Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Rethinking Gratitude With Casey Johnson
[00:00:02] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 443 of Live Happy Now. November is National Gratitude Month. This week, we’re rethinking everything we know about how to practice gratitude.
I’m your host, Paula Felps, and every year around this time, we at Live Happy like to celebrate gratitude. But this time, we took a slightly different approach. So I’m sitting down with Live Happy’s Social Media Marketing Manager, Casey Johnson, who joined me on a quest to find unconventional ways to create or add to your gratitude practice. As you’re about to hear, we found some great new ways to build gratitude, and we’re even going to tell you how to get the whole family involved. Let’s have a listen.
[00:00:45] PF: Hey, Casey. How’s it going today?
[00:00:47] CJ: Good. How about yourself?
[00:00:49] PF: I’m doing great. It’s gratitude month.
[00:00:52] CJ: Yes, our favorite time of the year.
[00:00:55] PF: It is. That’s like such a big deal for us. I mean, I know people think we’re like these gratitude geeks, which I guess we are but –
[00:01:02] CJ: We definitely are. Yes.
[00:01:04] PF: But it’s fun, and what I’m excited about this year is we do talk about gratitude so much. So we wanted to find a way to approach it a little bit differently. You and I had conversations around that. I think because of that, I’m going to let you explain what we decided to do.
[00:01:20] CJ: Yes, absolutely. This year, we wanted to look for, like you said, some new ways to practice gratitude that maybe we haven’t thought about in the past. For example, when most people think of gratitude, they think about like jotting down a few things in your journal that you’re grateful for, which is a great practice. I mean, I do this often. But sometimes, you can feel burnt out from doing the same gratitude practice over and over. Sometimes, you might just stop practicing gratitude because you feel burnt out doing the same practice. So with that being said, it turns out that there’s a lot of cool things that we hadn’t thought of, and I’m excited to jump in.
[00:02:00] PF: Well, I know, and it was kind of fun. We were like gratitude detectives.
[00:02:04] CJ: We were with our magnifying glass.
[00:02:07] PF: Yes, we were a little bloodhound there. Yes. We were looking for it. It’s like, “Okay, what can we do differently?” Like you said, there’s a lot of different ways. What I love about this is we do kind of get caught up in like, okay, this is how we practice gratitude, and we don’t really think outside the box. There was even a study that showed in one of the Asian countries that the young people who were asked to practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal started becoming depressed because they felt like they didn’t have any new things. So it became counterproductive to just keep a gratitude journal. I think that kind of speaks to what you were saying. You can start feeling burnt out on it, and you want something new.
[00:02:47] CJ: Exactly.
[00:02:48] PF: One thing that I learned this year, and this was really life-changing for me, I interviewed Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar earlier this year, and he talked about his gratitude practice. This is something he has done every day since September of 1999, and he can tell you the exact day. But he said he uses Barbara Frederickson’s theory of heartfelt positivity. So what he does is when he writes down something he’s grateful for, he doesn’t just stop there. So he’s not like, “I’m grateful for –”
Like in my case, my dog, Josie. What I would do is like I’m going to write down Josie’s name, and then I’m going to shut my eyes, and I’m going to think about a time that I spent with her and how it made me smile, how it made me feel. Really take myself back in that time and feel not just the gratitude I have for her being in my life but feel that positive emotion that she brings to me. I thought, wow, that is such a powerful way to harness gratitude, and it’s super effective.
[00:03:48] CJ: I absolutely agree, and that reminds me of something I saw today actually on Instagram. I learned about this term called glimmer. Have you heard of glimmers?
[00:03:59] PF: I’ve been hearing about that. Yes. Tell us about that.
[00:04:01] CJ: So it’s basically like the opposite of a trigger. So like glimmers are those micro-moments in your day that make you feel joy, happiness, or gratitude. So for myself and even for our listeners, like once you train your brain to be on the lookout for glimmers and even just gratitude, the more these tiny moments will begin to appear. When you were talking about Josie, it kind of reminded me of glimmers.
[00:04:29] PF: That’s very cool. Yes. That’s exactly what it is. Like it’s bringing that to mind, and it brings back those feelings. So you had one that I liked that you were talking about called a portrait in gratitude, which is it all ties into this. So you want to tell us what that’s about?
