When you find yourself swirling in negativity, throw yourself a Gratitude Life Preserver. — When you are looking at a mountain of laundry and feeling annoyed by it, can you flip that and feel gratitude for the fact that you have the means to buy so many clothes and that you live a full life that requires changes of clothes? When you feel stress over the mess in your house after a party, can you shift your focus to the gratitude you feel for having the opportunity to spend the day with your loved ones?
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 Erin Taylor.
Erin Taylor is a PCI Certified Parent Coach,® motivational speaker, host of the Powerful Parenting for Today’s Kids podcast, author and a mother of four.
Erin was able to take the tragedy of the death of her infant daughter and turn it around, using her hard-earned wisdom to help people from all walks of life step into their power and live their best lives.
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 had an idyllic childhood with my parents, but as I got a bit older, I looked around and realized not everyone was fortunate enough to have a similar experience. When I was 11 years old, I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to helping children and their parents get along better and have great relationships like I did with my parents.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One of the first kids I worked with (fresh out of graduate school) who had, let’s say, a less-than-idyllic childhood, went on to graduate, get married and have her own family, and became a terrific mother. Whenever I would feel discouraged in my work, I would always remember this young woman and it would revive my energy to keep going, knowing what a difference I had the opportunity to make in the lives of others.
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?
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault
I stumbled upon one of my favorite books of all time by one of my favorite authors when my kids were little. It’s called The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison. In it, she talks about her practice of appreciating and enjoying the small things, particularly when her children were young. I tried to adopt that practice so that I would not overlook the unlimited things there are to be grateful for in life. And Robert’s quote aligns nicely with this. No matter how challenging things might be, there is always something to be grateful for — whether it is a beautiful sunrise, the squawking of a Screech Owl, watching a plump toad hopping around, the look that your significant other gives you across the table, or the delicious feeling when your child wraps their little arms around you.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
See above 😉
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently working on my next book to help parents create and utilize healthy boundaries in their lives and in their parenting. I have observed that boundaries are one of the most complex, least understood, yet most vital parts of raising our children well. It’s hard to get them right, but when you do, your children soar. And so do you ☺
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?
Among many others, two people come to mind for whom I have deep gratitude when it comes to my work. First, Cathy Adams. She is the co-host of Zen Parenting Radio (along with her husband). When I was feeling a bit burned out in my work as a therapist, I remembered that a year or so prior, she had mentioned that she was a parent coach. That really resonated with me, and I went to her website to find out where she went to school, applied and started the program less than a month later. Our paths have crossed many times over the years, and she has helped me in more ways than she can know. Another person Cathy introduced me to is Dr. Shefali, who has become a dear friend and mentor to me. Her teachings have transformed my parenting and my work and the ripple effect I am helping to spread out into the world thanks to these two women is enormous.
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, to feel gratitude is to feel your lungs filling with air and your heart expanding. It is feeling the energy of love and joy radiating through your body. It is focusing on the blessings in your life, both big and small, significant, and seemingly insignificant.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
Life is hard. It always has been. It is full of challenges and hardships. We can view these as suffering in our lives, or we can view them as opportunities to grow into our fullest selves. Culture and media and entertainment focus on the struggles, the suffering, the chaos, which creates fear and anxiety in us. It can be hard to feel grateful when you are in fear. But that is exactly when you must lean in to gratitude and look around for things about which to feel grateful. It is hard to be depressed or angry and grateful at the same time.
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?
When the closest parking spot I find is at the end of the lot, I am careful and mindful to feel gratitude that I even have a car to be able to drive to my destination. And when I get out of the car and begin walking, I make sure to feel grateful that I have legs and feet that work well enough to get me to my destination. Such a simple, but powerful choice to make in the moment. I never feel frustrated if I have to park at the end of the lot.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
I learned a concept in my parent coaching program — what you focus on, grows. If you focus on the stress and the negativity, you are guaranteed to find more of it. When you focus on the blessings and the good that is already there, you are guaranteed to find more of that. When you focus on what is not working, it brings your energy and outlook down. It increases stress and hopelessness. But when you focus on what is already working, you can build on that. Your energy and your hope increase.
