Bring in gratitude. It shouldn’t be hard to think of a few things in your life you can be grateful for, even the smallest things count like a warm cup of coffee or a beautiful flower. If you count 3–5 things you are grateful for right before bed or right when you wake (bonus if you do both), you are in a blurred state of consciousness mixed with unconsciousness. This is the best time for the transformation effects of gratitude to take hold.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Garman.
Jennifer Garman is on a mission to inspire others to practice gratitude in an effort to improve mental wellness, elevate happiness, and build resilience. Garman is the author of Flourish: 7 Ways Gratitude Can Transform Your Life, and founder and CEO of GratitudeMission.org, where families can purchase the Growing Gratitude Tree — a product that connect families and cultivates gratitude.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Sure, I suffered from a mystery illness for the better part of a decade. I had visited every specialist, spent hundreds of hours and countless dollars trying to figure out what was wrong, but kept coming up empty-handed. Always being someone who thrived helping others, I decided to make do with the condition I was in and get my life coaching certification. This was the first time I came across how impactful gratitude could be on a person’s happiness, and feeling the need to be happier myself, I incorporated it into my life. My studies also pulled in neuroplasticity, and when incorporated around the emotion of gratitude, my life began to transform and I recovered my health. Additionally, I was happier than ever before. Ever since this realization I knew I had to share what I’d found, and sharing gratitude has been my mission ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Shortly after my health turnaround I conceptualized the Growing Gratitude Tree as a way to teach gratitude to my own kids. I had a makeshift tree on our wall and we’d write things on the leaves each day. People who came to visit kept asking about it, and with an idea for a product in mind I applied to HSN’s inaugural American Dreams Academy in D.C. minutes from where I live. After being accepted, I got to meet much of the HSN scouting team as well as many other entrepreneurs. Then came months of talks, negotiations, and getting a prototype of my product made. About 8 months after attending the academy HSN gave me a purchase order and an air date for fall of 2019. To be on national television with my product and share it with everyone was a dream come true. I knew at this moment my life’s work would revolve around sharing and teaching gratitude to others.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
The skill of listening, along with empathy are both very powerful. When others feel heard and understood they tend to want to be the best employee they can be. Even people who think they are good listeners may find themselves crafting what they are going to say in reply (in their head) instead of fully listening. I was guilty of doing exactly this earlier in my life, now I try to fully listen even if I need more time to answer. I have gotten much more comfortable with a long pause or silence, as it’s gotten me closer to those I communicate with.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk was eye-opening. It’s all about trauma, and the realization of what traumatic things impacted me both as a child and adult and how to process them was life-altering. Even though I cover the power of our thoughts in Flourish, I’m continually amazed by the extent our thoughts can negatively or positively affect our lives. I love to continue learning, and will do so for life- there is so much out there to learn!
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
I would define mindfulness as being fully present while also being clear-headed or void of thought. In this state you can focus on feeling instead of thinking, and embrace that feeling fully.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Being mindful can physically affect every cell in your body in a positive way, studies have even linked higher immunity to this practice. Being mindful makes you emotionally more even keel and therefore more stable. Being more aware of yourself, you are then also more aware of others. In writing Flourish I found there to be an abundance of research and studies on how gratitude affects mental health. Tony Robbins has even said “It’s impossible to be grateful and depressed as the same time.” This is why keeping a mindset of gratitude can be so beneficial for ones mental health.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
Step 1. Breathe. Our breath is the best focal point as well as something we can be grateful for. As you breath in sense the oxygen coming into your body as it nourishes every cell. The process of breathing can also take us from fight or flight back to a relaxed state if we take slow deliberate breaths focusing on the exhale.
Step 2. Acknowledge what’s out of your control. Spoiler alert- it’s just about everything! You can write out all of the things you are anxious or worried about and then go back and circle all of those you have no control over. This can be an eye opening exercise for people to do. Quite often most people don’t realize all that they fret over and how much is completely out of their control. In essence they are tormenting themselves for no reason! The worry gene runs deep in my family, and I used to worry too much as well. It wasn’t until I realized how much was out of my control, that I discovered how much time I was wasting for no reason. I would worry about the most ridiculous things I had absolutely zero control over..Now I can attest to having extra time back in my life that used to be filled with useless worry.
Step 3. Let it go. I like to tell clients to think of themselves detaching from each anxiety or fear and letting it go, as if it were a balloon, and watch it float away until it disappears. You can also think of each anxiety/fear as a leaf or visualize writing them on a small piece of paper and dropping it in a stream, again watching as it drifts away from you until out of sight (and out of mind). This in incredibly calming and therapeutic. I like to do it before bed on hectic days, and I find my sleep is much deeper.
Step 4. Bring in gratitude. It shouldn’t be hard to think of a few things in your life you can be grateful for, even the smallest things count like a warm cup of coffee or a beautiful flower. If you count 3–5 things you are grateful for right before bed or right when you wake (bonus if you do both), you are in a blurred state of consciousness mixed with unconsciousness. This is the best time for the transformation effects of gratitude to take hold.
Step 5. Feel it. Think of a time when you were blissful and go back to that in your mind and try to bring the feeling fully present into your body, involve as many senses as possible to bring it as vividly into focus as you can. Now feel the gratitude for that bliss. Try to keep this feeling going as long as you can, feeling the gratitude in every part of your being. This is a great practice before or after sleep as well. To take it a step further you can project the feeling into the future that you want, feeling fully present and grateful in that experience. You will be amazed how much peace and abundance this practice will bring. I recall practicing this while writing Flourish, envisioning it publishing and being well-received. I think it has worked very well for me!
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Connect to others- video chat is a great way to feel like you are face to face. Listen as much if not more than you talk. Laugh– share jokes or funny stories with each other as much as possible. Be present and empathetic to other’s situations, not trying to fix them but trying to fully understand how they are feeling.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Yoga can be a great way to begin being mindful, it’s focus on the breath is ideal for learning this most important first step. It’s amazing to me how powerful our breath is. If we get proficient at controlling our breath, we can better realize our body’s response to stress, and using our breath get back to a relaxed state..
After you have breath down, the daily practice of gratitude can bring about this feeling. By being grateful every day, you build up the muscle. Then when setbacks or adversity hits you can easily switch the lens back to a focus on all you do have.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of the first quotes I came across on gratitude was from Oprah- “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end of having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” This was so eye-opening for me and so true. It speaks to the power gratitude can have on one’s life. Oprah’s story of how gratitude has been a pillar in her life is in my book Flourish,and I believe she is one of those people whose impact and blessings are a reflection of the gratitude she expresses. The abundance that the practice of gratitude brings constantly amazes me. Some will argue it’s as simple as like attracts like, and it may very well be. The amazing things that have fallen into place since my practice of gratitude began are truly miraculous- taking an idea to market, getting it on national television, writing a book,, and best of all my health and happiness!
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. 😊
To spread the transformational power of gratitude to as many as possible, and empower them to teach the same to as many others as they can and so forth and so on!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!