[00:04:45] CJ: Yes. So I recently read about this insomnia hack. So here’s what it said. If you can’t sleep at night, you have trouble sleeping, I have trouble falling asleep sometimes myself, they said to think of something or someone you appreciate and all of the reasons or memories surrounding that person or thing. So it’s like a super simple practice that you can do just laying in bed, and it’ll naturally relax your mind and body, which in return will help you fall asleep. Hopefully, you’ll be falling asleep with a heart full of gratitude.
[00:05:21] PF: That’s nice and that changes how you wake up, too.
[00:05:24] CJ: It does. Yes. It really does. When I go to bed at night, like my evening routine, I try to make sure like it’s full of positivity and things like that. I try not to watch like True Crime before I go to bed. Otherwise, like –
[00:05:38] PF: Or the news.
[00:05:39] CJ: Or the news. Yes, seriously. But, yes, no, you’re totally right.
[00:05:43] PF: You could also use that when you’re waking up, I would think, because I don’t have trouble falling asleep. I’m like I see the bed, I hit the bed, I am the bed.
[00:05:53] CJ: I’m so jealous of people like you.
[00:05:56] PF: But on the other hand, like waking up I need to do slowly. I feel like, for me, that’s one that I would use as I’m waking up and trying to enter my day.
[00:06:06] CJ: Yes.
[00:06:07] PF: Yes. That is very cool. One of the things that I found talked about the five senses of gratitude. We know that sound and smell are really, really powerful. What the five senses of gratitude is about is just closing your eyes. We close our eyes a lot in this practice, I guess. Don’t do this while you’re driving.
So when you’re – like whatever moment that you’re in and to find that gratitude for that moment just kind of close your eyes and take in the sounds, the smells. Like feel what’s around you, the texture of what’s around you, and even the taste. Then, yes, look around and look at what you appreciate and what you see. Just kind of take time to drop into that and really spend time in that moment, feeling each sense, and identifying it.
[00:07:03] CJ: I really like that. It kind of reminds me of like a gratitude meditation almost.
[00:07:09] PF: Yes, yes. Because it’s hard to be stressed out if you are completely absorbed in your surroundings, unless you’re in really stressful surroundings. But, yes, you’re going to relax and you’re really going to get rid of whatever is hanging around you that day, whatever might be going on in your life, and just be in that moment with all five of your senses.
[00:07:32] CJ: Yes. I love that.
[00:07:34] PF: You had another one because I know –
[00:07:35] CJ: Yes, I did. So we talk a lot about being grateful for what we have. But one way to experience more gratitude can be to imagine our lives without something. So, for example, sometimes when I feel stressed, I’ll close my eyes, not behind the wheel. I’ll close my eyes and imagine that – this kind of ties into what you’re talking about, but anyway. So I’ll close my eyes and imagine the space around me. I’ll try to see how many things I can picture in my mind that I’m grateful for. So this could be anything like Wi-Fi, my phone, my couch. Really makes me sound like a millennial but these things are truly difficult to live without in our modern world. Maybe not the couch. That’s just kind of a nice thing to have. But like Wi-Fi and phone, like it’s so important to be connected. That’s how we do our work, stay connected with loved ones.
Anyway, after you imagine those things, then open your eyes and just like take a moment and just take it all in and appreciate everything as it is. It’s just a way of – it’s different from gratitude journaling because you’re really just like leaning into like the simplicity of these objects that we don’t realize how much we rely on daily.
[00:09:00] PF: Yes. When I find that really useful, too, is when I’m having a bad technology day, and you’re at that point where you just really want to throw the computer out the window. Instead, if you can do that, if you can be like, “All right. Well, what would I do without this computer?” I just try to look at it differently and try to find this gratitude or appreciation. Like, yes, even though this technology is wreaking havoc on my mental health at this very moment, it allows me to work. It allows me to work with Live Happy. It allows me to talk to people around the country for the podcast. There’s so much that it allows me to do.
Another way that that’s useful, and this is something I learned from Stacy Kaiser, the therapist, and she had been on our show a few times. She did a post one time, talking about when you are frustrated with your partner, your spouse, any close loved one, imagine your life without them, and it will give you a different perspective. It does. I’ve used that many, many times ever since I read that from her, and it’s kind of that same thing. It gives you gratitude when you think about the fact that they may not always be in your life.
