Make a list of things you are grateful for in your life. Post them on a chalkboard or post-it note where you can see it daily. Having that visual accessible to you will help you to connect with it often and support you in more quickly being able to connect with that perspective during hard times.
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 (Darcie Brown).
Darcie Brown, JD, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and holistic wellness coach. Darcie is passionate about living an authentic and purposeful life and supporting others in understanding themselves on a deeper level and creating a life that makes them feel content and fulfilled. Darcie has been quoted as a wellness expert in Women’s Health, Bustle, Better by Today, and Best Life and has contributed articles to media outlets including Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. She has a YouTube channel where she posts a new wellness and self-care video every Sunday. She lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and their rescue dog, Piper.
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 came to be a therapist and wellness coach by way of being an attorney. Generally speaking, the field of law is not known for promoting well-being, and my own experience underscored the lack of care for oneself. In addition to this, the work felt unfulfilling, and I wasted most Sundays dreading Monday.
I knew there had to be another career out there that would be a better fit for me, but I didn’t know where to start. Change didn’t come overnight, but after years of trial and error. After I left law, I lived abroad in Bali where I wrote freelance. I’ve been a writer all my life, so while this felt natural to me, I longed for more stability in my career.
I continued to search and eventually landed back on my undergraduate major of Psychology. I started to explore what it might look like to return to this field, and on a whim I applied to graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy. I applied to only one school, was accepted, and enrolled there.
Years later now, I look back on the courage it took to choose a very different path, but feel so proud of myself for taking the risk. I feel so joyful and fulfilled with where I’ve landed in my career and the impact it has had on my overall satisfaction in my life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Thus far, the decision to start my own business has been the most interesting part of my journey for me. I used to work in a medical setting, seeing patients who were referred to therapy by their primary care physician. I started my own private practice on the side, seeing clients on Fridays, my day off from primary care, and in the evenings.
For a long time, it was a grind. I was pushing myself to the limits because I really wanted the freedom that comes with owning your own business. As the child of business owners, I think the desire for autonomy and the ability to direct my own path is in my DNA.
After nearly a year of feeling pushed to my max, I resigned from my primary care job and went full-time into my business. Now, I see clients for therapy as well as create attainable wellness, lifestyle, and self-care content for my YouTube channel. I also continue to write freelance and partner with media outlets as a mental health and wellness expert.
I have grown so much from being my own boss. I’ve learned exactly what I am capable of and feel empowered to choose my path. My goal as a therapist and wellness coach is to provide support and tools to help others do the same.
I believe that we all deserve not just to survive, but to thrive, and my hope throughout my career is to be a resource for others to know that they have the strength and courage within themselves to create the life they dream of.
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?
Yes, I love this quote by Yung Pueblo.
“Being a people pleaser is a dangerous game. To give everything to everyone will require you to give nothing to yourself. People pleasing will cost you your authenticity, your goals, and your integrity. If you want to be happy, you have to live your truth boldly and on your terms.”
The last part is so important. Happiness flows when you live fully and authentically in who you are. Most (okay, all of us) want to be happy, but we struggle with knowing how to get there. It’s not so much a destination that we are seeking (because we’ll never be happy all the time since happiness is an emotion), but rather the tools to be able to cultivate practices in our lives that fill us up as well as breed joy, peace, contentment, and fulfillment.
As an attorney, I wasn’t living a life fully and authentically for myself, and I certainly wasn’t happy. Changing careers was a bold move, but it’s led me to a place where I am more content than ever in my day-to-day life.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.
This book really resonated with me as a therapist because I think oftentimes therapists are put on a pedestal. We are expected to be the expert, have all the answers, and never have any struggles ourselves.
But this just isn’t reality. Lori makes a point in saying that therapists are human too, and therein lies the power of therapy. The connection made between two humans. I don’t pretend to my clients that I’ve never felt down or anxious or questioned my path in life. In fact, I normalize this, over and over again. We all have struggles, therapists included, and it’s when we really internalize this reality that we are able to connect more deeply with those around us. We see that we are not alone in our struggles and how the very nature of struggling is so deeply part of being human.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! Launching my YouTube channel earlier this year!
To give a bit more background, the idea for my channel was birthed last year when we were in the thick of COVID. I saw the dramatic increase in mental health issues, which highlighted the need for more accessible and affordable resources. Therapy is a great option for people seeking support, but sometimes it’s not attainable because of the cost and some people just prefer to be able to gain tools and resources when it’s convenient for them, not when a therapist has availability. My channel was created with this in mind.
On my channel, I share tools and resources on supporting and nourishing your whole self — body, mind, spirit, and relationships. Each week, I release a new video, so the library of resources is ever-growing. Every video has a corresponding worksheet so that viewers can apply the concepts to their lives right away.
