Be verbal — say thank you. Think about how good it feels when someone acknowledges your actions with gratitude. Don’t you feel good about yourself? You are then encouraged to show gratitude to others, and so the relationships with the people around you grow stronger.
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 Evelyn Alessandri — Inspire, Heal, Grow.
Evelyn Alessandri is an Intuitive Life Coach, Author and Speaker, based in South Africa. She is passionate about encouraging, uplifting and inspiring people to take action when trying to lead a fulfilling life. Evelyn is committed to providing her followers with practical life tools to help when life is challenging. The practice and power of gratitude is one of Evelyn’s favorite topics and you can often find her speaking or writing about it.
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 never realized that when my mother committed suicide it would shape the rest of my life. I was 31 years old at the time. For years I was caught up in the trauma of it all, until one moment of gratitude turned my life around. Gratitude helped me to move on from focusing on what I had lost to what I had right in front of me……. a bright future with a wonderful man. The mind shift was one thing, but I did feel I needed some support in processing my thoughts and emotions. I searched for someone who could help me regain my inner strength. It’s funny how the universe works, because now my career is focused on helping others connect to their inner strength. I am passionate about sharing my experiences and the tools that have helped me through life, in the hope that I will help others turn their lives around and find happiness again.
My journey in this field started with an interest in healing modalities, such as BodyTalk, Reiki and Sound Therapy. Being equipped with information that could help me to initiate body healing, I opened my business. I soon realized that a body and mind approach was needed, so the next step was to do something around coaching. I chose to study NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) which I felt was a great way to add to the services I was offering. Add to that my gift of heightened intuition and I am able to help others at a deeper soul level.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I have had some interesting and entertaining clients over the years, the stories of which I will keep private. The most interesting of all has been my own journey. There have been many twists and turns, but through-out, I have embraced the opportunities that have come my way, even if it’s meant stepping right out of my comfort zone. I share this in the hope that I inspire others to be courageous in life. I believe we can do anything we put our minds to. All it takes is some self-belief.
Three examples I would like to share with you are:
1. I had an absolute fear of public speaking, but when the opportunity presented itself, I joined a group who would help me conquer my fear. Now I’m often invited to speak at companies and at events.
2. I was invited to write an article for a magazine, on the Power of Gratitude. I had absolutely no confidence in my writing ability, but I did it anyway. The article was published, much to my surprise.
3. One of my biggest wishes was to reach out and help a larger audience with messages of hope and practical tools that could help with the challenges that life presents. I never dreamt that my wish would come true through the launch of my gratitude journal. I get to make a difference in the lives of many.
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 motivates me the most is by the Greek Philosopher, Epictetus.
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.”
It is a reminder that I choose my attitude and actions. I am responsible for my own happiness in life.
From my early 20’s I’ve been fixated with PMA — positive mental attitude.
Keeping this outlook on life has helped me to tick off my bucket list, to look for the silver lining when things aren’t going well and to stand up for myself.
A great example of this is when I returned to SA after traveling abroad and I got caught up in a corporate war over a restraint of trade. It was a life changing experience and one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but if it hadn’t happened to me, I would not have moved towns and I would not have met my husband. We’ve been married for over 20 years now.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
That’s a difficult question to answer as I have picked up many golden nuggets from the books I’ve read. Three examples that spring to mind are:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, “when you want something the universe conspires to help you achieve it” — my gratitude journal is a good example of this.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, about how keeping on a spiritual path gets your ego to get out of your way. Taking quiet time to connect with my spiritual side is what helps me stay grounded.
And lastly, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukov — what lies between you and a different life is choice. I believe choice is the only control we have. And every choice has a consequence. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, unhappy or frustrated I chose to take action to get out of my negative state.
All three of these books have helped me to enjoy my journey by keeping positive.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am! I’m writing a book. Something I’ve been compelled to do for some time. It is in line with my wish to share what I’ve learnt with others so that they have the tools to live a happier life. I am hoping the book will reach a wider, international market.
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?
Without a doubt it’s my husband. Having this stable rock in my life who is supportive, patient and kind allows me to be the best version of myself. He also encourages me to push myself and not sit in my comfort zone.
Last year I was invited to speak in front of an audience of 400 people. I was terrified. Having a supportive person at my side really helps when I feel vulnerable.
More recently my daughter has taken an interest in my work, and she is keen to listen, support and give me her advice. It’s wonderful to have an opinion and feedback from a young person.
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?
For me, gratitude is about appreciation. Not just the appreciation of others around you, but for what you have in your life right now. It’s about noticing what is around you and being thankful for that. In doing so, your brain moves into the present and moves away from the ego. The feeling or emotion that being grateful brings is what makes us feel good and the power of it can change our mindset.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
Our brains are wired to protect us. Constantly looking out for threats and potential danger, not noticing what’s good and positive. It just zooms in on the negative. I’m convinced this is why we spend so much time focused on negative outcomes and why we complain, judge and entertain the incessant negative chatter from our “Monkey Mind”.
Gratitude on the other hand is not part of our wiring and doesn’t come naturally. It’s something we have to practice. It’s a choice. One that helps fill our brains with positivity so that we can cope with our outer world. To experience the benefits of practicing gratitude, we have to include it in our daily lives.
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?
Gratitude rewires the pathways of our brain by storing good thoughts and feelings.
