Identify one thing about your personal life that you are grateful for and then document at least three ways that you can love yourself better. Ensuring that you are a priority and your mental wellness is importance is key. Putting this into practice will help improve your mood, self-care regimen, and your friendship with yourself.
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 Sharon J. Lawrence.
Sharon J. Lawrence is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Life Coach, Speaker, and Author. She is the owner of Selah Wellness & Therapeutic Services ™, LLC based out of Maryland where she provides Therapy to Therapists, Professionals and Couples. Sharon has books on healthy relationships, self-care, boundaries, and gratitude. With 20 years of experience, her mission is to support professionals in the area of wellness, wholeness, balance, and boldness.
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 born and raised in New York City. I can remember always wanting to be a nurse until I realized that I did not like hospitals and that there was a risk of me not being able to complete my studies. After being instructed by my academic advisor to take a semester off and decide what I wanted to do, I took a strong look at what I was really drawn to. I spent two months learning about other career paths and took notes on what I was good at. It was not hard to identify that from a very young age, I was a helper to so many and loved doing so. That was in 1996. I transferred to another higher education institution where I started fresh and never looked back. I obtained three degrees in Human Services and Social Work allowing me to have a successful 20-year career in helping others.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I have always been a person who has the ability to encourage myself to go for something even if no one else believes in me. I have always been that individual who will take the risk and trust that everything will be okay. In 2008, I remember wanting to work for the court system because I knew it was going to be the position that would prepare me for the next phase in my career. That one day came when there was a custody evaluator position available. So, I applied. It was great however, it meant I would have to take a 10,000 dollars pay cut if I accepted the position. Believe it or not, I did. It was the best decision ever. I never struggled and after three years of being there, I was able to apply for a higher paying position with the State of Maryland with another court team. Although, this was six years into my career as a Social Worker, I knew it was the best thing for me. The position, team, and the skills I learned enhanced my work ethic and prepared me for greater.
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?
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.” -Audrey Hepburn. I can remember as a child and young adult feeling dismissed and at times unsupported by those closest to me. However, I seem to always connect to good people who were motivating and extremely driven. This was encouraging for me and caused me to want to make it. Failure was never an option for me despite those who did not possess the ability to speak life over my life. I realized with much faith, a good support system, and hard work that I had to do everything possible to make it in life. My life as a whole is a testimony of mental, emotional, and spiritual strength.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
The Power of Habit Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business by Charles Duhigg. Three years ago, I was visiting a loved one in South Carolina and decided to visit the book store to get some reading material. I picked up Charles Duhigg’s book and immediately thought to myself, “this is going to be good!” I had no idea that it would shape how I speak to myself, to others and how I train people on how to speak to themselves. His book helped me to understand the power of having a solid keystone in place to ensure the stability of whatever it is I am building. I have never looked at goals, plans, or making decisions the same ever since I read that book. It is life changing.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In 2018, I began conducting an annual webinar called Balance Boldly. It was created for professionals and coaches to learn better ways to improve self-care strategies, relationships (with themselves, others and money), and boundary setting. After my most recent and successful webinar, I have begun working on creating online courses for others to access and sign up for additional coaching support. By having recorded coaching programs with modules and assignments, I am certain that individuals will be able to improve tremendously. For a reasonable rate, individuals will be able to access the courses at their leisure and from anywhere in the world. This will allow them to work at their pace, practice skills, and focus on themselves with practical tools.
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?
This question always presents with a little difficulty, as I have a list of individuals, I am truly grateful for in regards their support of me over the years. However, I can highlight one individual who has been a supporter since the beginning of our friendship, Dr. Vicki T. Sapp. I met Dr. Sapp while attending Fredonia State College — State University of New York in 1998. Instantly, she became a supporter, cheerleader and friend. She would encourage me to take on student leadership and team positions within student government, student affairs and campus life. As a result of her guidance, I became the president of Sisters Supporting Sisters, an Orientation Leader, and Resident Assistant. With the confidence I gained in these roles, I also applied for summer and yearly positions with the Upward Bound Program. This encouragement and guidance assisted me in building my resume, improving professional skills, communication and writing skills. Dr. Sapp has been a true gift to me and so many others. The impact she has made, encourages me to pay it forward to others in the field. I am grateful to emulate her helping spirit.
