Praise for yourself. Yes, praise yourself. Before looking outside of yourself for things to appreciate, begin by finding at least one thing every day that you love about yourself. It could be your smile, your patience, your generosity, your commitment to the people you love. This doesn’t mean you are being arrogant or narcissistic. This doesn’t mean you’ll be taking duck-lipped selfies to post on Instagram (unless that’s your thing, no judgement). Praise for yourself is an affirmation of your inherent value — regardless of outside perceptions. When your inner world looks beautiful, you project that to your outer world. Praise begins within.
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 Merav Richter.
Merav Richter is the author of three best-selling books, a two-time TEDx Speaker, a Story Strategist, and a Game-Changing Consultant. Merav is a powerful advocate for using your story to transform your life and the lives of those around you!
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?
My interest in using the power of story as a catalyst for change started when I was a young girl and read the Diary of Anne Frank. As a child, I found out that Anne Frank was my grandmother’s cousin. Anne Frank had always fascinated me because she showed how a young girl — armed only with a pen and a notebook — can change the world. I knew right then that I wanted to create the same impact in my life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I began writing books when my kids were little. When my first book was published, my boys were nine and seven, and my daughter was three. I went on to publish another book a couple of years after that, so my daughter had never known life without her mom ‘working on a book’ in one form or another.
So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when my (then) nine-year-old daughter asked to write a book with me.
Having watched me in the writing process for most of her life, she had some very specific requests. She didn’t want one of those “childish” books that we simply printed off at home and tied with a ribbon. Our book needed to have a prologue, an epilogue, a dedication page, a front and back cover with our picture. Further, she insisted, we must create a storyboard, a launch party, a book tour. She wanted to do all the things that she had witnessed me doing in my book writing process.
Some people might say that I inspired her, but it’s the opposite — she inspired me!
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?
Love Letters from Life.
Every day, I write down a thought, an aphorism, an adage, or a poem on a postcard that I call Love Letters from Life. Whenever I travel, I like to scatter these Love Letters everywhere I go.
I watch as people pick up the Love Letter that has the EXACT message they needed to hear that day.
Currently, I’m working on a book that tells the stories of the effect those Love Letters have had on people.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
One of the earliest books that had tremendous impact on me when I was young was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. That book inspired me to pursue the mysteries of life, the esoteric wisdom, and how we are in control of changing our destinies.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m excited to work with speakers, thought leaders and authors to build their story brand, so they can get booked on podcasts, on stages, and ultimately, to write their books.
When people embrace their story, they embody their power, and empower their lives.
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 fortunate to have many mentors in my life. The most powerful mentor for me in this past year, has been my mentor at Toastmasters Geoff.
Geoff is an 80-year-old Englishman who has taken care of his wife of 56 years, during her late-stages of Alzheimer’s. Throughout the time of Covid-19 lockdowns, Geoff has not only cooked Indian curry for his wife, while keeping his disposition positive, while expressing his deep sadness for not being able to visit his children and grandchildren.
While I have had the honor and privilege of being able to speak on some phenomenal stages, I always come back to the community of my Toastmasters club, with Geoff as my role model for what it is to be human.
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?
Don’t Fake It — Make It
In North America, a whopping 25% of women, over the age of 40, are on anti-depressant medication.
That means that in any family, community, breakfast table, or boardroom, one out of every four women are suffering from some form of depression. There are many more who suffer in silence.
We need to take a look at what is going on in the lives of successful, career-driven women.
They have tried the Gratitude practices that they heard touted by Oprah, or other celebrity icons. They concentrate on the positive, have an Attitude of Gratitude, appreciate things in their lives so that those things will appreciate, and repeated Thank You on a hyper-loop.
Yet, they still felt unfulfilled.
While they were busy feeling gratitude for all the things in their lives, they were missing one crucial step — all the appreciation they felt for the world outside of them, was silencing their secret inner world of desires.
All the gratitude that they felt compelled to feel was acting like a gag-order, silencing them from sharing what they truly wanted.
In the many hours that I’ve spent working with successful women, one trend becomes glaringly apparent.
Every woman would admit some version of the same thing — “I know I should be grateful for my husband, but secretly, I’m unfulfilled…”, or “I’m trying to appreciate my job, but I feel stuck…”, or “I know I should be happy I have these great kids, I mean, I LOVE being a mom, but, I still feel there’s something more I should be…”.
Added to the feelings of failure, the women felt a level of guilt for not being able to be in a state of enough gratitude.
