Mamta Suri: “Gratitude helps us break the cycle of rumination”

Make a habit of being grateful for 3 things in the morning when you wake up and when you go to sleep. This could be writing in a gratitude journal or just being thankful in your mind with eyes closed. It only takes a couple of mins and you will start to feel less stressful […]

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Make a habit of being grateful for 3 things in the morning when you wake up and when you go to sleep. This could be writing in a gratitude journal or just being thankful in your mind with eyes closed. It only takes a couple of mins and you will start to feel less stressful and more hopeful.

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 Mamta Suri.

Mamta Suri is a seasoned leader with 18+ years of demonstrated expertise and experience leading development of products spanning different industries such as Cloud Applications, SaaS, Medical Instruments, Marketing, PaaS. With her diverse education and diverse work experiences, it gives her unique perspectives. She’s a mentor to young women and encourages them to take the path to leadership. She is the Diversity and Employee Resource Group Leader working on intersectionality initiatives for racial equality, equity and justice. She is an active volunteer in her community.

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 started out as a Pre-Med student and was on my way to becoming a doctor. I started taking computer courses as an elective and I really liked it. I decided to pursue a double major in Molecular Biology and Computer Science. I was the only undergrad student at the time who was doing this. It was fun to carve my own path. I approached the professors that were doing research in Bioinformatics and was able to work on really cool projects such as the Human Genome Sequencing as an undergrad.

After graduation, I started my career working for a Medical Instruments company where I got to combine my knowledge in both Computer Science and Biology. My passion for learning took me to other industries and companies. I have built products for Fortune 500, Cloud and SaaS companies including Identity Management, security, data storage, marketing, and platform Services. I have managed multiple teams in different locations around the world. I have gone through various acquisitions and gained valuable change management experience. It’s been very fulfilling for me to mentor, inspire and grow my teammates.

I am also a Diversity leader working for racial equity, justice and inclusion. I have been helping strengthen an inclusive workplace environment that enables the maximum potential of employees’ talents, skills, and abilities, as well as provides new perspectives that enhance positive collaboration and communication across our organization.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One thing I realized when I took a leadership role is that I was the only female in a room full of 20 or so men in most of the meetings. Being an introvert, I had to learn to speak up, voice my opinions and challenge the status quo. This is a challenge that many women face today, and we need to bridge this gender gap. I am thankful for my mentors for giving me the courage to continue this journey, and I mentor other women to become leaders.

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?

There is a quote by Albert Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” This quote gives me courage in difficult times and motivates me to keep moving forward. When I became a mother, this quote really came in handy to keep me going. This was a blessing in my life and something I had dreamed of for a long time. Though during the early days of sleep deprivation and balancing new responsibilities, often there was self-doubt and guilt that would creep us such as if I was doing everything that I am supposed to. I had no choice but to keep moving forward. And I learned that as long as you are doing your best, and not ruminate and worry, things will fall into their natural order. I am still learning as my kids are growing up and riding this bicycle and enjoying the view.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My vision is for a peaceful society where people can celebrate differences and appreciate each other. There is a lot of work to be done in this area. As a diversity leader, woman, person of color and a caregiver, I am working on projects towards gender and racial equity. We need to start by acknowledging and giving credit to women for all the unpaid work that they do like childcare, cooking, cleaning and the list goes on. I am currently speaking on panels to bring awareness and normalize dialogue and conversations around this topic.

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 parents inspired me a lot. Both my parents migrated to India (when they were kids) after the India-Pakistan partition in 1947. My dad’s family had lost everything. My dad, when he was a teenager, used to work during the day and study under the streetlight at night since they couldn’t afford electricity at the time. He worked really hard to start his own business and give us a nice life. I grew up hearing stories and seeing him in action displaying courage, resilience, and grit. I am very grateful to my parents. They taught me and my siblings the importance of education and hard 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 means being grateful and appreciating what we have. It’s a feeling of thankfulness. Everyone can be thankful if we just take a moment to see what’s going well in our lives. There’s always something to be thankful for. You can always be grateful for things we take for granted like clean air, water, sunlight, our planet. Then move to things in your life such as your loved ones, your pet, your friends. Once you start appreciating one thing, more things will come to your mind to be thankful.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

We take so many things for granted in our lives, and we constantly fixate on things that are not going well. Humans have a negativity bias, and it’s just easier to complain and put the blame elsewhere. We love to talk about our problems with others. The more we talk about it, the more it seems natural to do so and this cycle continues.

We seldom take time to appreciate things that are working out for us. If we want to break out of the complaining cycle, then we intentionally need to notice things that are working well. And yes, that means being intentional. People may feel like it’s adding one more thing to our ever-growing list of to-dos.

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?

