Gratitude: Strength Training for the Heart
This week on The Motivational Intelligence Podcast, Sean Johnson and John Casey take a deep dive into gratitude and all of the happiness it brings. Successful people are often very happy people, but why is that? It is likely that they are practicing gratitude daily. While gratitude is mentioned very frequently during this time of year, many studies and research show that making a daily habit of practicing gratitude can be a completely life-changing experience. Even something as simple as keeping a “Gratitude Journal” where your write down everything you are grateful for each day can reduce negative feelings and change your mindset.
There are seven key benefits of gratitude:
- Better Relationships– the more grateful and appreciative you are towards someone, the stronger and longer lasting the relationship will be.
- Improved Physical Health– The more grateful you are, the more physically well you will feel. You will also be more likely to work out and do check-ups more frequently.
- Better Psychological Health– Gratitude decreases the likelihood of feeling negative and toxic emotions, such as frustration and resentment. It reduces the chance of feeling depressed or anxious as well.
- Enhanced Empathy and Reduced Aggression– People who practice gratitude are less likely to push back when receiving negative feedback and have more empathy and understanding towards other people.
- Better Sleep– Studies show that practicing gratitude can help you sleep better and longer, simply by writing in a “Gratitude Journal” before going to bed.
- Improved Self–Esteem: Gratitude helps boost self-esteem and also reduced the need to compare yourself to others. It is easier to admire someone’s accomplishments instead of resenting them for doing well.
- Increased Mental Strength- Studies have shown that gratitude can decrease stress and help overcome trauma. Even during difficult times, you are able to find the silver lining.
These seven benefits are explored and discussed in great detail during this week’s episode. Sean and John share their own experiences with practicing gratitude and how it has impacted their lives. They also discuss several small but powerful things that you can do every single day to practice attitude and overall, become a happier, more fulfilled person! Check out “Episode 27: Gratitude: Strength Training for the Heart” and let us know what you think on social media!
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Episode 27 – Gratitude: Strength Training for the Heart
Sean Johnson: Alright, we’re back in the studio with John. John, what’s going on, man?
John Casey: Oh, everything and nothing, Sean, as is always the case. Everything and nothing.
Sean Johnson: Everything and nothing.
John Casey: Well, we are going to get a little transcendental and maybe existential, so…
Sean Johnson: Wow, transcendental and existential?
John Casey: Yeah. If we can do both at the same time,
Sean Johnson: Wow. So are you just like about to blow people’s minds?
John Casey: Well, yeah, of course.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. It’s kind of what we do, right? Alright. So what I wanted to talk about today is, what we try to do with all of these conversations is take a deep dive into what’s going on in the minds of successful people. I think one part of that success is happiness. So what I wanted to kind of focus today on was what’s going on in the minds of happy people and what can we learn from that? Are there paths that we can take and practices that we can use and all that kind of stuff, in order to improve that part of our lives and improve the quality of our lives?
John Casey: Yeah. You bet. Happiness can be the end of the goal, or it can be part of the means. It’s such a personal and individual journey, that it’s really hard to create some path that all can take. But if we could talk about, what it is that anyone or everyone can and should embody on their own journey that will help accelerate their journey to happiness and their own definition of success. I think that’s really the key. By the way, we’re recording this podcast in early December.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Good time of year.
John Casey: So it is a great time of year to talk about gratitude and being thankful. Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s celebrated in the United States at the end of November, middle of October in Canada, in all parts of the world. Our calendar of course is a manmade convention, but the seasons are not. In cultures across the world, at the end of the year, usually after the harvest is brought in, there is a gratitude celebration. There is a thankful celebration that cultures throughout human history, have celebrated because they’re grateful for what they have and that they’re still with us. This is such a universal topic. As I was thinking about the subject and going through my voluminous list of quotes, I found quotes from every culture from human history. For example, here’s a Chinese proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a month, get married. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.” Then here comes the clincher. “If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.” Wow, very revealing. Here’s a quote that is attributed to Buddha: “Let us rise up and be thankful. For if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little. And if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick. And if we got sick, at least we didn’t die. So let us all be thankful.” That clearly lets us know that if we look, we can always find something, to show some gratitude for. In Roman times, Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the mother of all others.” So, there is a historical and cultural bedrock or foundation, for this wonderful ability that we all possess. In some of our other talks, we’ve talked about what is innate to humans and what isn’t. Ever since we’ve decoded the entire human genome, we know what our genes do and none of them really go to skill or our job or career. They don’t drive our success. They kind of create our central nervous system and our brain and our physical characteristics and we get to kind of do everything else on our journey.