That is a cool way to do gratitude is to like look at it. Like reverse it, instead of looking at it as what you have being grateful for. When you think of yourself without it, you’re grateful for it. That was another thing that I found that was called a reverse bucket list. It kind of goes along that same vein, where instead of thinking about all the things that we still want to do because that can create a sense of FOMO in itself. Like, “Oh, man. I still want to go,” whatever. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I don’t want to do that, by the way. Just saying that.
[00:10:47] CJ: Just for an example.
[00:10:49] PF: Yes, yes. But instead, thinking about the things that you have done that were just amazing that you’ve already checked off that so-called bucket list. I think that – Cindy, my partner, is a photographer, and that’s been really helpful because we’ve had amazing trips. All of the art in our home are photos that she’s taken, and they all have a –
[00:11:10] CJ: Oh, amazing.
[00:11:12] PF: Yes. They all have a special meaning because it was somewhere fantastic that we went, and I love that about it. This reverse bucket list allows you to go back and look at the things that you’ve done and the gratitude that you have for having been able to do that.
[00:11:30] CJ: I love that, and I just love that all of your art is her photography. That is goals.
[00:11:37] PF: Yes, it is. It’s fun. It’s fun.
[00:11:39] CJ: Yes. You know, speaking of like gratitude turnarounds, this made me think of another thing that I recently read. For me, I’ve started doing this. When my negative thoughts start to spiral, it’s helpful for me to go back to the basics, and grab a pen and paper. So what to do with the pen and paper, you draw a line down the middle of the page. On one side, create a list of all the things that are upsetting you in that moment, that are triggering those negative thoughts. Then on the other side of the page, turn each scenario and see if you can see each complaint in a more positive life.
So it ties into what you’re saying, like that reverse gratitude. Again, the example of like loved ones. So here’s an example. It’s somewhat true. My sister and I are really close, and she hasn’t returned my calls in a few days. She’s got two kids. I’m like not holding it against her, but we’re close. We talk a lot.
[00:12:38] PF: You were there before the kids. Come on.
[00:12:40] CJ: I know. So instead of being upset about it, I shift my mindset into I’m grateful to be so close to my sister. Or like I’m grateful that my sister is in my life and healthy and happy and has these beautiful children, that I allow her not to call me back.
[00:12:58 PF: Yes. See. I like doing that because it takes the focus off of you. Instead of it being you haven’t called me back, then it’s on we have this incredible relationship. I think that can really help a relationship blossom because sometimes, especially in instances like that, and it can happen with friends, like friends who live far away, and you go a long time without talking to each other, and you start feeling like, “Well, I was the last one that called them, and they haven’t called me.” Instead of getting caught up in that little vortex, yes, you can actually enrich that relationship by cultivating your sense of gratitude. Like why are they such a great friend? Why have you had them in your life for so long? What is it you appreciate about them? I think that’s amazing. The next time you do talk to them, you’re going to have a richer experience.
So now, one reason that we want to talk about gratitude is because we have Thanksgiving coming up, and that’s always the whole thank you thing. What I think is really cool is if you can get the whole family working together on gratitude and not just going around everybody names one thing that they’re thankful for, which is, I mean, that’s nice. It’s a nice thing to do. But I think, okay, people can step it up just a little bit and one –
[00:14:21] CJ: It’s kind of like getting burnt out from the gratitude journaling.
[00:14:26] PF: Yes. Because you know people are thinking like three days in advance. It’s like, “Okay. Well, Bob’s going to say this, and so I’m going to say this.” You kind of are like already planning. So one of the things that I saw, and this was so cool, it’s called the gratitude game. So the first person has to say something that they’re grateful for. For example, if I say Casey, so the next person now has to say something they’re grateful for, but it’s got to start with a Y because that’s what Casey ends with.
[00:15:02] CJ: Oh, wow.
[00:15:03] PF: Yes. So then you go around, and then nothing can be repeated. Then you have to go around, and everybody has to come up with something they appreciate based on the last letter of what the person before them said.
[00:15:18] CJ: That is so fun. I am implementing that in my family’s Thanksgiving this year.
[00:15:23] PF: Do it. I think that sounds like a lot of fun.
[00:15:24] CJ: That is such a great idea.