My channel is an on-demand, one-stop-shop to learn more about who you are and what you want out of life. It is a place to explore concepts related to mental health and whole self wellness, so that you can gain more insight into your thoughts and behaviors and make small shifts that lead to powerful, long-lasting change.
If you’re interested, check it out and subscribe here.
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?
Many people! I’ve answered this question various times throughout my career, citing both of my parents and my husband.
But, in this interview, I want to answer it a bit differently and say that I’ve learned that we need different people in our lives for different kinds of support. While I may go to my husband as a sounding board, I may go to my father for business advice, and my mother for emotional support. I’m so grateful to have had many influential people in my life, who have contributed to and impacted my journey in myriad ways.
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?
I want to offer a visual to illustrate my definition of gratitude. If you think about a camera lens, zooming in on our current problems, gratitude is when you shift the focus to a wider view.
The goal of gratitude is not to take away our struggles, but to highlight that our struggles are not the total picture. There is good in our past, present, and future.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
Pain and struggle can feel all-consuming and can create a lens through which we see ourselves, others, and the world. When we are in the thick of it, it can be really challenging to connect with anything else. Emotions are powerful like that; they can take hold of us and make us think that we haven’t ever felt and will never feel another way.
Also, the brain has a negativity bias, which comes from the need to keep us safe. However, if we aren’t aware of this bias, we may allow it to block out the good in our lives. We have to be intentional in choosing to expand our viewpoint to see not just the tough stuff in our lives, but the blessings as well.
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?
Oh, absolutely, it’s so important to understand how gratitude can support us.
First and foremost, gratitude gives us perspective. Gratitude helps us to recognize that while life isn’t always rosy, it isn’t always painful either.
Second, gratitude builds resilience. When we connect with gratitude, it can not only help us to bounce back from struggle but also give us fuel to push through the hard times because we remember that it’s possible to endure difficulties and come out the other side.
Third, gratitude helps us build a more positive relationship with ourselves and also with our loved ones. Research shows that partners are more willing to hear constructive feedback from each other when they are also regularly showing gratitude to one another.
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 has the power to bring clarity of mind. As mentioned earlier, our struggles can feel defeanening at times. Gratitude can help us to shift away from the pain, if only briefly, and connect with what’s working for us in our lives.
Gratitude can increase our connection with the here and now. Oftentimes, we are dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Connecting with what we have going for us right now can be a way of increasing our attunement to present-focused living.
Finally, gratitude can connect us with positive emotions. Most people are looking for more ways to be happy, and when we connect with what we are grateful for, even if it’s for something that seems as simple as nourishing food or spending time outside for a few minutes, these experiences evoke positive emotions within us which improves our wellbeing.
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 a list of things you are grateful for in your life. Post them on a chalkboard or post-it note where you can see it daily. Having that visual accessible to you will help you to connect with it often and support you in more quickly being able to connect with that perspective during hard times.
- Make a practice of saying thank you to others. Sometimes I’ll hear clients shy away from thanking their partners for doing the things that are their responsibilities around the house, like taking out the trash or paying the bills. I often remind clients that gratitude isn’t a limited resource. Even if a task is expected of us, it’s still nice to know that our actions didn’t go unnoticed and that they are appreciated. Spreading gratitude will not only propagate more positive relational feelings, but will also make hearing constructive feedback easier because it’s balanced out with all the good in the relationship.
- Pay attention to the little things. We often look for the big things to show gratitude for — a new car or house, a promotion, or a vacation. But we can connect with gratitude for being able to move our bodies, a nourishing conversation, a few quiet moments before the kids come home, or an hour of painting or reading. The more we can notice and appreciate the little things, the more powerful and impactful the little things in our lives become.
- Implement a weekly check-in. I find that in my work with clients, having a gratitude check-in every day can be a little overwhelming and clients will give up. Instead, try doing it on a weekly basis, and you can even make it interactive by doing it with your partner or children. My husband and I like to do it on Sunday evenings because we find that it really sets us up with a positive outlook and energy for the week ahead.
- Use it as a coping strategy. When you are struggling, name three things you’re grateful for as a direct pathway to positive emotions and a source of energy for you to utilize to manage the difficult emotions that come with hard times and struggle.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Yes! I’d definitely encourage a practice of identifying times that you have overcome a challenge. This underscores the strength and resilience within us all. When we feel down, we forget the resources that we all possess, so remembering a time, or multiple times, when we’ve gotten through hard times can be really reassuring that we will be able to get through what we are currently facing.
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 personally loved The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan.
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. 🙂
The more we can be kind to ourselves, the kinder we will be to others. I would encourage everyone to go to therapy or start to do their own work on themselves. We all have things we can be working on, myself included. Take action; don’t be complacent. Learn, grow, and change.
That’s how we change the world. 🙂
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!