So the things that were actually innate, and I’ve been reading about this for a few decades now, breathing, it’s called involuntary. You can’t not do it. Obviously those that are born without that involuntary breathing thing don’t last very long. So they don’t pass on their genes. Suckling is also innate. Some newer research shows laughing is innate. It doesn’t have to be taught. You don’t have to learn it by mimicking another. It’s automatic. It’s natural. You see this very early in newborns, along with smiling. Even babies that are born blind, so they have no visual reference, no copy and no reference point. They will still smile. So, it’s involuntary. Here’s the latest: helping is innate. It’s born to all. So they got eight, nine, ten month old babies and they had them on the floor crawling around, active and alert and an adult would drop something within the reach of a newborn or baby, couple months old, crawling. Time after time that baby, noticing that somebody dropped something, would reach for it, pick it up and hold it to the person who dropped it. So we’re born with that. Those are things that are innate. Now, obviously they can be conditioned out.
Sean Johnson: I wasn’t aware that those, laughing and smiling and even helping, were innate. There was an intuitive sense that people are born this way. But the more conversations like this that I have, the more I feel like you start to realize that people are born pretty much the way they’re supposed to be. There’s a design there, however it came to be, that we talk and we use the example about the child learning to walk and that they never give up. Now, to use the example of the laughing and smiling and helping other people is innate. It’s something that’s already prebuilt in. It seems more and more that we’re kind of born the way we were supposed to be. Then we start to learn how to not do things.
John Casey: Yeah, deconstruction or whatever. But yeah, I think you’re right. I think we have everything we need to build the life we dream off. If you think about evolutionary history, we can go back thousands of years and see these great Chinese Proverbs or Buddhist quotes or Roman quotes about gratitude and how important it is to build a life filled with it. But if you think about it, it probably was a driver of what created human civilization. Tens of thousands of years ago, we were not on the top of the food chain. We were part of the food chain, middle of the food chain type of thing. We were just a weak mammal. It wasn’t until we started coming into groups and creating civilization, where we had to rely on each other to do certain aspects of day to day life. Without relying on others and serving others, we would not have formed communities, towns, villages, or whatever. We wouldn’t have built anything that stood the test of time. I guess those that were selfish, didn’t survive or weren’t welcomed into the community and they were voted off the island, if you will. So you could make a case that without gratitude and service, to others, we wouldn’t have come as far as we have.
Sean Johnson: I think that that definitely makes sense. It seems for it to go back, it’s not a new idea, very clearly. It’s going back tens of thousands of years and it’s an ancient idea and it’s a global idea. It’s not confined to any one place or one time. So, I think you’re right. It seems that you could tie a lot back to that.
John Casey: Well, like all higher level abilities, we’re born with a nice foundation of it, but we have to practice it. We have to keep it at a high level of awareness. Larissa Gomez said that, “Being thankful is not always experienced as a natural state of existence. We must work at it, akin to a type of strength training for the heart.” It’s true, as we journey through life, we train our eye and ear always to pay attention to certain things. Some people swing and miss on that and they’re missing a whole bunch of things that they should be paying closer attention to.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. Gratitude is strength training for the heart, I like that. So, it’s an ancient idea. Can we tie this back? Cause I think there’s a lot of science and a lot of studies and both scientific and just observational in more modern times. How does gratitude improve the quality of our life and in different areas of life? Does it and what are they?
John Casey: Yeah, without question. Over the last 30, 40 years, there’s been just tons and tons of research on this. You can come up with a list of a half a dozen or two dozen or whatever. But I want to focus a little bit today on seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.
Sean Johnson: Oh, perfect. Alright.
John Casey: So, I can quote you the research and whatnot, or maybe we could throw up some links.
Sean Johnson: We can link to everything, all the studies, in the show notes.
John Casey: You bet. So, Number one: Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only to saying thank you to constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends. According to a recent study published in The Journal of Motion, the study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So, whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank you note to a colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead us to new opportunities. Why not focus on how to do that better?
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think that’s it is magnetizing.
