Author Karen Donaldson: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness

Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine
Published in
10 min readMar 4, 2021

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Each day, take time out and acknowledge someone that you’re grateful to have in your life, and let them know that same day. Each morning I send out at least one text to someone in my life who I am grateful for. I keep it super simple, I simply send a quick text that normally says: Thank you for [i.e.being a good friend, your advice, for listening, for helping with the project] I wanted to let you know that I appreciate you.

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 I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Donaldson.

Award-winning, celebrity communication, body language and certified confidence coach Karen Donaldson is a force to be reckoned with. She is the go-to body language and communication expert for Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health Magazine. Karen is often called upon by local and national media as a guest communication and body language expert best-known for her analyses of the body language of celebrities and politicians in the media. Karen is a 3-time best-selling author and a passionate and energetic speaker. Her thought-provoking and engaging talks give her audiences new insights into how they can increase their impact and confidence whenever they communicate all while being comfortable in their own skin, and use knowledge of body language to understand others to learn more about their own body language and increase their creditability factor.

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’ve had my own business for just over 10 years now. While I was employed full time, previous to that, I’ve always had a part-time business. I functioned as a self-leadership speaker, dance choreographer and artistic director while working full time. I loved speaking in front of large audiences, however I never had an intention to be a communication coach. As a now celebrity communication, body language and confidence coach, here is how I acquired my very first private public speaking client, a CEO at that. At my very last full-time job, I was the Sr. Health Partnership Specialist for one of Canada’s largest Health foundations. I spoke on behalf of the foundation at events and represented them at various senior tables. On one occasion, a colleague from another organization saw me speak in front of a pretty large audience. After I was done, he asked me who my employer had hired to teach me to speak that well, because he wanted to hire them for himself.

I looked at him and smiled and said “I am self taught” and had been speaking for years at events across North America. Long story short, he hired me that day, with no formal training in communication. What I did have was a solid know-how when it came to teaching people how to show up comfortably, and confidently whenever they spoke. I become his communication coach, and from that point on, I was referred based on his peers witnessing his growth. Referrals started to come in from CEOs, COOs VPs, managers, and now I work with politicians, athletes and celebrities.

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

It was when my coaching client hosted the Official Red Carpet for the Billboard Music Awards a couple of years ago. After the finishing up on the red carpet, he was sitting in the front row of the awards ceremony and right before it began, he gave me a shout out and cut a quick video that said, “A lot of phenomenal things have been happening for me over the past little while and I attribute much of what’s happened to my coach Karen Donaldson.”

It was such an honor.

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?

My current favorite life lesson quote is; “A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline.” Napolean Hill

I’m a big dreamer and I also know that my dreams can be my reality once you put in down on paper, I’ve proven it to myself over and over again.

I’ve realized that my ideas stay as ideas when I keep them in my head. I find that when I get the big idea out of my head, I can truly bring it to fruition.

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

The book is Outwitting the Devil, by Napoleon Hill. The concept that the most powerful naysayer (devil) resides within in us and how to intentionally challenge it, (outwit it) has made a significant impact on me.

It taught me a lesson on a deeper level. It completely reminded me that as my business grows exponentially and worldwide, that the biggest naysayer I have to conquer isn’t necessarily coming from the outside — it’s me. I’ve read the book more than four times, and each time I read it, I notice something brand new that now resonates with me because I am ready. It’s a book I read every time I’m ready to take my business to the next level.

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

I am working on growing a current super exciting project called Confidence Disruptor www.confidencedisruptor.com.

My mission is to destroy people’s current understanding of what it means to be confident and remind you that you were born confident, that your voice, opinions and thoughts matter and always have.

Here’s a reality it’s not just for people who lack confidence. We all have gaps in our confidence and Confidence Disruptor has do-it-yoruself confidence bootcamps, programs and resources to support people in all facets of life. We were all born with confidence, now we just need to pull away all of the layers of all the unsupportive messaging that have formed over the years. The layers that have convinced us that we’re not enough, need to do more, etc. The removal of those layers is exactly what my Confidence Disruptor brand does and will continue to do.

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?

I am a believer that achieving success takes a community and there’s a particular person and I am not able to name at this time, that I’m truly grateful to have in my life and on my side. They have this “forever” calm, considerate nature about them and are full of wisdom.

We have A LOT of deep and meaningful conversations, however this particular one stands out.