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. Wake up in gratitude.
When you wake up and walk to the bathroom, get into the habit of breathing in deeply and feeling grateful — for a good night’s sleep, or the fact that your eyes opened this morning, or the way the light falls through the window. There are an infinite number of things for which to feel grateful. Often in the morning, I stop on my way to my bathroom sink to appreciate the way the sunlight is streaming through the window and onto the floor. A simple practice that takes no more than a few seconds but gives me a great mental outlook with which to begin my day.
2. Go to sleep in gratitude.
As your head is resting on your pillow, instead of lamenting all that went wrong today or worrying about what tomorrow will bring, see if you can find things in your day for which you are grateful that you might have overlooked. Last night when I went to sleep, for example, I remembered to feel gratitude for how much fun my youngest son and I had reviewing our family fantasy football standings. This is the first year he has taken the job from his older brother and organized our group. What a seemingly small thing but something I am keenly aware strengthens our family bonds.
3. Challenge yourself to think of something for which you are grateful when a stressful event occurs.
I have very personal experience with this. When my firstborn daughter died of a heart defect at the age of 24 days, it felt like my own life was ending. But I knew that was not what she would have wanted for me and so I made a promise to her that her life would not be in vain; I was going to feel and express more gratitude from that day forward than I ever thought possible and learn all that I could learn from this tragic event. I remember the first time I smiled after she died. Initially I felt guilty, wondering what right I had to smile when my baby was dead. Did that mean I did not love her? Was that disrespectful? Quite the opposite. I decided to live my life in full technicolor beauty not in spite of my daughter, but because of her. Each day after her death, I would walk my dog in our neighborhood. I made sure to intentionally feel the warmth of the spring sun on my skin, the smell of the flowers, and how good it felt to move my body. But it took practice, and it took committed intentionality to live in that space during that gut-wrenching time. But it was well worth it. Practicing gratitude in calmer times is so much easier when you have built your gratitude muscle during the hard times.
4. When you find yourself swirling in negativity, throw yourself a Gratitude Life Preserver.
When you are looking at a mountain of laundry and feeling annoyed by it, can you flip that and feel gratitude for the fact that you have the means to buy so many clothes and that you live a full life that requires changes of clothes? When you feel stress over the mess in your house after a party, can you shift your focus to the gratitude you feel for having the opportunity to spend the day with your loved ones?
5. Express your gratitude each day.
Feeling gratitude is powerful enough, but expressing it magnifies it that much more. When we feel it, it makes us feel better. But when we express it to others, it helps us BOTH to feel better. This is how you can amplify your practice of gratitude. My daughter is great at this. Whenever we are in a store, she always, always remembers to thank the clerk and wish them a good day before we leave. Countless times I have had the pleasure of witnessing a previously unanimated, unenthused, bored-looking clerk stand a little taller and break into a wide smile back at my daughter. It always amazes me that she remembers to do this, and I always feel grateful for her constant teachings in my life.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
When we are feeling down, vulnerable, or sensitive, it is easy for our minds to race, and especially race towards negative thoughts. But if we can just remember to slow down by first slowing down our breathing, taking nice, deep, slow breaths, we can then slow down our racing thoughts and then choose to shift what we are focusing on to all that we already have, from a nice, warm blanket, to a dear friend, to a dry roof over our head. The list of things to be grateful for is endless if you just decide to look.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison
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. 🙂
Can you imagine what our world would look like if we each intentionally chose to express gratitude to one person every single day?
Whether it is the barista at the coffee shop, our neighbor, co-worker, teacher, student, friend, the person who pumps our gas or anyone else? How would it feel to be on the receiving end of that? How would it feel to be on the giving end of that? The possibilities make my heart dance with joy. Our world is fractured and crying out for a little more kindness and gratitude and love.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
They can find me at www.erin-taylor.com or tune in to my podcast, Powerful Parenting for Today’s Kids at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/powerful-parenting-for-todays-kids/id1372263972?mt=2.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!