John Casey: Well, and there’s more. Number two: Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, the medical journal. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular checkups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity. So, improving our physical health and living longer. If you were to hear about something that could open more doors to better relationships, improve our physical health, improve our psychological health, enhance empathy and reduce aggression, help us sleep better, improved self-esteem and increases our mental strength and resilience, would you be interested in doing something, a daily habit for only a couple of minutes that could lead to all those things? Of course, anybody would say yes.
Sean Johnson: Yeah and they’re scientifically backed. They’re scientifically proven. That’s what happens.
John Casey: So, psychological health. Number three: Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy or resentment to frustration and regret. This should be really thought about by anybody that’s feeling any pressure. The researcher, Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher has conducted multiple studies and the link between gratitude and wellbeing, his research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. I have some reasons why and I’m going to mention some fancy names of neuro-transmitters that you may have seen in the news or heard about. Oxytocin is a pretty cool thing as a hormone that brings down blood pressure, slows our heart rate, and relaxes us. You still can pass a drug test. So, oxytocin is wonderful hormone that we all manufacture that can do all those wonderful things. They have actually measured it being released in not only people that are showing gratitude, it is those in receiving it. So, whether you help someone or someone helps you, you both get a bounce in oxytocin.
Sean Johnson: So, it’s contagious.
John Casey: It’s a win-win.
Sean Johnson: Well, and that probably ties back to why that show of gratitude helps people build more relationships and better relationships. That’s firing that oxytocin for both people.
John Casey: I’ll tell you a story in just a second about the contagious aspect of it. Gratitude has also been proven to increase our level of serotonin, which is the stress reducing hormone. Both oxytocin and serotonin are our wonderful neurotransmitters that our brain can release simply by helping someone else or receiving help from someone else, we get this bounce. If we don’t have daily gratitude, giving or receiving in our world, we’re probably going to continue to increase our levels of stress, angst, lack of control, uncertainty, doubt, all these things actually release a different hormone. You may have heard of this one as well: it’s called cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone or the fight or flight response. Tens of thousands of years ago when we were food, it was a really helpful thing, run away or fight. Now, we still have that vestigial, I guess neurotransmitter. What it does, is it prepares us to fight or run away in a situation where we feel overwhelmed or stressed. By the way, what that does biologically is it takes the blood away from our brain because why would we need to think? We’re just going to fight or run away.
Sean Johnson: It’s going to be instinctual.
John Casey: So, the brain loses blood and that blood is moved to our large muscle groups. So, we aren’t thinking clearly. Also, by the way, that’s cortisol release, that stress thing. Our body starts to shut down major systems, like our immune system, like our digestion system, like our reproduction systems, because heck, if we’re going to be food, if we’re going to die, none of those other things matter. Even in our modern age, people are still in these patterns where they are really impacting their long-term health benefits, by shutting down their immune system or digestion or whatever, daily, because of the extra release of cortisol. So the cure, of course, is release more oxytocin and serotonin. The best, easiest way to do it is to give and receive gratitude.
Sean Johnson: I think probably even more so in modern times, I feel like, people are more stressed now than I feel like in any time before. I actually read this really interesting book called Play, but it was about this guy, he was working for a major podcaster, actually Tim Ferris, and he completely burned out and had like a mental breakdown. He kind of wrote this book about his recovery back. But one of the things that he did is he found out and started to do a lot of this research that this cortisol is released. It triggers that fight or flight. But if you look at in nature this, like all animals have that where it triggers the fight or flight in them and they tense up, it shuts down everything and its just pure survival mode. But if you look at, there’s a lot of videos online actually of, if you look at animals in the wild, after that fight or flight response, they’ll actually have these tremors where they’ll shake to get the cortisol to release the cortisol out of their muscles and out of their bloodstream. People don’t do that. A lot of it is the social thing, it’s kind of like been this social conditioning of, it looks pretty weird if you’re shaking and having a tremor. But there’s a lot of research around how this affects health and all those kinds of things. It’s a cause of a lot of deep trauma and PTSD and all those kinds of things.
