Make feeling good your priority every day. Before getting out of bed, take a couple minutes and say to yourself, “feeling good is my priority.” Commit to hitting the pause button when you find yourself feeling bad, angry, or resentful. It all comes down to choosing how you want to feel. Good or bad? Resentful or appreciative? Grateful or annoyed? Then ask yourself, what can I do to feel better or make whatever is bothering me better?
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 Holly Rouillard Johnson.
A 30+ year marketing and public relations consultant, including co-owner of two successful PR, marketing, design and photography firms, Holly Rouillard Johnson’s path to making feeling good her priority manifested itself in her childhood and high school years. During this time, she discovered running, which ultimately led her down a 27-time marathon journey starting at the age of 34. Of these, she qualified for Boston 20 times and ran six times. She credits her average to achieving accomplishments in racing and life to her feel-good mentality, including a proven formula on how to sustain a feel-good state for as long as possible both along 26.2-mile courses and life’s paths.
Over the years, Holly’s commitment to feeling good and learning the power of expressing gratitude for the people and opportunities in her life led her to coaching and helping others adapt more positive mindsets. This commitment helped her heal and overcome injuries and balance the demands of professional and running careers along with family and other sports and travel interests. It also fueled her courage to face and deal with adversity as an athlete and in life. This feel-good commitment ultimately led to her ability to embrace every setback as an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve, principles and practices she shares as the author of her first book, “How to Make Feeling Good Your Priority: A Marathoner’s Journey to a Feel-Good State,” as well as through consulting and speaking engagements.
A graduate of the University of Denver where she holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications, Holly is a member of the National Speakers Association, Vail Valley Partnership, OutRival Racing Team, and Vail Valley Vixens Cycling Club. In addition to running, she enjoys competing in triathlons, skiing, cooking, traveling, scuba diving, and cycling.
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 was somewhat of an accidental tourist when it came to my career, running, coaching and author path, or so I thought. Knowing what I know now, what I believe to be true is that it’s all been a journey and path in my right direction — even with the forks in the road. Mostly it was precipitated by doing what I love and loving what I do and being very appreciative and expressing gratitude for these opportunities, all of which contributed to my personal commitment to be happy and fulfilled. Looking back, it started in high school, when after our move back to Southern California from New England and an embarrassing — or shall I say humiliating — polo team ranking of girls as they walked by occurred on a day when I was not “well-dressed.” Yes, overalls, clogs, a bad Farrah Fawcett hairdo and a less than sleek and slim physique got me on the on the lower end of the rankings. It was what we then called a “Glamour Magazine Don’t Day.” For those of you in the younger generations, Glamour published a Glamour Do & Don’t fashion page in every issue. I would have made that page no problem on that fateful day!
Feeling like I would never belong and hating how I felt and looked, a switch was flipped when, amidst a meltdown over a blazer I was trying to make that wasn’t working, my mom came in and asked me what was wrong. “I hate it here,” I blurted out. Not what a mom wants to hear. She then asked, “What’s going on?” And I responded, “I thought moving here would be the answer to having moved so much and losing contact with my friends. And now I don’t feel like I belong or have any friends outside of Michelle and Lisa” (two friends who also moved to Irvine from Iowa).
My mother, naturally sorry, asked if she there was anything she could do. And that was when the switch got flipped. “No, it’s up to me. I am the only one who can make myself happy.”
From that point forward, I decided that if you can’t beat them, join them, them being the tall, blond, skinny fashionistas that I wanted to emulate. So, after losing weight and starting to get more attention, I teetered on the anorexic front, like I was never going to be skinny enough or enough of anything. I started to have stomach and digestive issues when I did eat. Not feeling good and barely having enough energy to do much more than walk, I said to myself there had to be a better way. Fortunately, the Self and Shape magazines I was also reading in addition to Glamour and other fashion magazines promoted balanced diets and eating with exercise. I began to realize I could eat more without gaining weight if I did exercise. I also started having more energy, which also meant I would burn more calories just by moving more. I also liked being outside, and I really had no excuse living in Southern California with a pretty ideal year-round climate.
