Bring back civility. Say thank you when someone holds a door for you, or let someone holding fewer items go in front of you on line at the supermarket. Kindness generates personal empowerment which counteracts low self-esteem and shame. Keep reciprocity in mind as sometimes you generate gratefulness in others and other times you are the recipient. This means a more equal footing as you build lasting relationships.
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 (Debbie Mandel).
Debbie Mandel, MA is a stress-management specialist, author of three books, and runs a health/wellness educational site which includes her articles and radio interviews: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com. Most noteworthy is her highly original stress-reduction program outlined in her book, Addicted to Stress (Wiley and Sons) which offers proven steps to build an immunity to outside pressure and become one’s truer self.
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?
Since a little girl, I have been talented at reframing negatives into positives, seeing the world in technicolor; also I possess a great sense of humor which is helpful in reducing ruminations to their absurdity. With that said, I had plenty of stress, taking care of two parents with Alzheimer’s while raising three children. I realized that stress will always land on your doorstep, but you don’t have to constantly open the door! One night I woke up with the compelling idea to write my first self-help book, Turn On Your Inner Light. Since we really think when we write, my thoughts crystallized and my career took off from there: Workshops, another two books, coaching, motivational speaking and my radio show.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
It was early in my career as a radio show host. The interviews were live and the guests were heavy weights, experts in their fields and authors. I was still getting my bearings and on radio- a word said is never dead! I was supposed to interview Dr. Bernie Siegel, the inspirational oncologist and noteworthy author. However, he forgot to call in. So I swallowed hard and played the role of two people: Debbie Mandel and Dr. Bernie Siegel. Since I read his books and listened to his talks, I answered my own questions, posing as Bernie. The radio show engineers and staff applauded at the end of the show! Dr. Bernie Siegel, however, was not amused.
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?
My favorite life lesson quote is: “Turn stress into Strength.” Each stressor that you face provides the experience and resiliency for the next. You build up a stress muscle to give you physical and mental strength to push forward. Also, I believe that exercise alleviates anxiety and that exercise is the most efficient way to move stress out of the body as well as release endorphins. Strengthen your body to take you to your next happiness.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
Shakespeare’s Hamlet had a powerful impact on my consciousness: “To be or not to be.” Something was rotten in the state of Denmark and Hamlet felt that he had to set it right, even if it was not of his own making. This powerful quote means that we all get to choose if we want to be or not to be our authentic selves. Unlike Hamlet, we can choose happiness as we release the ghosts of the past, the old story. We do not have to listen to our stern inner critic, become the sacrificial giver, or take revenge as we surrender our personal empowerment to live someone else’s story. Instead we can choose the lens which we see the world. Wouldn’t you choose joy?
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I write articles on my website to help my readers navigate current stressors like the pandemic and isolation. I have been doing stress-reduction consultations over the phone to help clients reframe a negative situation with a positive spin. I am looking forward to gardening in the spring as my creative outlet. My garden teaches me to let go of the consciousness of the past to spring into fresh green growth. Also, I am percolating a novel — in our fiction lies our truths.
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?
My husband has always supported me and encouraged my transformations. My first book, Turn On Your Inner Light, was self-published. My husband carved out the time from his busy schedule to help me edit — if he didn’t understand the text, then I had to make it more concrete. If he was snoring, then I had to make it more entertaining and get to the point faster. His criticism polished my mirror. He laid it out and was surprisingly very creative for a mathematician.
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 based on the perception that the cup is half full. You focus on what you have, as opposed to what you don’t have. You surround yourself with people, books, photos, and objects that inspire you and bring you happiness. You clean out the mental clutter to embrace what is meaningful. You speak in words that give thanks and words shape your reality.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
We live in a time period when celebrities and the lifestyle of the rich and famous have entered our homes. With Facebook we have cultivated fomo based on our friends’ and acquaintances’ posts and photos showing their good side out. Consequently, we think we are lesser than….Also, when we are in pain and experiencing life’s turbulence, it is difficult to see the good and reconnect with the inner self. The Pandemic has generated a great deal of stress, fear and loneliness. When we are stressed, it is hard to think clearly and objectively. Gratitude is linked to greater connectivity and self-esteem — both become elusive emotions when we are isolated and unemployed.