John Casey: Without question. So in our modern age, if you’re feeling really stressed and you’ve got a high level of cortisol in your system, walk around your building at work. Just go walk around, take your head out of whatever game it’s in and do something physically. Take the dog for a walk, walk around your building. Go up and down the staircase a couple of times and that’ll help you kind of process that cortisol out of your system. Or, while you’re walking around, trying to release that cortisol, hold the door open for people, and go help somebody and then you’ll just accelerate that reduction of cortisol through the release of serotonin and oxytocin.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I came across, there was this tremor trauma researcher who developed this series of exercises, we’ll link to it in the show notes, but developed this series of exercises that basically induce the tremors that release cortisol that your body is supposed to go through once it’s in your system and the threat has left. I’ve actually done it before. Your legs shake and it’s exhausting, but afterwards you feel like, it really gets all of the stress and the cortisol out of your muscles, out of your bloodstream. So, I’ll link to that in the show notes, but it’s really interesting to kind of see the biology behind it.
John Casey: Well, yeah, and it is way out of my league on the science side of things. But how I see gratitude is it is a natural antidepressant. You cannot feel grateful and depressed at the same time. It’s impossible. So, that reminds us of a couple of things, and that was only the first three scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. Number four: Gratitude enhances empathy, and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro social manner, even when others behave less kindly. This is according to a 2012 study out of the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on the gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others even when given negative feedback. So, they just experienced more sensitivity and empathy towards other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge. We could all use a whole lot more of that these days.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, for sure. The feedback is interesting too, that maybe it sounds like it even makes people more open to receiving feedback and feedback that could help them improve.
John Casey: You bet, because we all know that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Negative feedback is very powerful and heck, why even call it negative feedback? We learn more from it than the positive feedback. So, yeah, not a bad thing at all. Would you like to sleep better? Number five: Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a study published in applied psychology, health and wellbeing. Spend just five to fifteen minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed and you’ll sleep better and longer. Number six: Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Applied Sports Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, an essential component, of course, to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs, a major factor in reduced self-esteem, grateful people are able to appreciate other’s accomplishments and then perhaps study them and understand the cause and effect that led to somebody else’s success, rather than just hoping and wishing or trying to put them down because they had it easy or when the right place at the right time or all those other reasons.
Sean Johnson: Yeah and even just from a leadership and management perspective, just being able to be in a psychological spot where you give people the recognition of when they do achieve something and even when they achieve it, or especially when they achieve it without your help or without you being involved, instead of being threatened by it, you’re happy about it.
John Casey: Yeah. The last one, and I’m sure this is not the only list of proven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, is Number seven: Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, it plays a vital role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of PTSD. A 2003 study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for, even during the worst of times, fosters resilience. That thought alone reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Kahlil Gibran who said, and I had to read this a couple of times before I really figured out how grateful this person was to people that maybe he shouldn’t have been grateful to. So listen to this quote: “I have learned silence from the talkative. Toleration from the intolerant and kindness from the unkind. Yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” So I guess even being around jerks or people that don’t exhibit gratitude and instead just focus on, ego and superiority and selfishness, we can learn from them. As we know in our management and leadership training, you can learn from a good boss or a bad boss.
Sean Johnson: Yeah, learn not what not to do.
John Casey: So, being grateful to bad examples, we don’t have to do those things ourselves. I think what a wonderful way, to, again, learn and be grateful. As you know, Sean, I’ve traveled around the world, and being in Asia, parts of Asia or Africa or other parts of the third world, I like to get off the beaten path and go meet local folks. The kindness and generosity that I’ve received pretty much everywhere I have gone, usually from people that have little or nothing to offer a guest and they go over the top. They’ll not eat food themselves and give a guest food. I didn’t want them to do all that for me. But what I eventually realized is they weren’t necessarily doing it for me. They were doing it for themselves and how they felt. What they taught their children about a guest and how to treat them, was maybe the biggest benefit because I probably was out of their memory the day after I left. They’ve never left mine. So, it goes a long way. Even those that have nothing, can show their gratitude, in generosity and again, receive the benefits for doing it. That’s part of many cultures around the world, less and less in the more advanced or Western cultures. So, maybe we’re losing some of this.
Sean Johnson: For sure. So, for grateful people, a lot of what we talk about and what you talk about is the thoughts and beliefs of people and how that drives all aspects of their life. So, if we’re looking at gratitude and we’re looking at grateful people, what are grateful people thinking and what do they believe that maybe ungrateful people don’t?
John Casey: When we study great relationships, obviously they’re two way, where if it’s a friend or spouse, partner, anybody, coworker, it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got a great relationship that’s lasted, chances are both people in the relationship feel they’re getting the better end of the deal. They’re getting more than they’re giving. Right. They’re probably both right, and they’re both wrong on that. But we’re not going to stay in relationships where we feel like we’re given a whole lot more than we’re receiving. It really is a two way street. Just like business partnerships with your vendors or partners, you partner with them and you work with them, and you pay them because you feel like you’re getting a good deal.