Like a lot of people, I noticed that a lot of runners were skinny — or at least fit and thinner than non-runners, particularly back in the mid- to-late 70s before the whole running boom took off. The non-competitors were considered joggers. So, I started “jogging.” It started with a lap around our neighborhood. Then two. Then three. Then I made a larger loop. I remember how proud I was and how good I felt when I was able to complete a full mile without stopping. I started to have more energy, due in part to the fact I had to eat in order to have any energy and getting fit gave me more energy and made me feel good. In turn, I started to feel better about myself and started to be a nicer teen, which my mother, in particular, greatly appreciated. I also started to make more friends at school, including boys. While I have often said that I thought and continued to think for many years that the attention was based on how I looked, not who I was as a person, now looking back from my more enlightened state of mind, I see that by feeling better — or good — about myself, others did too. And it naturally made me more attractive, to myself and others.
With running, I always felt better, even if it felt hard when I was doing it. It’s why most people run. So aside from running so I could eat and be more fit, how does one go from recreational “jogger” to 27-time marathoner? It starts with a feeling. A feeling you have or you experience by doing something or watching something that flips a switch inside of you. It’s the goosebump feeling. And you say to yourself, I want to feel that. Look like that. Experience that. And you know what “that” is? It’s feeling good on steroids (not literally, figuratively). It’s your why. It’s what gets you through the tough days because you believe and have set a vision and goal of getting to that place you want to be. On the tough days, you remind yourself why you’re doing it. And most importantly, it’s about gratitude for the opportunity to do something that stretches you, helps you feel better, makes most days better. And that also includes the people and things that help you along the way. They are all there, we just need to show and express some appreciation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My PR career was kind of perfect storm, being at the right place at the right time. That being said, I realized early on that I was going to spend more time working than anything else, including sleeping, which I really love to do. So, I said to myself, you better love what you do! Majoring in mass communications and coming from a lower income family, I did work study and also took advantage of internships that allowed me to work at an alumni newspaper, an ABC affiliate in Denver, and then a PR position at Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade association representing all the ski resorts in Colorado. It was based in Denver and after two weeks, I said to myself, I can’t believe they would pay me to do this — it’s so much fun!
From there, this “love what you do” followed me to various positions including the Colorado Tourism Board before I transitioned into the private PR sector. And when I found myself not loving what I was doing (or who I was working for), I moved on. It led to me starting my own PR firm in my mid-30s. The first book I read was Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” The one habit that stood out for me was “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” And I can honestly say that when I have been doing what I love, the money did follow. While I’m not a millionaire, it served as the catalyst to motivate me to make sure I enjoyed my work and the people I worked with and for. I have immense gratitude and appreciation for my good fortune but also realize that it was a mindset thing. I love being happy and enjoying what I do as a coach, a mom, a PR and marketing professional, an athlete, a cook, a traveler, and now an author. And when I wasn’t happy I said to myself, OK, what can you do to feel better? It made for some tough decisions at times, but in the long run this mindset has helped me live a very rich and fulfilling life. And from here, my book evolved.
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?
“Do what you love and the money will follow” — Stephen Covey, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” as noted above.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
“7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” for the reasons noted above.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on building a speaking and consulting business and a “Feel Good Workplace” approach to help companies and CEOs/management develop a marathon mindset of 26 miles and break down those miles into increments that relate to their businesses and staff people to reach their goals. Much like marathon running and training, where you need to train for and plan for a lot of variables and work through various training sessions, fueling, hydration, gear, stretching, injury prevention and weather-related issues, my current focus is to work with companies, business owners, and organizations to define their #1 goal, #1 challenge, and level of commitment then create a “training plan” to get them to their #1 goal over a specified period of time. This also includes working with employees and management to address and create feel-good environments where everyone feels valued, appreciated, and viewed as an integral and important part of the company’s or organization’s success.
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?
I have been blessed with many great bosses and colleagues who gave me a long leash to prosper and thrive. There are two that particularly come to mind. The first is Kent Myers, who was the VP at the Steamboat Ski Corporation, where I worked as a receptionist in the marketing department to “keep my foot in the door” after my internship with Colorado Ski Country and before they created an entry level PR position there. There is also Tip Nunn, owner/president of Tip Nunn Events, who became my mentor when I started my first PR firm, Johnson Communications.