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?
Gratitude reduces our stress levels which creates the space for us to cultivate self-development and to reconnect with others. Relationships take on greater relevance. Gratitude triggers a pay-it-forward mindset, like my inner light greets your inner light. We leave our narrow context to generate good energy and then become “popular.” Simply put: People gravitate to positive people. When we feel that we belong and are valued, we feel less pain and stress, improve our immune system and shift our mindsets to resiliency. We contribute more at home and at work.
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 shows a sad person the light, like a window blind lifted to reveal the sunshine. Gratitude creates a resilient mindset — the energy to change and tap into our inner self, the realm of possibility. When we are grateful, we feel lucky. What is it you would do if you feel lucky? I liken gratitude to a beginner’s heart and a beginner’s mind ready to learn new things and begin each day with a fresh start. At this point we are less likely to feel jealous, resentful or angry. We can try something new and hopeful.
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?
- Recall to life the people who have inspired and helped you. What did they like about you and see in you? Be grateful that they can serve as your mirror when your own lens is clouded. Remember the qualities they saw in you from the past and use them today. For example, if they described you as imaginative or inventive, how can you implement these traits today at work or at home? These real “influencers” will make you more proactive when you feel stuck.
- Write about yourself in third person as you record specific things you feel grateful about in order to make them objective and concrete. For example: Debbie Mandel is grateful that she is looking at shoots and not roots. The third person voice makes it real; simply announcing your reality will prompt you to act as if and in this case, alive and alert.
- Use grateful words to email a friend, colleague or family member. Call someone up and thank them naturally during your conversation — like a genuine compliment. You will both be in a good mood and fortify a good relationship. You realize that your words have power, so you can use them to generate happiness and loyalty as you expand your network.
- Feeling jealous? Express your appreciation to the object of your jealousy, affirming this person’s accomplishment. Then ask this person how he or she did it, so you can imitate and have it too! This will energize and drive your ambition with the benefit of a mentor.
- Bring back civility. Say thank you when someone holds a door for you, or let someone holding fewer items go in front of you on line at the supermarket. Kindness generates personal empowerment which counteracts low self-esteem and shame. Keep reciprocity in mind as sometimes you generate gratefulness in others and other times you are the recipient. This means a more equal footing as you build lasting relationships.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Any form of exercise will restore your natural rhythm, create empowerment and bring you back to your inner identity — the hidden, inner child. Ideally the type and intensity of the workout should correspond to the mindset. For example; a walk outside can clear your perceptions and create alignment with nature; running or cycling can quickly take you to your next happiness; a core workout like Barre or Pilates can help you fortify your inner light; Weight lifting, which is quantifiable, can show you how strong you are and what you can still do. Every workout you do can have a specific intention/affirmation mentally as well as physically. Think it, do it and become it.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
For me, since I am a daughter of holocaust survivors, any narrative of survival, triumph of goodness over evil and human kindness makes me grateful. In many of my workshops I have broken the tension with this line: “It’s not Auschwitz.”
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. 🙂
Reframing would bring the most good to most people: Use the mind to create positive stories to reframe negatives into positives. We all create stories out of the facts and who says we know the absolute truth, so let’s make our stories good ones. Begin with little things and reinterpret them. As you grow more proficient, you can reinterpret bigger life questions like fairness, illness, loss and failure. Soon reframing will become a reflex. For example, the waiter has ignored you to the point where you feel upset and your dinner is about to be ruined. Sample reframe: the waiter is having a long hard day, feeling fatigued and someone in the family is ill. Now you say to the waiter, “I’m sorry you are having such a hard day. Is it possible to get some water with lemon?” You will probably get free dessert. Or: your spouse bought you a fire extinguisher for your birthday and you are angry feeling this was a last minute purchase in the hardware store. Sample reframe: look how much my spouse loves me and wants to keep me safe! Whether true or not, in both examples you are able to let go the anger and frustration to feel happier/ lighter.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!