Sean Johnson: You feel like you’re getting a deal where you don’t pay them for the value that they’re providing. You’re paying them because you think they’re providing more value than what you’re paying them for.
John Casey: It’s funny, back to traveling around the world, very rarely do you see a price tag on stuff when you’re shopping in the third world, or outside of the Western world, there’s not price tags and you have to negotiate. I love it. Most Americans kind of freak out. But I love negotiating, because when you do come to an agreement for the price of something, both parties are happy. Both parties leave happy and that’s not a bad thing at all. We talk a lot in our training about, not only the most powerful success principle in business, but in relationships, and we call it the law of service. We all know how it goes. The only way to get what I want is to help enough other people get what they want first. That begets the law of reciprocation, which, when we go above and beyond to help somebody, they feel compelled to help us in return. That’s why we have long-term relationships with our favorite restaurants or our hair dresser or whoever. It’s because we’re both getting what we believe is the good end of the bargain.
Henry Ford really piloted this by just having the desire, when he started this company, to make cars affordable for the middle classes. That’s all he wanted to do is make cars affordable so that the people that built the cars could afford a car. That’s what drove him. It wasn’t to become a billionaire or build a big company. He just wanted to help people. Mary Kay Ash started Mary Kay Cosmetics. She just wanted to give people a home based business opportunity that could help them build their dream. We’re based in Rochester, New York, and everybody’s heard of Kodak and it’s now a punchline or a joke because of what happened. But the company started in the 1880s because of a bookkeeper of the Rochester Savings Bank, who was an amateur photographer, found it very difficult to produce pictures. All he wanted to do is find a way to be able to take pictures easier so people could share them with their families. People that build a business or a reputation, a brand, on service, seem to reap the rewards that come from it because they’re not building goals, about being selfish or “what I want to accomplish or get”. They’re building it around “how can I help others?”
Sean Johnson: What can I do for others?
John Casey: That builds a long-term business and relationship. Of course, Kodak eventually forgot that and they thought they were in business for some other reason. That’s the main reason they’re out of business. They’ve forgot what drove him to their initial success. So it’s a cautionary tale about relationships and about business. But, it really brings us right back to not only serving, but being grateful for what we have. So, back to what are grateful people, successful people, what are they thinking? What are they allowing to dominate their mind? It is a few simple things. Mostly, they appreciate themselves, and who they are and where they’ve come from. Their own trials and tribulations and their journey, and maybe the sacrifices that their families made, for their generation. It’s really, I think gratitude starts with self-appreciation. Just like we say that all leadership starts with self-leadership, you can’t lead others without being able to lead yourself well. So, I think it does start with self-appreciation and self-gratitude. It’s funny, maybe I’m different, all four of my grandparents were immigrants, and I remember their stories. All four of them are alive, as I was well into my thirties. I remember their stories and the challenges and the difficulties they faced to get to the United States, so I’ve never let my children forget it. I’ve never forgotten it. I appreciate where I came from, as well as myself. I think everybody’s earned the right to do that as well.
I think it starts with appreciation and there’s simple things that we can do. We talk often about the power of affirmation and all the affirmation is, is anything we repeat, it’s self-talk, it’s the inner voice, auto suggestion, neurolinguistics programming, whatever the heck you call it. It’s just what you kind of repeat over and over, out loud or to yourself. So we can affirm what we’re grateful for every day and we should. It can be little things or it can be big things. But doing it daily, creating a habit for affirming what we are thankful for, I think is a huge help. It’s getting harder and harder to do it, since there’s so many things competing for our attention, when you’ve got so many things flashing at us and screens wanting our attention. So whether it’s a gratitude list, just making a list and rereading it and adding to it the stuff we’re grateful for. Keeping a daily gratitude journal, writing down consciously what we’re thankful for. By simply doing these things we are keeping our eye and ear focused to look for and note all the good that’s going around. Otherwise, we’re going to ignore it. As we journey through our day, we can keep our awareness at a level where we can be really astute about catching ourselves when we start getting self-centered oe egocentric or, “I’m smarter or better or more experienced.” That’s such a slippery slope and that thinking can become a habit. But, keeping your awareness high so you notice opportunities where you could be more of a jerk or where you could notice opportunities to really help somebody, especially a total stranger. I travel a lot. I’m in airports and on planes a lot. People struggle. It’s just such a wonderful thing to see an opportunity and then go help somebody. It may only take 30 seconds, but you watch them light up. Then you feel it the rest of the day. It’s, a wonderful thing. Here’s that story I promised earlier.
