Forgive & Set Yourself Free: Life opens up when you start forgiving others and especially yourself! It wasn’t until I forgave the people, events, and situations in my life that had hurt me that I genuinely became grateful. It wasn’t easy at first, but I thanked these people and events, and I found the blessings and gifts. I also forgave myself for the things I perceived to be missteps or not-so-great decisions in my life. Then doors started opening up, ideas started coming to me, and opportunities began coming my way.
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 Cheryl Broughton.
Cheryl Broughton is the author of the best-selling book, “Your Epic Encore — It’s Never Too Late,” and teaches others how to dissolve mental blocks, rewrite their story, and create one heck of an EPIC encore!
After being diagnosed with advanced arthritis in her 40s and told she needed both knees replaced, she opted out of surgery, changed her food intake, and took up one of the most challenging forms of exercise — Aerial Arts Fitness.
Cheryl has been a producer of a mind and body health and fitness TV Show, founder of a 7x award-winning mind and body boot camp, co-founder of a wellness company, is an international speaker, and provides online mindset courses, meditations as well as private and group coaching at www.CherylBroughton.com.
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?
Yes, and thank you for this opportunity to share with your readers!
I have experienced many thrilling moments throughout my life. And I’ve also endured my share of unexpected challenges. Ironically, the challenges in my life have taught me the most about resilience and, more importantly, gratitude. I have survived car wrecks, years of mental and physical abuse, being diagnosed with advanced arthritis, losing my career, and much more. It didn’t happen overnight, but after a deep dive into personal self-exploration and eventually becoming more open-minded and ready to receive, I learned to find the gift or blessings in these challenges.
In the late 90s, I produced and hosted a mind and body fitness TV show, and in 2001 I founded a seven-time award-winning mind and body fitness boot camp, which was the first of its kind that included life coaching.
I was on the covers of magazines, newspapers, hosted infomercials, and more. I was doing crazy workouts with my troopers as well as mud runs and other insane challenges.
Then one day, I started having pain in my knees, and after a few months, I got a diagnosis that shocked me. My doctor told me I had advanced arthritis and to stop all exercise. Plus, she told me to get used to having pain for the rest of my life — unless I had both knees replaced.
After going into a slump for some time, I pulled myself up and realized that I was the one in charge of my destiny. So I opted out of surgery, changed my food intake, found some great supplements, and started practicing healing meditations.
And then I did something crazy. At age 42, I started training in a sport I had always wanted to try — Aerial Arts fitness. Aerial Arts is one of the most challenging workouts I’ve ever encountered, but it is friendly on my joints! I have become stronger, more flexible, and the list goes on. It has been eleven years since my first class, and I am still training, teaching, and performing alongside students more than half my age! I can do things in my 50s that I could not imagine doing in my 20s — even the splits!
I now send gratitude to the doctor who made me feel like an old horse that needed to be put out to the pasture to die! Ha! I couldn’t see it at the time, but being diagnosed with arthritis would end up being the best gift or blessing because it catapulted me into deciding to get on with my life and reevaluate what was most important to me. With this new attitude of gratitude, opportunities started coming my way, and I eventually sold the boot camp and started a wellness company with a few partners.
Little did I know, my life was about to take a few more twists and turns that would end up defining my career and my mission in life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I have had the great pleasure of speaking in front of many people in my lifetime. One of my most memorable speaking engagements was with the “YPOs,” the Young Presidents Organization, while on a 180 person expedition cruise to Antarctica.
Dan Aykroyd, Robert F Kennedy Jr, Art Garfunkel, and Diana Krall were just a few of the audience members. If being on a ship sailing to Antarctica wasn’t thrilling enough, getting to speak to and hang out with some pretty amazing artists, actors and singers was absolutely mind-blowing!
Add to that; this was the last week of the year in 1999. It was the year everyone thought all computers and systems would crash and collapse when the year 2000 rang in at 12:01 am.
The ship was moored on New Year’s Eve at Deception Island inside an extinct volcano flooded by the ocean. It was the most beautiful scenery, a beautiful sky, a full moon, and not a ripple in the water. We were in paradise, and if the world was going to come to an end, we were going to make the best of it, so we rang in the New Year with a party like no other!