[00:15:26] PF: Yes. It just kind of shakes up the whole what I’m grateful for, and it makes you work harder. We know that when your brain starts looking for gratitude, it rewires. So that’s – so you’re actually doing your family a favor, even if they’re like, “Casey, no. We’re not going to do that.”
[00:15:44] CJ: Yes. I’m sure they’ll be like, “Of course, you recommended this.” But then once they start playing it, I mean, they’ll have fun with it. Like just hearing you explain the rules, like that sounds so fun. That’s very on-brand for me and definitely making my family do that this year.
[00:15:59] PF: Yes. I like the idea of shaking it up a little bit and making people –
[00:16:02] CJ: Yes. Keep things fresh.
[00:16:03] PF: Yes, yes. You probably get some funny answers, too, that people would not have come up with before then. Then there was one other that we talked about, and I think this sounds like such a cool thing to do. That is the gratitude board. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
[00:16:22] CJ: Yes, definitely. So I saw this recently, and it’s not – it’s kind of like a vision board, but it’s all centered around gratitude, right? So it’s pictures of people, places, things, experiences that create happiness in your life.
[00:16:41] PF: Vision boards. I mean, people have a lot of fun doing vision boards. So I think the idea of doing a gratitude board and just being able to put on their photos or cut out from magazines or just words of things you’re grateful for, what a great activity. That is way better than like passing out from turkey tryptophan coma after dinner. I think that would be a really fun thing to do like after Thanksgiving dinner.
[00:17:07] CJ: I agree. Again, I saw this on Instagram. I saw this couple. They took this not like parchment paper, but it’s just this long sheet of paper, and they stuck it on their pantry. It was just like a large – so we do our Happy Acts walls, right? It was kind of like a Happy Acts wall, but it was a gratitude wall. So anytime you walk past the door, you jot something down that you’re grateful for, and they keep it up all month.
[00:17:31] PF: I love that.
[00:17:33] CJ: Yes.
[00:17:33] PF: Oh, that’s fun. You know what? You could even do that like if you’re having people over to your house or whoever’s house you’re going to for Thanksgiving, and talk to them, and have them put something like that up, and have everybody who comes in like write something they’re grateful for. That would be so cool.
[00:17:48] CJ: Exactly.
[00:17:49] PF: I like that. These are some really cool ideas. I think there’s a lot of great ways to approach gratitude. I for one am excited to try some new things and new ways to do it, and look at new ways to bump up my own gratitude practice, and maybe help share that with others around me. Speaking of sharing it, we have the Live Happy Gratitude Challenge coming up.
[00:18:11] CJ: We sure do. It’s –
[00:18:13] PF: You are the Gratitude Queen, so you got to tell us about it.
[00:18:16] CJ: Gratitude Queen, I love that. Yes. It’s our third year doing the gratitude challenge, so we’re going to – it’s, obviously, all month, whenever you want to do it. But it’s kind of fun like doing it the week before, like leading up to Thanksgiving. Anyway, so the gratitude challenge, it’s seven days, very doable. We’re not asking you to do a whole month of gratitude, although you should.
[00:18:39] PF: You could.
[00:18:40] CJ: You could and you should.
[00:18:42] PF: We will not judge if you do a whole month.
[00:18:44] CJ: That’s right. So the first day, day one of the gratitude challenge is think of two challenges you’re grateful for and what positive things you learned. I just want to share a quick story real quick because it ties into this practice, and I love that we’re kicking it off with this one. I think it’s important we reflect on our growth and overcoming adversity. So an example of mine, I used to play D1 tennis in college, and I tore ligaments in both of my wrists at the same time. I was around like 18 or 19 when this happened. I had to have back-to-back wrist surgeries and would be out for almost two years. So 18, 19-year-old me thought it was the end of the world.
[00:19:31] PF: Oh, yes.
[00:19:33] CJ: You know. So I like had this vision of like my path, and that was no longer my path. I had to take a turn. So it took time to adjust in that chapter. Now, 15 years later, I’m grateful for those injuries because I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn new things and probably wouldn’t have met the amazing people I did along the way. So that’s just one example of how to think of those challenges.
[00:20:03] PF: Yes. I love that. I love that because that kind of perspective. I love it when you can look back and say that is not at all what I would have chosen, and I’m so grateful for the way it went.