Kent was instrumental in helping secure my position at Colorado Ski Country when a PR coordinator position was added. I had applied for a Denver/Front Range sales position with the Steamboat Ski Corp. while also applying for the Colorado Ski Country position. I went in for my interview with Kent and he asked which job I wanted. A little stunned since I was not openly letting people know I was applying for both, I said, “I love Steamboat and would love to represent the resort and live in Denver. Truth be told, I really believe I am better suited for PR.” And Kent responded, “Great. We’d love to have someone like you at Ski Country who knows and loves Steamboat so much.” He went over to his phone, called the president of Colorado Ski Country, and said to Bob Knous, “You need to hire Holly.”
Tip was a great mentor when I started my first PR firm. He gave me some great ground rules and would check in every 4–6 weeks and ask me, “What’s bogging you down?” Whatever I came up with, he would respond, “Farm it out. If you were really good at this, you would have majored in it. What you are really good at is PR and serving your clients. Find a way to make it work.”
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 about expressing and showing appreciation for the things you have in your life. It’s a very present thing rather than looking back on the past (though you can also feel gratitude for people and experiences that have allowed you to become the person you are and also grow and learn). Expressing gratitude allows us to shift from what’s not working in our lives to what is working. When writing my book and seeing so many people who had a negative outlook on life, I looked into employee job satisfaction. Depending on the research study, 60–85% of all full-time employed people worldwide are disengaged or hate their job. Not only are these large numbers but being disengaged and even hateful toward the one thing that most people spend more time doing than anything else in their lives is a scary statistic. It also wreaks havoc on people’s emotional wellbeing. While not everyone is going to love their job or the work they do, there are inherent benefits to having a job that people could focus on if only they decided to shift their focus to what they do enjoy or appreciate, i.e., a steady paycheck that helps them buy groceries and put food on the table, pay their rent or mortgage, and go on vacation, and offers the opportunity to meet and often times make friends with co-workers. When we focus on what is working and what we enjoy about our lives — family, friendships, etc. — we shift to a state of gratitude, which allows us to feel better about ourselves, our lives, and our place in the world.
Most people are overly consumed with external influences and we are also bombarded by so much negative press that it’s hard to feel good, especially when you compound this with too much social media and observation of everyone else’s “perfect lives,” which as we know are not perfect. Gratitude allows us to step back from these negative influences and say, “I choose to show and express appreciation instead of having my wellbeing be undermined by influences beyond my control.” As Brian Scott with the Reality Revolution states, “It’s not what’s happening externally, it’s our reaction to it.” When we express gratitude, we allow ourselves to focus on the good and in turn, helps us feel better about ourselves. And when we feel good (or better), we are typically kinder and more tolerant of other people and less influenced by external things. Writing a daily gratitude list, even if it’s just a few things, helps us put our lives and focus into a more positive mindset.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
People don’t feel gratitude because they are more caught up in what’s not working than what is. This also holds true for feeling good. People do not believe they can or should feel good when there is so much wrong in their life or the world. From what I have learned and observed as a coach, marketing professional, and author is that people don’t consciously think about feeling good. Or if they do, it’s related to drugs and alcohol and other forms of self-medication. We are all surrounded by so much external negativity and then go on social media and look at everyone else’s “perfect life,” and it just compounds the feelings of inadequacy. Doing a daily gratitude list, even if it’s just three things, shifts the focus to feeling good about life and what makes us feel good. It’s very simple, but most people do not even think about doing this. As Brian Scott, founder of the Reality Revolution and a highly followed YouTube meditation practitioner says, “It’s not what’s happening externally, it’s our reaction to it.” Everyone has the right to feel good even when, and especially when, there is so much going on that negates feeling good. It’s a matter of making that commitment and believing that feeling good equates to a better life, and a better life is one centered around gratitude and appreciation.
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?
It shifts the focus from what is not working to what is. It creates value for the person and their place in the world. It allows for feel-good feelings. When we feel good, we have better days and we are kinder to our kids, ourselves, our partners, our friends, and our co-workers. The challenge is that people rely too much on external influences to feel good versus taking responsibility for it (before drugs and alcohol) and asking themselves, “How can I make today great?” It really only takes five minutes to think about how they can dress up, show up, nail the interview, finish that project their boss has been asking for and see these as ways to feel good.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
It puts us in a positive mindset. Expressing gratitude for what we have and what has happened in our lives shifts the focus from what’s not working to what is working. Take running for example. As you get dressed and put on running shoes, express gratitude to your body for allowing you to run and go outside and enjoy the outdoors and all it has to offer. Let go of pace and wishful thoughts about pace or distance and just allow yourself to run and say, “Today, I’m going to enjoy my run.” There is no dread, there is no judgement. It’s just pure appreciation for something given to you and being grateful to be able to do something that many people cannot do or wish they could do.
