“Pay-it-Forward”, Nicole Lindler and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Pay-it-Forward: Try doing one small act of kindness or service a day. Whether that is volunteering for an important cause or helping a friend. Positive action can increase gratitude and improve mental wellness. It feels good to do good. As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused […]

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Pay-it-Forward: Try doing one small act of kindness or service a day. Whether that is volunteering for an important cause or helping a friend. Positive action can increase gratitude and improve mental wellness. It feels good to do good.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Lindler.

Nicole Lindler is a writer, speaker, and Policy Advisor to San Francisco Mayor London Breed where she helps to guide the city on building homeless shelters, launching testing sites, and supporting local businesses as part of COVID-19 response efforts. Nicole is passionate about self-empowerment and the use of positive self-talk and gratitude mantras as powerful tools to achieve confident wellness. She authored the guide 7 Unapologetic Wildly Magnetic Mantras to Empower Yourself Daily” and is currently working on a motivational book series for urban women.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

I grew up in big, beautifully diverse Oakland, California, which like any urban city, definitely had its share of challenges. I witnessed a lot of social inequities, particularly in Black and Latinx communities, where basic resources were not the same compared to those of wealthier, whiter communities. From a young age, I understood that neighborhoods and zip codes could define a person’s future by often determining the schools they have access to, their job opportunities, or their basic access to proper healthcare. One issue that I latched onto early on was the importance of access to housing and shelter. When I graduated college, I started my career as a real estate agent in Los Angeles during the 2008 market crash. I intentionally centered my real estate business in communities that were often overlooked economically. My goal was to help as many people as possible in those communities create wealth through homeownership and to stand up to predatory lending institutions on their behalf.

But after spending years on the ground, I soon realized that I could help many more people by fixing the actual systems that had broken so many of these communities in the first place. So, I took a big career pivot. I left the real estate industry and started to work for a homeless service provider before stepping into my current role as a Policy Advisor to the Mayor of San Francisco. Now I am able to directly offer up policy solutions to some of our greatest challenges around housing, homelessness, behavioral health and other social inequities. I don’t think people realize just how much local city policies impact the lives of residents and the power local leaders have to create change in a meaningful way.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has taken the cake as far as my career goes. Every day I find myself confronting new challenges at work with how to balance this public health crisis and the ongoing crises our communities faced pre-pandemic. For the last two years, I had been working on executing the Mayor’s plan to bring 1000 shelter beds online for our homeless residents, which would be the largest expansion of our shelter system in 30 years. When the pandemic hit, my work to bring those beds online became even more crucial. To me, this underscored the importance of the work I do and that even in the hardest days, I’m grateful for the real effect that I can have on people’s lives. In February, we successfully opened up our final shelter towards our goal.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Everything happens for a reason” is a quote that I often remember because it reminds me to maintain gratitude and to stay centered no matter what life brings. It has also been integral to shaping my beliefs about positive self-talk and self-empowerment as tools for wellness. This mantra has brought me peace at times when I have struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression throughout my life. I can remember hitting some real lows as a young woman and having to remind myself that even though something may seem like a disappointment or a challenge, it may be a blessing. You never know what is right around the corner. When I started my career in real estate, I certainly never thought I would pivot to becoming a policymaker. But, everything happens for a reason.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

David Richo’s “The Five Things We Cannot Change…and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them,” has been my gold standard for navigating life. He talks about how once we gratefully accept things for what they are and stay mindful, we are then able to find grace and free ourselves from disappointment and suffering. Women especially receive mixed messages from the outside world about what we should want or who we should be or what we should accomplish by when (such as marriage or having kids) and these imaginary standards can cause a lot of inner pain.

For many years, I struggled with who I thought I had to be versus accepting who I really was. I drove myself crazy trying to be “perfect” — whatever that means. Many women I know have faced this same challenge. On the outside, I’m sure I seemed fine but on the inside I was far from it. One day, I took an extreme step and decided to go “find myself” in the jungles of Costa Rica. It worked and did launch me into a daily practice of gratitude and self-empowerment, but I could have just picked up Richo’s book. Everything I needed to hear was in there. I read his book now as a reminder to stay mindful as I go about my life.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am particularly interested in helping women (especially women of color) embrace their inner power which historically has been questioned, challenged, and diminished by society. I recently authored a guide, “7 Unapologetic Wildly Magnetic Mantras to Empower Yourself Daily” because I want women to know that they should not be ashamed to live life on their terms and can elevate their mental wellness by starting a daily practice of positive self-talk and gratitude.

