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“Putting down the mask”, Declan Edwards of BU Coaching and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

First and foremost, the most evidence based one, the most practical one, the one which I absolutely love is keeping a gratitude journal. All it needs to be is a little notebook and a pen. Put it on your pillow so then you literally can’t go to bed each night unless you fill it out. […]

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First and foremost, the most evidence based one, the most practical one, the one which I absolutely love is keeping a gratitude journal. All it needs to be is a little notebook and a pen. Put it on your pillow so then you literally can’t go to bed each night unless you fill it out. All you have to do is write down three things you’re grateful for that day and include WHY you are grateful for them.

I’d be lying to you if I said I write down 3 daily gratitudes every single day. But usually four out of seven days of the week I’m taking 10 minutes out of my day to write down and reconnect with what I’m grateful for. It’s something I revisit as well. When you’re having those difficult days you can go back and open up any page of that book, flick through it and be reminded of some of the beautiful things that you already have in your life.


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 “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Declan Edwards.

Declan Edwards is a thought-leader in the field of wellbeing and the Founder of BU Coaching — an organisation that is growing global wellbeing by empowering people with the tools and the team to thrive.

An avid believer in the potential of people, Declan has seen firsthand that when people are equipped with the strategies to manage their emotions and master their mindset they make a positive impact not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of those around them.

It is this impact that he is passionate about spreading.

As a published author, podcast host and international keynote speaker Declan is actively bringing the skillset of wellbeing back to the people and creating a world where people can thrive.


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 that brought you to your specific career path?

For most of my life, I really struggled with low self-esteem, negative body image and a lack of purpose in life. Unfortunately, this led to me being hospitalized with disordered eating after I unhealthily lost over 35kgs in a short amount of time. I felt lost, defeated and overwhelmed.

During my time in hospital, I realized that nothing was going to change with my physical health until I dealt directly with my mental health and emotional wellbeing. After reaching out to a personal mentor, and opening up to family and friends, about how I was feeling I began the journey of improving my self-esteem, emotional intelligence and overall sense of happiness. It finally felt like I had answers and direction.

Years later I’ve gone on to gain qualifications in fields such as Positive Psychology, NeuroLinguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Basically, I was immersing myself in any field that I felt was doing amazing research on how we can help people be happier.

After gaining my qualifications, and overcoming my own internal battles with my mind and emotions, I wanted to develop an approach to personal development and happiness that combined evidence-based techniques with a supportive and uplifting team of people. As a result, BU Coaching was born with the vision of ‘growing global wellbeing one mind at a time’.

It feels incredible to now be giving back and helping people through their own wellbeing journeys just like my mentors and coaches did for me all those years ago.

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

Definitely my Africa trip. We decided to do our first ever international wellbeing retreat and took a bunch of our members to do a safari and then climb Mt Kilimanjaro. It was the first time in the company’s history that I’d been away for a month.

When I came back we were in a position where we nearly halved in value. We were losing money rapidly. I think we had a two to three-month runway before the company was going to collapse. Again I found myself thrust into a state of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and defeated.

I went from one of my highest of highs (summiting the peak of Kilmanjaro) and then some of the lowest and most difficult moments in my career history.

As tough at this experience was it helped me realize how I had not built an organization or a culture that allowed the team to thrive without me there.

Thankfully since then, we have built an amazing team and workplace culture that continues to thrive even when I go on a holiday. It feels deeply rewarding to know that I’m not carrying it all on my shoulders anymore.

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?

The quote that immediately comes to mind is “Clear is kind” by Brene Brown.

It’s a nice reminder that being clear on our life vision, being clear with ourselves on how we’re feeling, and being clear on what matters to us is an expression of self-kindness. This also extends to being clear with those around us on our boundaries, our expectations and being able to have difficult conversations.

I think this resonates so much with me because I, like a lot of people, used to really struggle with having honest and open conversations. Especially if there was potential conflict or disagreement. I thought it was kinder to beat around to bush and try to preempt how other people would feel but this just led to a lot of miscommunication, misunderstandings, relationship breakdowns and hurt feelings.