Another example is work. According to numerous research studies, up to 85% of full-time workers worldwide are disengaged or hate their jobs. That’s not only a big number, but hate is a really bad word. Think about it…work is where people spend more time doing than anything else in their lives, including sleeping. If all these people took five minutes every day to think about what they are grateful for in their work, the people they have met, their contribution — even if it’s on a small scale — to help build or offer a product or service that helps people live better lives, and the income that pays for rent, mortgage, or vacation, what a powerful switch that could be for feeling better every day. When we can shift our focus to what is working, we become empowered to feel better about ourselves and our place in the world.
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?
- Make feeling good your priority every day. Before getting out of bed, take a couple minutes and say to yourself, “feeling good is my priority.” Commit to hitting the pause button when you find yourself feeling bad, angry, or resentful. It all comes down to choosing how you want to feel. Good or bad? Resentful or appreciative? Grateful or annoyed? Then ask yourself, what can I do to feel better or make whatever is bothering me better?
- Create your “wouldn’t it be nice if I…” to-do list. While a to-do list can be a great motivator and give you a sense of accomplishment, by its nature, it is not a very positive task. It’s like a commandment coming down on you to “get off your butt and get things done.” A list of “to-dos” is also void of a feel-good moment. It’s just a list. One of my favorite tips from Mindvalley founder Vishen Lakhiani is to create a “Wouldn’t it be nice if I” or “my amazing day includes” list centered around how you would like your day to go. For example, instead of “finish X project,” shift to “successfully finish X project and submit to my boss by lunch time.” Instead of paying bills, write, “wouldn’t it be nice if I showed my appreciation for having enough money to pay my bills on time.” Instead of “go to the gym” or “workout,” (how fun does that sound?) try, “had an amazing workout on my way home from work and felt really great.” Expand “pick up the kids” to “greeted my kids at the school door and then did a stop at the playground to laugh and have some fun — and/or picked up their favorite dinner or surprised Dad with his favorite meal for a nice and enjoyable family dinner.”
— To help you along this “wouldn’t it be nice if/amazing day” feel-good path, if you have a new business call or interview, state “nailed the interview or new business meeting and was offered a five or six figure contract.” Get specific. Make it real and believe in the possibility. What do you have to lose? Isn’t the positive better than the mundane task list that only lends itself to you responding or reacting versus. taking a more positive and proactive approach? The more specific and positive you can be, the more likely the law of attraction will steer in the direction you want, simply by stating it and visualizing it actually happening.
— I have even gone so far as to write down “received four figures.” And on many days it has happened. What we manifest in our minds becomes our reality. Maybe not all the time, but if you shift to a perspective that life can and will work out for you and the Universe has your back, you let go of the resentment and shift toward the possibility. An open mind leads to a more open heart, and open hearts mean more kindness and generosity in the world. And gratitude. And appreciation. Who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?
- Write your gratitude list. Pull out a piece of paper or your journal. Then ask yourself, What makes me happy? What am I grateful for? What am I proud of? What makes my heart sing? Small things and big things. Circle your top five. Then start adding them into your day or week. Make joy an everyday habit and express your gratitude and appreciation. This can start with the bed you sleep in, the roof over your head, a home you love, kids you adore, a spouse that supports you, the smell of fresh coffee, savoring anything and everything (versus just eating). The smell of a glass of wine, the feeling of melting away in a bubble bath, or how you feel when you get out of the shower. By adding in sensory appreciation, you automatically head into a feel-good state.
- Do something different — every day. Yes, every day! It can be as simple as taking a right turn instead of a left turn out of your driveway to go to work, trying a new kind of bread or recipe, ordering a different flavor in your coffee, trying a new machine or class at your health club, or eating scrambled eggs instead of fried eggs. Or it can go bigger: a different cycling or running route, putting a heartfelt note in your spouse’s purse or briefcase or your kids’ lunch boxes, or going on vacation to a place you have never been before. The point is to think outside of your box of routines. It freshens things up and freshens you up. Make a list of 20 things you enjoy doing and then do one of these each week.