[00:20:13] CJ: Exactly. So that is day one. Day two is what skills are you grateful to have. Think about it and thank it. One skill I’m thankful for is my organizational skills. I’m going to put you on the spot, Paula. What skill are you grateful to have, aside from being an amazing podcast host, of course?
[00:20:33] PF: I am super grateful that I was born a writer. I’ve been able to meet people, go places, do things. It’s like been this most incredible gift that God gave me, and I just – I love it. I love that I get to get up every day and do something that I love. I’m so fortunate.
[00:20:53] CJ: Yes. You are a master of words, I will say.
[00:20:55] PF: Oh, I thank you.
[00:20:57] CJ: So that’s day two. Day three, if you’ve had a positive experience at a business, write a kind review.
[00:21:04] PF: That’s a great thing to do.
[00:21:05] CJ: Yes.
[00:21:05] PF: Love that.
[00:21:05] CJ: It’s super simple, especially if it’s a small business. We love to support our small businesses. Leave them a nice review. You just have no idea how much it means to small business owners. Day four is think about what foods you’re grateful for and give thanks to the nourishment your body receives from those foods.
[00:21:25] PF: I like that.
[00:21:26] CJ: Yes. If you can –
[00:21:26] PF: I’m [inaudible 00:21:26].
[00:21:28] CJ: Yes. I love that. I really do think that food is medicine, and we need to be – just think more grateful of the easy access we have to those fresh fruits and vegetables, just clean ingredients. If you can, donate whatever that food is to a food bank or make a donation to their website.
[00:21:46] PF: Yes. That’s great.
[00:21:47] CJ: Day five, think of three memories you’re most thankful for. Bonus, if it involves someone, send them the memory via text or Snapchat or whatever channel makes sense for you.
[00:22:01] PF: I love that. You know what? People love it when you do that because I’ve had several incidents throughout my life. I’ll think about it, and I’ve just started making a practice of like, “You know, today, I thought about the time that you were in England, and you did this.” Blah, blah. They’re shocked that you remember. They’re touched that you remember. It gives them a warm feeling, too, because it takes them back as well.
[00:22:24] CJ: Exactly. I love that. I use Snapchat. I mean, I don’t use Snapchat like most people do. I take videos or photos, and then I save it to my memories because I love when those memories pop up at the end of the month. So like I had some memories pop up from 2021, and these were, I guess, glimmers that I forgot about. So I just love seeing that, whether it’s my own personal memory or something I’ve shared with someone else.
[00:22:56] PF: That’s very cool.
[00:22:57] CJ: Yes. Day five, think of those memories. Okay. Day six, what exercise are you most thankful you’re able to do, and do it. Do that exercise.
[00:23:09] PF: I like it.
[00:23:10] CJ: Okay. Day seven, last but not least. Make a list of all the material comforts you’re thankful for. So currently, I’m thankful for my record player, fuzzy blankets, and candles without toxic ingredients, of course.
[00:23:24] PF: There you go. I like it. I like it.
[00:23:26] CJ: Yes. So that is the seven-day gratitude challenge. I hope everyone participates when you can. It’s gratitude month. Let’s lean into the joy.
[00:23:36] PF: I love it. I love it. Then are you going to give them more joy by giving them a discount in the store?
[00:23:41] CJ: You know it. We –
[00:23:42] PF: I thought you might.
[00:23:44] CJ: You know it. So we’re offering 30% off storewide, November 20th through 27th. So you’ve got seven days at store.livehappy.com. All you have to do is use the code GRATEFUL 30 at checkout.
[00:23:59] PF: Awesome, awesome. Well, this will be fun. It’s a lovely, lovely Thanksgiving season, a lot to be grateful for this year. I’m grateful that you sat down and talked to me about this today.
[00:24:12] CJ: Oh. Well, thank you. I am grateful to talk about all of this stuff with you as well.
[00:24:18] PF: Casey, thank you for joining me on this gratitude adventure, finding new ways to celebrate it. We’ll keep looking. We’ll keep looking for more ways to express our gratitude.
[00:24:30] CJ: Always. Thank you for having me.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:23:47] PF: That was Live Happy’s own, Casey Johnson, talking with me about new ways to practice gratitude. Be sure to check out the Live Happy store to get 30% off everything in the store, just by using the code GRATITUDE 30. You can do that when you visit us at livehappy.com.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day happy one.