I usually board first on planes because I’m elite on a couple of different airlines. I fly a lot. Approaching 3 million miles now I suspect. So, I get on planes early and I get my stuff put away and then I sit down and then I kind of look for opportunities to help others cause, mainly I want the plane to take off on time. Maybe that’s tongue in cheek, cause I look for folks that might be struggling with putting their stuff above their seat or they don’t know where they are or they don’t speak English or they’re trying to find a row number and boom, I’m up. I’ve seen so many people that struggle with their luggage and then I observe other people getting frustrated by that person. They’re waiting behind them. They’re looking at their watch. I’m thinking, “Just help them.” So, I’m up and I’m helping. A couple of times this has happened to me, over the years, I see other people follow my lead. I see other people start helping instead of complaining. It’s a contagious thing, like those neurotransmitters, that oxytocin, that serotonin, those wonderful things that make us feel really good. It can be a contagious thing that can go through an environment, a closed environment like a plane or whatever. So, if we really keep our awareness high and look for opportunities to check ourselves from going down the wrong path and then noticing the right way to behave, I think that’s a great thing.
Sean Johnson: Well, it definitely is contagious. I remember a few years ago, I was at, there’s this great Irish pub, have you ever been to Barry’s in Webster?
John Casey: Yeah.
Sean Johnson: I figured. There’s this great Irish pub called Barry’s, in Webster, New York, and people have probably heard about like, something similar at Starbucks or whatever. Every once in a while there’s this one of these kinds of stories, but I just decided one night, I went up to the bar, I ordered a pint of Guinness and I said, “I want to buy whoever comes up next to order a drink, I want to buy their drink.” So, the next person comes up and the bartender says, “The person before you bought your drink.” So what do they always do? Alright, well, “I’ll buy whoever comes up next, I’ll buy their drink.” This went on for probably three or four hours, as long as the bar was open and nobody really knew where it started. But it happened for three or four hours for however many drinks that people were getting. But it’s just people’s reaction to, “If somebody did something for me, like, okay, cool. I’ll do the same thing for the next person.” You see that everywhere.
John Casey: Yeah. I wasn’t there that night, but I love stuff like that and not for nothing, we’re in December and approaching the end of the year and holidays and whatnot. I love reading a story or hearing a story on the radio or whatever, where folks that are trying to buy gifts, maybe for their children or their family and they can’t afford it. They put stuff on layaway and it’s all the stuff they want and they hope they have enough money to actually be able to give the store the complete payment, so that they can take what they’ve put on layaway to have for the holidays. I love it when total strangers go in and pay off somebody’s layaway so that that family that was scrimping and saving for a nice holiday has everything taken care of. Especially if they’re anonymous. That makes my day and it makes me want to go do something very similar to that. So, this is the season for that. Not just in Thanksgiving should we go around the table and make a list of what we’re grateful for. It should be a weekly thing. It could be a daily dinner thing. This could be something that we teach our children that every day, we make a list of what we’re thankful for, what we’re grateful for. I think that would go a long way to solve a lot of other issues that our society is facing.
Sean Johnson: I think there’s opportunity. One thing that, at least for me, as we were talking about this topic and it’s kind of been forefront in my mind. I think it’s probably because it’s this time of year, but one thing I’ve noticed for myself is that how you do the little things is how you do the big things. Your ability to be grateful for the little things and be grateful for anything is what allows you to be grateful for the bigger things of where you came from. It’s hard to be grateful for things in general, just like you talk about with goal setting. It’s very hard, at least for me, to be grateful for things in general, but it’s very easy to be grateful about things specifically. It’s the same with, you talk about goal setting, I think it also applies to gratitude.
John Casey: Yeah, you’re right. I love that the things when we’re younger, the things that we think are little things, as we get older are not so little anymore. Maybe it’s all about the little things.
Sean Johnson: The little things are the big things.