Now I know that clarity is the key to healthy communication and this has helped me develop more fulfilling relationships with those around me. I feel more connected to, and more supported by, the people around me than I ever have before.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

Yes, shout out to Sebastian Terry. The book is called “100 things” and it really made an impact on me because it was my first exposure to someone who was living life on their terms rather than just following the “societal blueprint” for what a good life was.

It’s always the classic go to school, go to uni, get a job, get married, two kids, a dog, a mortgage and then retire. Instead, Seb set out to write 100 things that he thought would bring him happiness on his own terms.

It really impacted how I viewed my life and prompted me to start asking: “What matters to ME?”

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

The one I’m most excited about is developing a practical ‘Happiness Scorecard’ which will allow people to accurately measure their happiness and wellbeing before they hit rock bottom.

As the saying goes; ‘what we measure we can manage’. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are flying blind when it comes to their happiness and wellbeing, not knowing where they are at until they begin to struggle. The Happiness Scorecard test will change this by empowering people to have proactive and engaging insights into their own state of happiness at any point of time.

That way people feel like they can have a direct and proactive impact on their happiness rather. It will help put people back in the drivers seat of their own wellbeing.

We’ve just partnered with our local University to develop the Happiness Scorecard and we intend to make it available to the public for free by April 2020. If you want to take the test and receive your own Happiness Scorecard head to our website at www.bucoaching.org.

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 first unofficial mentor who I actually mentioned earlier, Seb Terry. I’ve just actually completed another coaching program with him and he really helped to shape the man I am today.

I’m incredibly grateful for everything he has done for me. He really helped me understand that all success stories are built around teamwork and collaboration.

This is something I’ve worked hard to build within my own team, especially when considering the whole ordeal after returning from Kilimanjaro that I mentioned above.

So honestly a lot of the gratitude I feel would be directed towards our team at BU Coaching and for everyone that supports us.

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?

That is a really good question.

Gratitude can be viewed conceptually as a practice; something you do intentionally, and we can also consider gratitude as an emotion in itself.

If we consider it an emotion like sadness or anger; the interesting thing with gratitude is that it has a magnifying effect. It can magnify happiness, it can magnify connection, it can magnify joy.

These benefits aren’t only experienced in the moment that we’re feeling gratitude. They have a lingering effect where we are slightly happier for days after experiencing gratitude.

If I was to define gratitude in a single sentence I would say “gratitude is a deeply transcending emotion that can help us connect with our happiness and our own sense of fulfillment.”

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

Another good question. I have 2 answers that come straight to mind. Let’s break them down.

The first reason is biological. We do have a negative cognitive bias as human beings, when you think back to us going through our evolution it was advantageous to think of the worst-case outcome first because then you were ready. This is where our fight and flight response comes from. So it has been shown in science that our brain does look for the worst-case outcome first, rather than be grateful for the good outcomes. In saying that, thanks to neuroplasticity, we can train our brain and change that habit over time.

The second reason is essentially the comparison trap; that being comparing what we have in our life to what we’re told we should have or what other people have. This is the hedonic treadmill of thinking “I’ll be happy when…”

Thinking “I’ll be happy when I have this new relationship” leads us to overlook and undervalue the relationships we already have in our life. Believing you’ll be happier when you get a new house leads your mind to devalue your current house. There is an underlying societal issue of always chasing happiness around the next corner, and always comparing what we have to what other people have, rather than just focusing on being grateful for ourselves and for our own life.

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, there’s so many.

The research has shown that gratitude can improve the quality and the depth of our relationships, not just romantically but socially as well.

Gratitude has been shown to have an impact on health, because it gets us out of that fight or flight response so we don’t experience as much stress. This can affect things like heart health and blood pressure; so practicing gratitude MAY have a physiological effect on your body which I find fascinating.

It goes without saying, but it also enhances our mental health and emotional well being. I don’t think there’s a single area of life that wouldn’t be positively impacted by gratitude and by connecting with that feeling regularly.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

The biggest way that gratitude improves mental wellness is by giving our mind more perspective on life. As we spoke about earlier, our mind tends to zoom in on ‘threats’ and dangers in life as a survival mechanism. However, when we regularly practice connecting to gratitude our mind is more able to see the good moments in life. This can help counteract worst-case scenario thinking, as well as anxiety and some forms of depression.