The attitude of gratitude was like a muzzle used to shut these women up, to count their blessings rather than change their circumstances.
While appreciation for what we have is still very necessary, the pendulum has swung too far to the side of gratitude. We need to ensure that people empower themselves to change the things that don’t work in their lives.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
Brave New Words
Too often, we’ve been taught to speak only of everything as rosy and cheerful — the “glass is half full” kind of appreciation. We’ve been taught to use Positive Communications, such as positive affirmations.
Positive Communication comes from the MIND.
PASSIONATE Communication comes from the HEART.
While affirming positive statements is preferable to affirming negative ones, if you use positive affirmations that you don’t really believe, has the opposite effect than intended.
In 2009, a team of psychologists published a ground-breaking study, showed that when people do not believe the trueness of their statements, they actually feel worse about themselves. In the experiment, the participants were asked to repeat affirmations such as “I am loved” or “I am successful”. Studying the participants’ pulse and heartrates (the same technology as a lie-detector test), the researchers found that these affirmations had the reverse effect — making people feel an underlying level of fraud. Because they feel like these statements aren’t true, their subconscious mind fires back with an emphatic — No, you’re NOT!
On the other hand, when people are told it’s ok to have a myriad of emotions and to claim how they WANT to feel, they grant themselves permission to future project an experience or a feeling.
The way to achieve this shift is by declaring what you desire, rather than an affirmation.
What’s the difference between an affirmation and a declaration?
The distinction may seem subtle, but it’s significant.
An affirmation is a positive statement, disconnected from what your current experience is.
A declaration is making a desired outcome become evident, even self-evident, meaning evident to yourself. When you declare something, you are stating your right to the pursuit of the desired outcome.
Try it yourself, and you’ll feel how liberating it is.
Declare what you want.
Declare what you have a right to feel.
Declare what you want to be, do, and have.
And watch your world transform.
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?
PDA for the Day
In my book, Brave Ecstatic Woman, Seven Steps to Ignite Your Feminine Essence for an Audaciously Luscious Life, I describe a gratitude practice that I have implemented, and taught to my clients for the past twenty years.
This practice is called PDA for the DAY.
PDA is — Praise. Desire. Appreciation.
Praise for yourself. Yes, praise yourself.
Before looking outside of yourself for things to appreciate, begin by finding at least one thing every day that you love about yourself. It could be your smile, your patience, your generosity, your commitment to the people you love. This doesn’t mean you are being arrogant or narcissistic. This doesn’t mean you’ll be taking duck-lipped selfies to post on Instagram (unless that’s your thing, no judgement). Praise for yourself is an affirmation of your inherent value — regardless of outside perceptions. When your inner world looks beautiful, you project that to your outer world. Praise begins within.
Desire is a statement of what you would like to bring into your life. When you lose your desire, your senses shut down; you have no drive to move forward, and you lose your aliveness, the joie-de-vivre that is inherent in people who own their desires.
The Latin root for desire comes from the same origins as destiny, meaning — to await that which the stars shall bring.
Your desires are what you are uniquely designed to create and contribute.
If you ask the average woman what she desires, she will give you a laundry list of outward, quantifiable measures of success, but will be hard pressed to name one of her internal desires.
Appreciation is just like currency. Money has currency. Electricity has currency. In a river, the water flows in a current. Appreciation is just like that. It must have a source to flow into. In order to create more of anything you want in your life, you must create an outlet to let it flow.
Being in a state of appreciation keeps what you are appreciating current.
Keeping a PDA Journal encourages you to express your emotion from your heart — not just from your mind.
Each day for the next thirty days, write one thing you praise about yourself, one thing you desire in your life, and one thing you appreciate, whether that is in your life yet or not.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
When you develop the habit of appreciating all the things that have come into your reality, you begin celebrating every little win along the way to the things that you really want.
In my mastermind and accountability groups, I always structure each session with the W.I.N.S. template:
W — What Works
I — Intentions
NS — Next Steps
Celebrating the WINS is the key to everything.
Look at your previous week and notice What Worked. Then set the Intention for the upcoming week, with some clear and actionable Next Steps to achieve those Intentions. This sets you up on a cycle of success.
For instance, if you set the Intention to write a book. You estimate that you can set aside one hour, three evenings per week. The Next Steps for the upcoming week would be to write three hours. On Monday, you were able to write for only thirty minutes. You missed writing on Tuesday. By Wednesday, you forced yourself to write for twenty minutes, but you didn’t feel very inspired. By Friday, you added an hour to your progress. On Sunday, you decide to keep the commitment you made to yourself, as finish that final seventy-minute writing sprint.