I am also working on a motivational book series for urban women to share lessons that I’ve learned along the way in my own empowerment and career journey.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There have been a ton of people who have given me a lot of good advice, but my mom has definitely been the most instrumental. She has always encouraged me to chase my dreams and to truly do whatever makes me happy. I’ve had my fair share of twists and turns but my mom has always been there to support my decisions. Growing up she used to say no one can please everyone, so just make sure you are happy. I’m so glad I got that advice early on because it has shaped how I approach everything.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude is the full acceptance of the present, no matter what it may look like. It is having compassion towards yourself and your current state. When you are in a mindset of gratitude, your glass is always full. When you focus on all the things in your life through a gratitude lens, there is no room for unhappiness. Your car might breakdown, but you are grateful that you have the ability to walk to your destination. There are no bad days, really.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

The concept of gratitude seems so easy, but in practice it can be tough. Life is not always nice or easy; people disappoint us, things do not go as planned, we grieve and we mourn. In those moments, it can be hard to find the silver lining and practice gratitude. We all get caught up in the day-to-day events of our lives and sometimes it is much easier to focus on negative occurrences instead of positive ones because our brains like to replay negative emotions. But the funny thing about gratitude is that it is most powerful when things are not going so great. If we all could just refocus our attention on what is going right and what we are thankful for, we’d be a lot more at peace.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

  1. Increase Happiness: Simply making a daily list of all the things we are grateful for throughout our day can impact our happiness. When we stay present and use gratitude to help us focus on the positive, our happiness will increase.
  2. Supercharge Our Self-Esteem: When we are in a gratitude mindset, we will automatically feel more confident and able to take on the world. There’s no challenge too big or scary, because we are so grateful for whatever we may encounter. In this sense, gratitude can be super comforting and boost our confidence.
  3. Enhance Connection: Gratitude demands that we be present and mindful to what is around us. By doing so, we will more easily connect with our surroundings which include the relationships that we have in our life or those that we hope to have. Gratitude is the great connector, helping us to slow us down and connect with all the greatness in our life.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

There has been a lot of research over the last few years that shows gratitude is able to reduce feelings of depression and negative thought patterns by improving positive feelings. When we harness positive emptions we tend to be less stressed and more happy overall, which does wonders for our mental wellness. The positive emotional effects of gratitude reduces anger and encourages resilience and calm. Overtime, a solid gratitude practice can create confident mental wellness where we automatically respond to our circumstances and ourselves with appreciation and empathy.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Journal: Keeping a gratitude journal to record all the events and things you are grateful for is a fast and easy way to tune into gratitude regularly. I prefer to make bulleted lists of my daily gratitude and then go back and reread them days or weeks later as little reminders to myself.
  2. Mantras: Every day I practice reciting mantras. Mantras are a set of words and phrases used to train our thoughts and reframe the running narratives in our heads, by turning negative messages into positive ones. My morning mantra is “I have so much to give so much”. I repeat my mantra at least three times out loud and visualize it to keep me motivated throughout my day. Mantras are like gratitude espressos for the mind, if you stick to a practice of using them regularly.
  3. Meditate: For centuries meditation has been used as a practice to settle the mind and create inner peace through stillness. Sitting in a silent meditative state for 15–30 minutes a day can help to release anxiety and worry. During meditation, it is helpful to focus on your breathing, but you can also recite your mantra silently for a few rounds.
  4. Pay-it-Forward: Try doing one small act of kindness or service a day. Whether that is volunteering for an important cause or helping a friend. Positive action can increase gratitude and improve mental wellness. It feels good to do good.
  5. Movement: Yoga has been a staple of my mental wellness routine. Not only does yoga help with physical wellness, it also helps to reduce stress and heighten mood. Usually I start my yoga practice by setting an intention to focus on, such as thanking my body for leading me through each movement. By extending gratitude to myself upfront, I am able to create positive feelings that last long after my yoga session ends.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

Practice your mantras! I swear by them because they are really powerful. By repeating a few positive phrases, you can calm your mind and boost your outlook. Two of my favorite mantras to use in tough times are: “I am grateful, I am present, I am whole” and “Everything is exactly how it should be.” Repeating these mantras out loud, several times in a row always helps me to regroup and feel better.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

For everyday bits of wisdom, I turn to “Heart Thoughts” by Louise Hay. She has complied almost every situation where someone might feel stuck and gives practical solutions rooted in gratitude . For gratitude beginners, this is a must-read.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Self-empowerment for the soul! I believe everyone should make self-empowerment a goal because once you are centered in who you are you’ll be able to tap into your power and do good for others. For me, this starts by practicing daily gratitude and using those all-powerful mantras. We have to train our minds to match our hearts.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

On Mondays I share a magnetic mantra for the week on my Instagram and TikTok @AlwaysNic. Followers can download my free guide “7 Unapologetic Wildly Magnetic Mantras to Empower Yourself Daily” and stay up to date on my musings and inspirations.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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