Another way gratitude improves our mental wellness is by magnifying and boosting other pleasurable emotions. When we are grateful for ourselves and our lives our sense of happiness tends to increase as does our experience of joy and connection.

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?

Big question but here goes.

First and foremost, the most evidence-based one, the most practical one, the one which I absolutely love is keeping a gratitude journal. All it needs to be is a little notebook and a pen. Put it on your pillow so then you literally can’t go to bed each night unless you fill it out. All you have to do is write down three things you’re grateful for that day and include WHY you are grateful for them.

I’d be lying to you if I said I write down 3 daily gratitudes every single day. But usually four out of seven days of the week I’m taking 10 minutes out of my day to write down and reconnect with what I’m grateful for. It’s something I revisit as well. When you’re having those difficult days you can go back and open up any page of that book, flick through it and be reminded of some of the beautiful things that you already have in your life.

The second one is called a silver linings practice. It’s a beautiful practice when you’re going through difficult moments that involves taking a little bit of breathing room and asking yourself, what might be the silver lining here?

My third tip is to share your gratitude. So share it with your family and friends. We know from research that shared gratitude is amplified gratitude.

The fourth tip on how you can bring more gratitude into your life is to give compliments freely. Tell people in your life that you’re grateful for them and thank them. It’s amazing how often as a society we spend our time talking about what’s NOT working well yet we forget to connect with what IS working well.

And then the fifth one (and this is a big one) is to increase your emotional intelligence. As I said above; gratitude is an emotion, which means the more you learn about your emotions, the more you understand them and the better you are equipped to work with your emotions effectively the more grateful you canbe. You can do that with a psychologist, therapist, counselor or Coach, like we have at BU Coaching. Just make sure you’re increasing your ability to manage your mind and master your emotions effectively through things like emotional intelligence.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

Out of the five practices I recommended above definitely go back to the silver linings exercise. If you are in that really difficult time just sit and ask yourself ‘how can this help me grow, what is this teaching me?’

Looking for the silver lining isn’t denying the fact that there’s a cloud there. We’re not trying to say ourselves to ourselves that life is all sunshine and rainbows. I never want you to minimise your grief. However, in even the darkest moments there are little glimmers of hope and gratitude that we can connect to if we choose to look for them.

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

Anything by Brene Brown is fantastic, she’s brilliant when it comes to emotional research and when it comes to things like compassion, which is a big part of feeling grateful.

Another is Dr. Martin Seligman for anything in the field of positive psychology.

There are also 2 specific books that I recommend. The first is “Authentic Happiness” by Dr Seligman. This book will give you a really good insight into the science of happiness and well-being.

Then the second is my own book (cheeky I know) called “Opportunityisnowhere — The Life-Changing Power of Perception”. The title in itself is a perception trick, and I’d invite you to re-read it and find both meanings.

You can get my book by searching the title online or via the BU Coaching website. It’s designed to help you start your journey towards increasing your self-perception and understanding your emotions; which of course leads you to experience gratitude more deeply.

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. 🙂

If I could start any movement it would be “putting down the mask” (which I know sounds weird in these times of COVID-19. What I mean by ‘putting down the mask’ is giving yourself permission to put down the facade of the perfect life. To be more human, more authentic, more real with yourself and identify what it means to just be you.

Being yourself, and living a life in alignment with your core values, can be scary but it’s also one of the greatest gifts that you can give to yourself, your loved ones and the world as a whole.

The world doesn’t need you to follow someone else’s blueprint for life, it needs you to show up wholeheartedly with your own blueprint.

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

You can find me on most of the social networks:

  • Instagram: @declanedwards_bu or @bu_coaching
  • Facebook: Declan Edwards or BU Coaching
  • Spotify & Apple Podcasts: ‘BU with Declan Edwards’
  • ClubHouse: @declanedwardsbu
  • Website: www.bucoaching.org

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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