During our journey to Antarctica, the ship captain informed us that the weather might cause the ocean to freeze, and the ship might not be able to break through the frozen sea to get to land. So the guests on the boat would have to accept the possibility of traveling all that way and not getting to step foot on Antarctica. Luckily, mother nature was on our side. The weather was perfect, and the guides took us in small zodiac boats, and we made our way to land!
To say this speaking engagement came with a few perks would be an understatement. Not only were the guests on the ship some of the most talented and interesting celebrities, but getting to step foot on Antarctica and seeing giant icebergs, penguins, and seals all within reach made this an event of a lifetime!
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?
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
— William Shakespeare
A moment ago, I mentioned that after finding aerial arts fitness, my life went on to take a few more twists and turns. This quote resonates with me because two events rocked me to my core right after I turned 50. I was let go from a wellness company that I helped build for over ten years, and months later, my long-term boyfriend and I broke up.
Everything that I once thought was secure in my life was gone in what seemed like an instant. I had to start over completely. At first, I was lost and confused. I felt like it was too late to start over, it was too late to start dating again, it was too late to start a new company, it was too late to whatever — just fill in the blank!
Here I was faced with another difficult situation and not sure what to do. But I knew I wanted more out of life and that it was up to me to pull myself up and go after the life I desired.
So I went on a three-year deep dive self-exploration journey and studied with the best authors, mentors, and leaders in their fields. And lo and behold, I found my light, my voice, and my purpose in this world.
After discovering the tools to help me get out of this mental funk and becoming trained in these methods, I became so empowered; I wrote a book called Your Epic Encore — It’s Never Too Late. I also started two new companies and fell in love with the man of my dreams. I realized my “gift” or my contribution to this world would be helping people over 40 dissolve mental blocks, rewrite their story, and create the life of their dreams.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
Yes, The Values Factor by Dr. John Demartini. The concepts in this book were so interesting to me that I had to learn more. After attending Dr. Demartini’s programs, I resolved years of trapped emotions from events that had happened to me in the past. His work has impacted my life so much that I became a Trained Demartini Method Facilitator and Trained Demartini Values Facilitator. I now teach these methods to others in my private coaching practice and workshops.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am creating my signature course called The EPIC Encore Method. This course is an extension of my book Your Epic Encore — It’s Never Too Late and covers the 9 Pillars To Transformation. It will help others gain clarity, get focused, dissolve negative blocks, and most importantly, find their purpose in life.
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?
Yes, I have numerous family, friends, and clients who have contributed to my success. So much so, I made a special tribute to them in front of my book. I would be remiss if I did not also give a special thanks to my book writing coach Subira Falomi. She is a stage 3 cancer survivor and has overcome so many obstacles in her lifetime. Her book writing program has helped me go from author to course creator and so much more. If you or someone you know would like to work with her, just reach out to me, and I’ll pass along her info.
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?
To me, gratitude is the act of being thankful, having an appreciation for something, and counting your blessings. No matter how dire our situation might be, all of us have something that can bring about feelings of gratitude. It could be having an umbrella on a rainy day, hearing your favorite song on the radio, going for a walk in nature, etc. It could be having a roof over your head or a car to get you where you want to go or having the support of family members and friends, etc. Some people have none of these things, and they are more grateful and more appreciative of life than the rest of us.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
Many of us get caught up in the whirlwind and daily stresses of life. We forget to pause and take a moment to be in the present. We overlook the simplest and most important things, such as just being alive and breathing, seeing, speaking, hearing, walking, and so much more.
The more significant issue is that most people feel like life is happening TO them instead of recognizing that life is happening FOR them. I can say this because I used to be one of those people. And lack of gratitude usually stems from someone suffering or enduring an event, abuse, mistreatment or abandonment, etc., at some point in their lives. And because of this one-sided perception of this event, they can’t let go of their story of what happened. They keep repeating why they can’t get ahead, why they can’t have what they want or why they can’t move on in life. They are comparing their current reality to a fantasy that is not balanced. They see more disadvantages than advantages.
A person with this outlook hasn’t taken the time to break down the events of their life to see how everything that has occurred in their life was a blessing. In reality, there was an underlying benefit, gift, or lesson to be learned. It’s often hard to fathom, but the things in life that happen to us are neutral. They are neither good nor bad until we choose to label them a certain way.