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?
The concept of Gratitude is the ability to not only see the good, but to embrace it, welcome it, and walk with it through whatever is going on around you and within you. Gratitude is knowing that no matter what is happening, there are still some things that are good and well within the fiber of your very being. It is counting the small things and trusting that everything will be okay.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
We unfortunately live in a society and world where instant gratification is something that exist way more than patience. Some people are able to get things done instantly without any hard work. Once a person achieves something, they fail to celebrate the small wins and they have a mindset that they must move on to the next thing… and the next, and so forth before they are able to ever celebrate. When individuals think in this manner, they find hard to come to a place of satisfaction. This results in possibly never being grateful for what you have and what you are working towards.
Practicing gratitude and the emotion itself is something that is learned. If this emotion or behavior is something that is not emulated by those around you such as parents, other family, or friends, then it will not be second nature. If you are taught that you are supposed to do something versus learning how to be grateful for that which you are doing, then you are going to disconnect from the concept of gratitude. It is easy to for a simple emotion to be so elusive especially, if there is a sense of entitlement or even selfishness. These are the twins who fight against the power of gratitude. They can actually create blinders and make it difficult to be grateful.
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?
Having increased gratitude can create the following:
- It allows you to extend grace to yourself and others
- Decreases negative thoughts, therefore reducing the amount of negativity that is held physically. We all know that the body holds on to stress and trauma causing physical concerns.
- Changes your perspective in multiple areas of your life
- Enhances friendships and communication
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
- Improves mood
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
- Decreases negative thought patterns and believes about self
- As a result of your thoughts changing, your behavior changes for the better
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?
- Speaking gratitude affirmations out loud daily. Simply being intentional before you get out of the bed, identify and say out loud 3–5 things that you are grateful for. This action will cause you to pause and take a moment to start your day off in a positive light. By slowing down and highlighting that which you are grateful for will allow you to chart out the rest of your day based on your actions, thoughts, and feelings from that moment.
- Identify one thing about your personal life that you are grateful for and then document at least three ways that you can love yourself better. Ensuring that you are a priority and your mental wellness is importance is key. Putting this into practice will help improve your mood, self-care regimen, and your friendship with yourself.
- Using the skillset of reframing helps to reshape a person’s language and thought patterns. When someone learns how to turn a negative into positive by simply looking for the good that actually exists, it is a win. They have created an opportunity to be happy about something significant, but not necessarily seen by others. However, they see it, highlight it and make it a moment of gratitude. That is powerful and that is reframing.
- Taking a walk daily assists with the improvement of one’s mood due to their ability to connect with nature and movement causing you to practice your gratitude thoughts. Walking also helps reduce tension which helps one sleep better at night. Being at optimal performance makes it possible for one to improve their mental wellness and physical health.
- Consider connecting with mental health professional who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. By having a trusted professional who is neutral yet vested in your mental wellness journey, you increase your chances of improving your symptoms, your ability to practice gratitude allowing it to become easier to identify those things that you are grateful for and you strengthen your toolkit of things that will help you along the way.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Try gratitude journaling. It is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression when someone journals about their feelings and then partners it with something they are grateful for in that moment. Be okay with sitting with what you are feeling and the impact. You do not have to rush through a difficult moment. However, please be sure to consider those things that are good and well in your life. Document them well and highlight how grateful you are that they exist in the midst of challenging times.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
- Successful Women Speak Differently by Valorie Burton
- EntrepreFriendships™ by Monique Melton
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 am a firm believer that if something is working why not share it with the world. I have been on a major movement of helping professionals and therapists learn the importance of balance and how to do it boldly. I would create an ambassador program from all over the world where individuals would create short video clips or send in short messages and tips that can be shared with anyone in the world. It may sound simple, but I found that the simple things are what is needed during these times. So many people are struggling with the concept of balance and therefore are unable to find the good or even define what it looks like. People need motivation. They need reminders that they are important, enough and truly worthy of good things and good experiences.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Sharon J. Lawrence can be found all social media platforms @myselahwellness and on LinkedIn as Sharon J. Lawrence. If someone would like additional information, they can visit www.myselahwellness.com .
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!