I was pausing on launching a big project (waiting for the perfect timing and for every piece to be perfect, a.k.a I was scared), and they reminded me that I’m ready to take on everything that was about to come my way. They reminded me that everything that I need to know, I already have access to. They reminded me that I have what it takes and that what I know is enough, they encouraged me to embrace the change and the naysayers that are an important part of the change process. I’ve been doing ever since. We all need someone around us who can see the power and greatness within us, when there are moments where we can’t see it for ourselves.

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?

To me gratitude is showing and receiving appreciation.

Showing appreciation through kind words, being thankful, sometimes it’s a kind or thoughtful action as well. It comes down to recognizing and acknowledging something that’s important to you and taking the time out to letting that person know, or showing them that they’re valued and appreciated. When it comes to receiving appreciation, there’s so many of us who brush off compliments. We don’t pause to receive people’s kindness and receive praise when someone expresses it. Gratitude includes the act of pausing and sincerely receiving kindness without the need to discount the praise, deflect, or reciprocate the praise.

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

Many people do not feel gratitude because we’ve been groomed to focus on what doesn’t work, what we need to do better, and what we need to have more of, not gratitude. In saying that, showing and receiving gratitude is a brand-new behaviour for so many of us, it doesn’t come natural to most people.

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?

Increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our lives in many ways.

One, showing gratitude is a choice. Making a decision to show gratitude has us building our action-taking muscle. It builds our ability to act with intention instead of always going with the flow.

Another main result of showing gratitude is that it simply just feels good. Not only the person delivering it, but the person receiving it as well.

The majority of us want to feel good, day in and day out. When we choose to intentionally show gratitude, we also choose to feel happier in our lives throughout the day.

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

Gratitude can indeed improve our overall mental wellness, and the good news is that we can be intentional about it.

Let’s talk about our “happy hormones”. Our feelings of well-being are moderated by our hormones and neurotransmitters, and if we’re intentional about taking specific actions that release our happy hormones, it allows us to self-regulate our overall wellness including our mental wellness.

When we show gratitude, it releases our happy hormones. More specifically oxytocin. When we show gratitude; are kind to others, give a compliment, give for no reason at all, tell someone you appreciate them etc. it stimulates the release of oxytocin in our body. The release of oxytocin has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety levels.

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. Each day, take time out and acknowledge someone that you’re grateful to have in your life, and let them know that same day. Each morning I send out at least one text to someone in my life who I am grateful for. I keep it super simple, I simply send a quick text that normally says: Thank you for [i.e.being a good friend, your advice, for listening, for helping with the project] I wanted to let you know that I appreciate you.

2. Do something thoughtful for someone else. When I say thoughtful, it doesn’t have to mean expensive, it should be meaningful. Most of time, little thoughtful actions mean the most. My hubby loves chips, he’s a chip-o-holic. However, we don’t buy and stock them in house. Every now and then, I’ll buy a small bag of his favourite chips and leave it on his computer keyboard in his office.

3. Random acts of kindness. Do it without the need for praise or reciprocation. It will get those happy hormones flowing. At least once a week, I pay for a stranger’s tea or coffee. When I go through the drive though to pay for my favorite cup of tea, I leave behind a credit or cash with the cashier, and ask that it be used towards the next person’s purchase.

4. Pick up the phone and say thank you. Literally pick up the phone and call. With the internet and smart phones, phone calls have lessened over the past decade. However, there is nothing comparable to hearing the voice of someone you care about.

5. Don’t complain. Complaining exerts the wrong energy and gives your health and happiness a beating. It also releases the stress hormone cortisol and, by no means, does cortisol impact our mental wellness in a positive way. In the moments where I want to complain, I catch myself and push myself to find something positive about whatever I’m about to complain about.

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

Reaching out to someone and showing kindness, helping someone, saying thank you to someone who means something special to you. Any of these actions will literally will aid in the release of the “feel good” hormones, that have been shown to decrease stress and anxiety levels.

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

Keep it simple and purchase a cute notebook and create a gratitude journal. Each morning and night right before you go to bed, write down five things that you are grateful for in that moment. Sit with what you write, close your eyes, and remind yourself of how blessed you are.

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. :-)

It would be to build on my Confidence Disruptor movement.

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

www.karendonaldsoninc.com

www.confidencedisruptor.com

IG: https://www.instagram.com/therealkarendonaldson/

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine

Entrepreneur, angel investor and syndicated columnist, as well as a yoga, holistic health, breathwork and meditation enthusiast. Unlock the deepest powers