the receiver. To honor the power of kindness and its positive impact I began what is now called Kindness Champions. I left my loved school job in June 2021 to focus my time and energy on Kindness Champions and a few other mental health initiatives.

Kindness Champions has a number of initiatives. The Postcard Project sends postcards to random individuals and businesses that states: “YOU MATTER – Thank you for being you and bringing your awesome to the world.” There are a few businesses who put a smaller version in orders and place them out for anyone to take. We have “YOU MATTER” sticky notes that are placed at random locations. Daily posting on social media include positive stories, strength based motivational quotes along with articles providing information to promote self-care and growth.

The Kindness Champion Spotlight stories highlight people and organizations taking action to help others in the world. This September Kindness Champions will be rolling out Kindness Clinics, a one hour clinic free to the general public to share information about the science of kindness, changing your brain with neuroplasticity, and helping to inspire people to show more kindness to themselves and others.

The mission statement of Kindness Champions is “We are champions of celebrating every person to see their remarkable awesome by being kind to themselves and others.” We believe people need to be celebrated and appreciated for who they are. Every single person matters and has a place in the world.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
If one thing does not work out I know something else will. Usually that something else is even better than what I was expecting.

In the Chinese symbol for crisis is the symbol of opportunity and I embrace this belief. Challenges are opportunities to learn and to grow as a person.

I am curious and love to learn. This experience has involved many opportunities for curious learning. I am the type of person who likes to see “where this road goes” or sometimes pave my own path so an adventure awaits with every action and initiative I partake.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Kindness Champions has become this transformative company where we are in the position to facilitate impactful, meaningful, positive change with kindness, information, and knowledge. As Alex Aiono says in the song Good Morning “Cause we got a world to change. You never know a drop could start a wave.”

I became an LCSW-R many years ago. Becoming a social worker was never my plan as I loved math and was really good at it. Most recently, I provided counseling in a high school for teenagers for all sorts of issues, including mental health, and substance abuse. Teenagers are incredible people and we don’t always give them credit for how wonderful they are.

I loved counseling teenagers and working with their families. I am humbled and so proud of these relationships. I believed wholeheartedly in every single person I provided counseling to, even when they did not. A student wrote me a thank you for believing in them when “I did not believe in myself.” Sometimes it’s the little things that make a huge difference in the life of someone else.

I love to shine the spotlight on people and organizations doing incredible, selfless work to better the lives of others. Personally I have found by being generous with praise and thank yous has helped me be a happier, healthier me. While working on Kindness Champions and my other passion projects I continue to provide therapy in my private practice.

How do you define success?
When you see someone realize the possibilities and potential within themselves.

When you see them believe in the person they are and all they are capable of. When you see them realize they matter. When children are little and they learn to tie their shoes or read for the first time there is a magical aura that glows from them.

Seeing that magical glow in someone who had gone through so much to get there is beautiful. This success, this joy comes from the work each person has done internally to work through the yucky stuff and get to a happier, healthier place. Change does not happen unless a person is willing to do the super hard, super difficult, super worth it work.

I look at this as more joy than success. The more we celebrate ourselves, the more we celebrate each other or as Tracee Ellis Ross says “I was raised to believe there is enough sunshine for everyone” helps every one of us contribute to a kinder, more connected and loving world. Spotlight stories, the postcards, and amazing moments of partnering with others doing such cool things to help others is joyous. Shining the light and helping others to see their awesome is an action I believe if we all do every day can change the world for the better.

The reality, in all the best ways, is that Kindness Champions will never know the impact our actions of celebrating people and promoting kindness will have on someone’s life. We will never know the ripples of kindness that began because of a positive post, a postcard, clinic or spotlight story. What I do know as founder of Kindness Champions is as Jane Goodall said “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” The difference I make will be one of celebrating people for who they are with a whole lot of kindness.

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