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?
If you want to make significant improvements in your body and mind, it’s up to you to find the inner strength to be grateful. You get to make a choice. Do you want to keep retelling your old story of what you can not have, be or do? Or do you want to be the one that changes your destiny?
Whether you’ve had a troubled childhood, lost a job, are going through a divorce, battling a disease, dealing with an injury, or endured a tragic event — when you stop to find the “lesson” in that situation, you will then see the “gift.” Ask yourself, “How has this made me stronger? What have I learned from it? What will I do differently next time? And lastly, how can I help someone else going through the same thing?”
With time, these questions become an internal discipline. You will find that the external world doesn’t change, but your awareness and response to the world will start to change.
It is also important to note that everything in the universe is made of energy and vibrates at different frequencies — including humans. A healthy body naturally vibrates at a frequency of about 63–75 Hz. But when we are attached to lower vibrational things that do not serve us like fear, guilt, shame, resentment, anger, etc., we lower our vibration. And when we start dropping to the low 50s, that’s when we start to have illness and disease. Therefore, a daily practice of gratitude is essential for a healthy body and mind; it instantly raises our frequency and overall wellness.
Think about the things you love and enjoy, not the things that cause you stress or anxiety. You will always move in the direction of your most dominant thoughts. Take time to focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for; when you do, your perspective shifts to a more positive place. By having sincere gratitude, you will attract more for which you can be grateful, and you will tap into a source of abundance like never before.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Gratitude changes the brain’s chemistry and has a significant impact on healthy cognitive function and physical and psychological health. Practicing gratitude daily increases activity in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for maintaining homeostasis with hormones, body temperature, appetite, thirst, metabolic activity, sleeping, sex drive, and regulating emotional responses.
Studies have shown that having gratitude affects the brain’s reward system because it promotes the release of dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that activates the happiness center of your brain. Dopamine is what makes you feel good and causes you to want more.
Dopamine and serotonin are chemical messengers that carry electrical signals between neurons in the brain. By practicing gratitude daily, we can help these neural pathways strengthen and ultimately reduce stress, anxiety, depression and increase happiness and pleasure in daily life.
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?
Sure, here are a few tools I like to use with my clients. You can use all five tools or pick the one exercise that resonates with you the most.
If you want to leverage the power of gratitude, then prepare to dig deep! Remember, you can keep repeating the same thoughts and habits that have been running for years, or you can do the deep self refection work and resolve years of frustration and pain. Soon you’ll discover all the ways your life has had meaning and purpose since day one.
1. Acknowledge Every Single Day:
Gratitude journaling is so popular because it works! Here are three different options for gratitude journaling that have worked well with my clients. It helps to keep a separate notebook or journal that is just for your gratitude statements.
(A). What’s Happening Now:
Every morning or night, write a list of all the things that bring you feelings of gratitude. Or you can pick just one thing you are grateful for and go into super detail on why this thing, person, or event means so much to you. These can be big things or even the smallest thing like having a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning.
(B). What You Love About The Past:
Another option to get your wheels rolling is to start a list of past gratitudes. Maybe you had a great childhood, or a college education and had many great friends, etc. Perhaps you’ve been on many great vacations, have enjoyed luxurious dining or spa experiences, etc. List the things you have already experienced and how it has added to the quality of your life.
©. What Your Future Holds:
I love this exercise because it’s like gratitude multi-tasking. You are checking off your list of gratitudes, affirmations, and visualizing all in one. Write your statements as if they are already happening and affirm them in a positive manner (not in a negative tone). For example, suppose you are an artist. In that case, your visualization could be something like, “I am so grateful my artwork has been featured in the LA Times Newspaper, and I was asked to be a guest on KTLA TV to talk about my upcoming fundraiser.”
These events may not have occurred yet, but remember, you are a vibrational and magnetic being. You will send this energy to the universe, and doors will start opening for you to make this happen.