When you look back at What Worked for the past week, you celebrate the WINS and that sends a message to your subconscious mind that — It’s working! Keep doing that!
You reward yourself with some sort of self-indulgence, guilt free.
The following week, the habit becomes easier.
The celebration of the WINS will set you up to crave more of that. With enthusiasm and excitement towards your project, you progress towards your desires exponentially.
The habit of looking at What’s Working applies to all areas of your life — health, relationships, career, personal development. When we focus on a plan and a strategy to implement that plan, it brings a mental clarity and balances your overall mental wellness.
Want to amplify your WINS by leaps and bounds?
Share your WINS with others.
You never know who you will inspire.
Or, how they will inspire you.
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?
The Five Ways That Each of Us Can Leverage the Power of Gratitude
The best way to remember how to leverage the power of gratitude is with the acronym S.A.V.E.S. which stands for Scripting, Attention, Visualization, Expression, and Storytelling.
Abra-Cadabra is an ancient Hebrew phrase, meaning “I create what I speak.”
The absolute BEST way to manifest what you want in your life is to Script it. If you have already experienced something to be grateful for, write a Thank-You card to the experience. Or, if it hasn yet to happen, create your compelling desires by scripting a scene of something you want, as if writing a scene to a movie. Feel the gratitude for that experience as you write. This starts to send out unconscious signals to your brain to watch out for the things you want.
When you write it down, you make it happen.
I’ve been keeping a journal for years. Sometimes, I’ll open up an old journal. I’m always amazed how every single thing I wrote down, came true.
Every. Single. Thing.
Attention — Where your Attention goes, your energy flows. So, pay attention to the things that you want more of in your life.
When my kids were little, I used to try to catch them being good. I would look out for behaviors that I really wanted to encourage and reward them for those. It’s amazing how good kids can be when they are encouraged to be good. The same is true for adults too.
Visualization — Scientific research has found that your brain fires the exact same synapses whether you’re performing a task or simply imagining that you are. To your subconscious mind, both are equally “real”. Your mind will try to fill the gap between the reality you are experiencing and your imagined reality. That means that you’ll suddenly get a brilliant insight into a problem, or you’ll get a boost of energy to complete a task. This trains your brain to focus on the solution, not the problem. You’ll find yourself able to connect the dots in ways you had not envisioned before.
It’s well known that Olympic athletes do this all the time. That’s how records get broken, like the four-minute mile. If it works for Roger Bannister, it’ll work for you too.
Expression — What comes out of your mouth, comes into your life. When you feel gratitude towards something, make sure to verbally acknowledge it. This works especially well towards people you appreciate. Everyone loves to be acknowledged, so make sure you give credit where credit is due. This is more than just saying thank you. Celebrate the people around you. Send them a note, or a voice message, or even a video.
Want to expand this by tenfold? Acknowledge someone in front of other people, and then just watch as they rise into that praise.
Storytelling — The narrative you attach to your experience becomes what you believe. Research has shown that our feelings are fleeting. In fact, we only experience any feeling, good or bad, for ninety seconds. After that, it’s the subjective story that we use to make meaning of the feeling.
So, try to shift every story you tell through the lens of gratitude.
Did you have a fight with your spouse?
Rather than commiserating about the disagreement, instead, shift the story to how boring it would be if they always agreed with you.
Are you scared of being late for an important meeting because you’re stuck in traffic?
Rather than falling into a downward spiral of worry, which is a misuse of your imagination, rewrite the story that if you are stuck in traffic, the person you’re meeting with must also be stuck, and now you have a shared experience!
Do you feel down because you’ve been laid off?
Remember hearing all those stories about the people you admire that have recreated themselves after being laid off? It’s time to tell the story of your rise to success in your new path,
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Meditation is like the human reset button. As the old Zen adage suggests — “You should sit and meditate for twenty minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.
How to See Yourself as You Really Are, by the Dalai Lama.
The Surrender Experiment, by Michael Singer.
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 would begin a movement where people would leave little Love Letters, my “Love Letters from Life”, for people to find. A little gesture of love and kindness to make someone else’s day.
I would LOVE to see this little token of kindness become a movement!
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Come visit me at www.MeravRichter.com or on social media platforms everywhere.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!