— By doing things you enjoy, you open the door and expand your opportunity to feel good, and when you feel good, it has this amazing trickle-down effect. Think about a recent good day. What happened? How did interactions with other people go? How did you feel about yourself? By focusing on what went right, we can then start to look at our days and experiences in a new, more positive light and shift our energy to replicating more good days. This happens because when you look at what went right, you shift the paradigm to a feel-good state. You want to be happy? Share happiness. Bad day? Express gratitude for what you have in your life. And most importantly, choose love, for love is the best feel-good feeling any day, every day.
- Implement feel-good strategies at the end of your day. On your way home from work, think about your ideal evening. Greeting your kids, spouse, and pet with a happy, “H! I’m home! How was your day?” and include a hug and kiss. Doesn’t that sound good? Wouldn’t that make you feel good?
— One of my other favorite questions is “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” This question immediately shifts the energy and mindset to a more positive state. Keep in mind these questions should come from your heart, not your ego. They need to be genuine and heartfelt, not looking for some kind of boost to your ego, i.e., something about you. This is particularly important if you are starting to date someone. Yes, sometimes they’ll say seeing you and hearing from you, but it may be something else. Embrace this as a way to get to know them better and understand what makes them happy. Remember the joys of feeling good also extend to people you care about. Being genuine, kind, considerate, and appreciative are among life’s greatest givebacks and feel-good rewards.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Accept responsibility for your own happiness, which includes acknowledging how you are feeling.
Inevitably, even the best intentions can get derailed by an unexpected letdown, call, or request. If you start to get anxious or irritable by some unplanned intrusion or request, hit the pause button and admit that you don’t feel good, or are pissed off or angry. By bringing it to the surface, you can then address it, even if it’s simply, “OK, that was not what I had planned today. So how can I make it work? What can I move to tomorrow or ask for help on so I can work on this?” Add it to your “Wouldn’t it be nice if I…” list so that it becomes more positive. Wouldn’t it be nice if you took care of this right now so you can move on with your day and feel better about yourself?
The other option — or part of this — is to go, OK, moment over, time to get over this, and ask yourself, What I can I do to feel better? How can I make this work for me and my day? Simply asking the questions allows you to proactively address a problem and let go of the anger, resentment, or anxiety. These are all manifested responses to an external thing. Remember, it’s not what happened, it’s your reaction to it. Can you look at whatever came your way and spin it more positively? Say “Wow, if I got this one thing done, I would really be helping out my boss (or client, or co-worker or spouse or kid) and in turn, they would be really happy.” And doesn’t having them happy help you? Help you feel better? See where this all can go when you channel your energy in a more positive direction? This is all part of gratitude. Finding ways to make things work in your life and then showing and/or expressing appreciation for them. This includes relationships with our selves and others. When we have gratitude for what is, we generate more feel-good feelings that allow us to be happier and feel better about ourselves and our place in the world.
Part of accepting responsibility is allowing the negative feelings to come up and addressing them. Once you do this, you are actively accepting how you are feeling, and as a result, accepting yourself and your feelings for what they are. From there, you can say, OK, that doesn’t feel good. What can I do to feel better? It can be listening to your favorite song or happy song mix or buying yourself flowers. I have fresh flowers in my house all time. When they start to die, I say, “Oops, not good karma, time for new flowers!” It picks me up right away. They don’t need to be expensive; grocery stores have great deals on flowers all the time. Once you start bringing them home, it feels good. Your home feels better. And if you live with other people, the first question is, who gave those to you? And you can say, with a big smile, I did. Because I deserve to feel good, and flowers make me feel good. It starts the positive momentum, and if you believe in the law of attraction, you are also planting the seed that you love flowers, they make you feel good. Someone may just pick up on this!
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
Brian Scott’s The Reality Revolution Podcast
Mindvalley/Vishen Lakhiani’s 6 Phase Meditation
Tony Robbins’ Gratitude Meditation
Marissa Peer’s Reprogram your Subconscious Mind (all of her videos are great)
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
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. 🙂
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
My website, www.feelgoodmindset.net, which includes bi-weekly blogs and tips about ways to feel good and express gratitude and appreciation. They can also follow me on social media (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) under Feel Good Mindset, or on LinkedIn under Holly Rouillard Johnson.
My book, “How to Make Feeling Good Your Priority: A Marathoner’s Journey to a Feel-Good State,” is also available on Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!