There’s scientific research that shows increased gratitude activates the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. This means you are happier, motivated, improved digestion, better sleep, and memory which ultimately can affect other physiological changes such as lowered blood pressure, improved heart and overall health. Research is great, though there’s nothing like personal application. You can easily test it out for yourself by thinking about the 3 things you’re grateful for when you wake up and when you go to sleep. You’ll feel a sense of contentment, hope and motivation.

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 helps us break the cycle of rumination. As I mentioned, we (humans) are wired for negativity bias. We focus on the things that are not working well. We keep playing the negative scenarios over and over in our head. For example, say someone compliments you on your clothes then you immediately feel good. But how long do you remember the complement? On the other hand, if someone criticizes you and tells you those jeans make you look fat, then what happens? You feel bad not just about the jeans, you start to look at your body negatively, you start doubting yourself over your choices, and pretty soon other negative things come to mind and this cycle of rumination spirals, and it may keep spiraling till the end of day or even coming days.

By having a habit of gratitude, you break the cycle of rumination and negative scenarios. At the end of the day, you can focus on the positive aspects of your life like the roof over your head, food, friends, family, internet, phone. You can start to feel connected and supported by the universe and other people. This is very beneficial for mental wellness because gratitude is a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it becomes. And this muscle is important for the mental wellbeing to keep us motivated, happy and resilient.

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?

There are so many gratitude practices. I’ll share what works for me and things I have shared with others. Please experiment for yourself and see what works for you and add things to the list that are working for you.

  1. Make a habit of being grateful for 3 things in the morning when you wake up and when you go to sleep. This could be writing in a gratitude journal or just being thankful in your mind with eyes closed. It only takes a couple of mins and you will start to feel less stressful and more hopeful.
  2. Feel gratitude for your body. It’s amazing how much our body does for us in every moment without any effort such as the vital organs, breathing, seeing, smelling, thinking, speaking to just name a few. So let’s acknowledge and appreciate our wondrous body.
  3. Appreciate others and tell them. This could be in the moment e.g., if someone held the elevator or a door for you, saying thank you and really meaning it. It could also be an email, phone call or meeting someone to tell them how much you appreciate them. It would definitely make the other person feel good, and it also brings joy and happiness to you in return.
  4. Let go and forgive. A lot of times we are holding onto things that we simply need to let go. Forgiving ourselves and others can help with this. Forgiveness meditation can be very helpful for a healthy mental and physical wellbeing. You can look up forgiveness meditation on YouTube, or you can follow this simple meditation. Just close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths and with each exhale making a “aah” sound and letting everything go. Bring to your mind a person that you need to forgive. Imagine this person sitting in front of you. Tell this person: “I forgive you”. Repeat this sentence 3 times. Now say to yourself, “I forgive myself and I give myself permission to move on”. Say this 3 times. Take two deep breaths, let go and open your eyes. You may have to do this for a few days if you still feel like you have not forgiven completely.
  5. Gratitude Meditation is a great practice to feel happy and reduce stress. It doesn’t have to be very time consuming. Just close your eyes, take 3 deep breaths and with each exhale making a “aah” sound and letting everything go. Bring to your mind a person that you are thankful for. Imagine this person sitting in front of you. Thank this person and tell them how you feel. Thank yourself for taking this time to feel gratitude. Take two deep breaths and open your eyes. You’ll feel a sense of lightness.

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 stressed and overwhelmed it’s good to keep a couple of practices in the back of your mind to help you feel better. The 4–7–8 breathing technique is really helpful to ground yourself. Inhale for count of 4, hold for count of 7 and exhale for count of 8. I do this 3–4 times when I am feeling down or resentful. Another technique that can help in such times is thinking from your friend’s perspective. Imagine that your best friend is going through this situation, what would you tell him/her? How would you motivate your friend and help him/her feel better? It’s fascinating that when we think from a friend’s perspective, our viewpoint changes. Give it a try!

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

Insight Timer has really good meditations around gratitude that are just 5 minutes. If we are able to spend 5 minutes for ourselves in the beginning of the day, it’ll set a positive tone for the whole day. I love reading Good News from Buzz Feed there are so many good things happening around us but most of the media only outlines the worst, and then we also end up focusing on the bad in this world. Other books that have been helpful to me are The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, How to Win Friends and Influence People, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, The Conscious Parent, Get Out of Your Head.

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. 🙂

I think the world would be a much better place if we were nice to ourselves and others. I would love it if everyone who read this article spent a few moments looking in the mirror in the morning and saying, “You got this! I love you!” And then making it a point to do 3 kind things in the day. This can be as simple as giving a smile to someone, holding the door for someone, saying thank you and meaning it, complimenting someone, or helping someone. If we all were nice to ourselves and at least 3 other people in 1 day, it can create a ripple effect as other people will start to be in better mood and will be motivated to help others.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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