John Casey: Yeah. I agree. Back to that other theme that you and I always talk about or we know and hold dear, it is specifics versus generalities. Another great daily habit is specifically thanking people. Not in general, but for what they do specifically to improve your life or make you feel better. Being sincere and specific with praise is a real important key, instead of just a drive by, general, vague thing that we like, put a check in a box. No, that’s not how it’s done. Yes, for some of us, doing these things may make us feel uncomfortable because we’re not very practiced at it. Well, that’s on us. We should practice that more and we’ll get used to it and then we’ll get better at it because I think demonstrating gratitude or thankfulness is a learned ability. I think we’re born with the foundation for it, but if we never explore it or build on it, it doesn’t bear fruit. I think we have to remind ourselves and we have to teach it through our own example and then by having a conversations about it. This is a great time of the year to do that. But then again, anytime of the year is a great time to do it. It’s not just as we look back on the year and reflect. You can do it at the end of every week. You can do it at the end of every month, quarter and so forth. It’s not a bad habit. Actually putting pen to paper and writing down our blessings, and not allowing our burdens to dominate our mind, is a real important step. I think for everybody in good times and in bad times. I don’t think it matters, but I think it’s an important step to do. It doesn’t take IQ, formal education, or much training, to actually put pen to paper and make a list of the things you’re grateful for.
Sean Johnson: Yeah. I think it’s definitely one of those things that the more you do it, the more you see. I think ultimately maybe where you want to get to is to be grateful for everything, even traditionally where things you would not be grateful for or be pissed about. There’s, a former Navy seal and he has to actually used to run the BUD/S training, named Jocko Willink. One of his things is, whenever anything happens, he says, “Good.” He says, “It doesn’t matter if I just won the lottery. Good. I just lost a million dollars. Good. The transport didn’t show up. Good.” If you are able to do that, then you’re going to see the opportunity in whatever is happening, whereas you would be lost in kind of your own stuff, otherwise.
John Casey: Yeah, it’s all good. I don’t know if he traces that quote back to W. Clement Stone. But he has a chapter in one of his books called, “Got a problem? Good.” Where there are problems, there are opportunities. If you want to partner with somebody, helping them with their challenge is a good thing for you and for them and then for us. So, I am a big fan of that. Good, good, good. It’s all good.
Sean Johnson: All good.
John Casey: You bet. So, here’s a quote from a lady that is pretty grateful and she speaks a lot about gratitude and yes, I’m speaking about Oprah. “Be thankful for what you have. You’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
Sean Johnson: That’s true.
John Casey: She practices what she preaches, whatever, and she’s earned it, being somebody that has led such a difficult early life, filled with all kinds of abuse, and being a teenage runaway. Then of course, being the self-made multi-billionaire that she is, she is incredibly grateful and she spreads a lot of that gratitude, through her works. So, it’s a very revealing quote and we all have enough to be thankful for, even if it’s very little, it is certainly something. Look at Warren Buffett who said, “If you’re sitting in the shade today, it’s because somebody planted a tree a long time ago.” All we have to do is pick our head up and look around and there’s no shortage of things that we can actually be grateful for that have had an impact on our lives.
Sean Johnson: Alright. Well, that’s all the places we want to go. I think we got a couple, a couple of good, habits and practices: make a gratitude list, a gratitude journal, focus on the little things. Is there anything that you want to kind of leave people with as we wrap up this conversation?
John Casey: You bet. You know, we started with a reminder about happiness and that is a very common goal for most of us. So, here’s a thought for you as we close the talk today: it is not happiness that brings us gratitude. It is gratitude that brings us happiness.
Sean Johnson: That’s a good way to end.
John Casey: Thank you, Sean, for your time today.
Sean Johnson: Thank you, John, for your time today.
John Casey: You are most welcome.
Episode 27 – Gratitude: Strength Training for the Heart Show Notes
8:41- Unlearning Innate Traits
10:11- Working Together
11:28- How Does Gratitude Improve Our Life?
12:12- New Relationships
13:09- Physical Health
14:16- Psychological Health
22:25- Enhancing Empathy & Reducing Aggression
23-34- Sleeping Better
23:55- Improving Self-Esteem
25:19- Mental Strength
29:24- Grateful Beliefs
33:34- Helping Others
35:20- Appreciating Where You Came From
38:45- How John Helps Others
41:59- Random Acts of Kindness
43:51- The Little Things
49:03- Final Thoughts
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