As this storage builds up from more and more experiences of gratitude the more likely our brains act like a bat to a ball when negativity comes our way. It thinks positively first and does not immediately fall into a negative reaction. This way it’s building our inner world into something stronger, so that when our outer world is being challenged or is in chaos, we are able to think clearly and therefore make better decisions and take preferable action.
It is for this reason that I think practicing gratitude is essential.
We all want to feel able to deal with challenges and to be able to pick ourselves up when we’re feeling anxious, depressed or sad. The practice of gratitude is a valuable tool that can help us do this.
A brain familiar with gratitude will also keep you present and appreciative of what you have in life. Comparing ourselves to others causes anguish, but the good news is that we cannot feel envy and gratitude at the same time. When you feel envious for whatever reason, think of something you’re grateful for and your whole outlook changes. The same applies when you’re feeling down, sad, lonely or anxious. Keep thinking of things you’re grateful for right now. This helps to keep your mind positive and steer you away from self-pity and a negative mindset.
Perhaps you’ve suffered from a loss of some kind, whether it’s a person, a job or even your way in life. Do you find yourself obsessing about it? Think of what you have in your life and what makes you happy. It will not always be easy but if you persist you will see that you will slowly but surely change your focus to one that is more centered around what you have in life. Bringing contentment and acceptance.
There are many fantastic examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness, but here are some of my personal favorites:
Gratitude helps you appreciate what you have. This prevents you from always searching for something outside of yourself to make you happy. You become more content and less materialistic. You also focus on what you have and not what you don’t have. This brings peace and connection to the ordinary things in life.
Gratitude helps you become resilient. Meaning you are able to face challenges in a more balanced and calm way. Transforming negative situations into something more positive without falling into a downward spiral.
When you pay attention to the positives in life you are less likely to feed your mind with negative thoughts. This means better moods and a happier you. Because the practice of gratitude changes the neuro pathways of the brain to something happier and more positive it is known to be a natural anti-depressant.
Gratitude helps strengthen the relationships around you. When you are appreciative of others, they too become appreciative. Gratitude is an addictive behavior. You start to surround yourself with people who are good for you and before you know it, you’re supported by a stronger tribe. Looking for the good in others means you choose to be kind and considerate and less likely to take them for granted.
When you are grateful for what you have around you, you become more aware of your own unique talents and strengths. Maybe it’s your sense of humor, or the fact that you’re a good listener. Whatever it is, it’s about appreciating the authentic you, and giving up on the idea of who you think you should be. How liberating.
Have you noticed how some days everything goes wrong and keeps going that way? It’s time to stop, take a deep breath and look for something to be grateful for. This is a great way of turning your day around. Please try it.
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?
1. Keep it simple, write down one thing in a book/journal that you’re grateful for every day. Make it meaningful. For example, if you’re grateful for your first cup of coffee in the morning, think why? Because it means it’s a new day, you’re alive and well and you love the taste of that first cup. That’s three reasons to back up one simple example of gratitude.
2. Be verbal — say thank you. Think about how good it feels when someone acknowledges your actions with gratitude. Don’t you feel good about yourself? You are then encouraged to show gratitude to others, and so the relationships with the people around you grow stronger.
3. Start a gratitude jar. This is a fun and easy way to share gratitude with your family. Each person writes down on a piece of paper what they’re grateful for and puts it into the jar. The contents of the jar can be read out at certain times, for example, monthly or even at the end of the year. This is one way of spending quality time together and also the opportunity to get to know each other better. Gratitude builds bonds between people.
4. Do something kind for someone else — all it takes is one small act of kindness to show you care and change someone’s day. This form of gratitude can also help you when you feel caught up in negativity and self-pity. By changing your focus from yourself to someone else, you will be amazed at how quickly you can shift your mindset to a positive one.
5. Be grateful for you. When was the last time you patted yourself on the back for something you’ve achieved? Do you ever acknowledge the progress you make when you’re being brave or making changes? Most people find it easier to show gratitude to others’, but it is an important part of self-love.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
One of my favorite things to do when I’m not feeling great, or when I’m finding it difficult to be grateful, is to journal. To write down how I’m feeling; my frustrations, my sadness and/or my worries. Putting it all down onto the page somehow gets it out of my brain and lifts my energy. It then becomes easier to start writing about what’s good in my life, or about who and/or what makes me happy.
Please try it if you feel you need to offload. This is a great way to really get your feelings out, without upsetting anyone.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
I would recommend using the internet to access the abundance of information available.
It’s easy and free. Then, invest in a beautiful journal. This will encourage you to want to write in it every day.
I enjoy following inspirational icons like Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Sudhguru and Joe Dispenza, as their messages often resonate with me. My advice here would be to follow who inspires you. Be open and aware of the people that come across your path, as they often appear for a reason.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would start a movement based around the hashtag #2bhappy
With the intention to motivate people, young and old, to make a positive change or take decisive action to improve their lives when they’re feeling sad, depressed, anxious, stressed, lonely or stuck. The movement would be centered around providing practical life tools to help get people started. (Often my coaching clients want a happier life, but they’re not sure where to begin.)
People learn from each other, so I would include some sort of platform where success stories could be shared, of how individuals changed their lives by taking one step and then another.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
I am active on social media.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work! Authority Magazine: Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…
About Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Entrepreneur, angel investor and syndicated columnist, as well as a yoga, holistic health, breathwork and meditation enthusiast. Unlock the deepest powers