2. Find The Gift:
If you’re having a hard time making a gratitude list, chances are you are still stuck in your old “story.” Many of us tell a negative story of our past and how it’s held us back. We repeat this dramatic monologue many times over instead of telling the story of the future and what we want to create or what we want to become. Have gratitude for what you think is holding you back or what you think is your enemy. What if you found the “gift” or blessing in that tragedy, that event, or that person who hurt you? What if you were equally conscious of the upsides vs. only the downsides of that person or event? Have you peeled back the layers to see that when one door closed, another one opened, and a better opportunity came your way? Use a sheet of paper or journal and record the following:
(A). Pick one thing you are having a hard time moving on from or that still bothers you.
(B.) List everything (at least 20–30 things) that are positive that came from that event, person, or situation. You will soon find just as many positives from that event as challenges (or perceived challenges). This drill will bring you back to a state of neutrality. For example: What did this event teach you? What did you gain by going through this experience? What will you do differently next time? What can you do to help others who might be going through something similar?
3. Forgive & Set Yourself Free:
Life opens up when you start forgiving others and especially yourself! It wasn’t until I forgave the people, events, and situations in my life that had hurt me that I genuinely became grateful. It wasn’t easy at first, but I thanked these people and events, and I found the blessings and gifts. I also forgave myself for the things I perceived to be missteps or not-so-great decisions in my life. Then doors started opening up, ideas started coming to me, and opportunities began coming my way.
(A.) Pick one person, event, or situation that you want to forgive to make you feel liberated.
(B.) Why is it important to forgive this one person, event, or situation?
(C.) What will happen if you do not forgive this person, event, or situation?
(D.) What will happen if you do forgive this person, event, or situation?
4. Evolve From The Inside:
If I could pinpoint the one thing that has helped me overcome and get through the most challenging times, I would have to say it is meditation. Meditation is what kept me sane as I was having setbacks and feeling like my life was spiraling out of control. There are meditations for sleep, anxiety, energy, abundance, and so much more. But the specific type of meditation for this talk today is a gratitude meditation. You can create your own or listen to a guided meditation on Youtube. You can also grab a free copy of the gratitude meditation I am giving to the readers of this article. (See the end of the article to learn more).
(A.) Sit or lie down in a quiet place, give yourself 5 minutes, then move on to longer meditations as you feel ready. Try to meditate every day.
(B.) Listen to a guided meditation with words or listen to meditation music with just sounds and tones.
5. Create A Gratitude Map:
This one is a game-changer! Get out your markers, colored pencils, notebook paper, poster board or create a mind map on your computer and have fun with this one.
(A). Pick one challenge you have risen above, conquered, and lived through. In this exercise, you are giving yourself visual proof that you are resilient, have risen above challenges before, and therefore you can do it again.
(B.) Write this one challenge in the center of your page, poster board, computer screen, etc., with words or a drawing. Then draw lines out to other circles, shapes, or images. Inside each shape, write the next thing that occurred in your life and so on. What did you learn, how did you grow, how did you use this event to help others, and how did it give you a sense of purpose or drive? Keep drawing this map out wider and wider until you see how all the events in your life were all a part of the big picture getting you closer to living in alignment with your highest values.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
As mentioned in the “5 Ways” above, I highly recommend meditating, not only for feelings of gratitude but to help with anxiety, depression, stress, back pain, arthritis pain, sleeping deeper, for anti-aging, and helping to wake up with more energy.
The more you meditate, the greater your focus will become. You will soon find yourself craving daily meditations because it helps you reduce stress and feel relaxed. You’ll feel the benefits not just during the meditation — but throughout your whole day.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
Yes, I’d be happy to give your readers a free copy of my Gratitude Meditation. Also, Inside my book Your Epic Encore, I have three chapters dedicated to gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation that many people have found very helpful (see below for more info).
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. 🙂
If I could start a movement, it would be to help others believe that it’s never too late to start over, learn from the past, and believe in better days ahead. It’s truly never too late to dream a new dream and to create Your EPIC Encore!
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
I would love to continue connecting with your readers! Here are a few places they can find me:
- Website: http://www.cherylbroughton.com/ (Get a free copy of my Gratitude Meditation and learn more about my book).
- Free Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/YourEpicEncore (Mindset tips & expert interviews)
- Linked in: www.linkedin.com/in/cherylbroughton
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Thank you for your time and this opportunity to serve your community!