Say or write 3 things you’re grateful for, every single day. Writing has many benefits, and it is preferred, but if that will keep you from doing this, just say them to yourself. Before you get out of bed. Once you begin this and really make it a practice, you will find that you end up saying more than three things. You are looking for it all around and that makes what you have enough. Which then brings you more.
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 Julie Bruns.
It is Julie’s mission to empower any person or company to love life and work, and to increase creativity and productivity by offering workshops to enlighten, engage, and uplift their employees through topics like resilience, gratitude, and joy. Julie Bruns has worked in learning and development for over 20 years and considers herself a lifelong learner. She has a passion for teaching others what’s possible and loves connecting with people to share tips on how to enrich their lives, no matter where they are in their journey. Life and work can be wonderful, and she’s here to show you how!
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 wasn’t always sure what I wanted to do, even entering college. I knew I wanted to help people, but that’s obviously very vague. So I majored in marketing and economics because people told me I’d be good at sales. I didn’t want to sell, but I didn’t know what I ultimately wanted. Just before finishing my undergrad degree, I decided I wanted to be a teacher, so I went to graduate school. I eventually combined my business and teaching degrees so that I could use my skills in the corporate world of learning and development. I spent over 20 years in corporate training, and finally started my own company. I have an employee engagement program, including workshops to increase creativity and productivity, a podcast (The Peace and Possibilities Podcast), a blog and a now, a book (Peace, Possibilities, and Perspective: 8 Secrets to Serenity and Satisfaction in Your Life and Career). A few years ago, I finally realized that I needed to create the job I wanted, instead of looking “out there” to obtain it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Several years ago, I was being interviewed for a job at a really good company and it was down to me and one other person. One of the people interviewing me (not the person who would have been my boss) was thinking I’d be great for a new role he had in mind, that wasn’t even posted yet. I knew I was overqualified for the role I was going for but thought it would be a great way to get my foot in the door. Eventually they told me I didn’t get the job, but that they wanted me for this new role. It was a better fit for me, paid more, and I really loved my boss. I built a program from scratch and learned so many new things that I applied to my future roles. You just never know what can come from a few conversations. That’s what I love about possibilities and connections!
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?
Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
When I think about how many opportunities are lost because people don’t go after what they truly believe they want, it breaks my heart. I’ve seen people paralyzed with fear because they aren’t sure they’re ready. We’re never 100% ready. We don’t need to be perfect to begin. When you take action, any little step toward your goal, your momentum builds. And when you achieve that first thing, your confidence builds, and you prove you can do it. So, you try the next thing. Then the next. That’s how life works. It’s beginning that has all the power. That’s where the magic lies. Don’t let your fear keep you from trying.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read a lot of books, but this one gave me one of the biggest light bulb moments of my life. One of the four agreements is “don’t take things personally”. This was about 13 years ago and I was in a new role, building the role and the program from scratch. I was creating a lot of content and really contributing the company culture. But when someone entered a room and didn’t give me the same courtesy as I would have given them (politeness, friendly hello, etc.), I always thought it was about me. When I read this chapter from Ruiz, I had an epiphany. The way he explained it was that it was selfish to consider that these interactions had anything to do with you. Especially if the person didn’t know you! I hated to think of myself as selfish, so when I thought about taking things personally as selfish, it made it easier to stop thinking this way. How could their reaction have anything to do with me? This made it much easier to cope when things didn’t go my way at the office. I just told myself “this likely has nothing to do with me.” It almost never has anything to do with you. This is so freeing and such an easier way to navigate life. What a better way to exist!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m writing a book about raising kind, compassionate, unentitled kids. I’m also working on making my podcasts into a series of leadership books. Raising good kids, even though there are 100s of books about it, is a never-ending puzzle. I wanted to help people raising kids in this newer world of technology and bring them back to basic concepts that our kids are craving, and that will benefit our world. The leadership series is important because the more stories we hear about other people achieving success and happiness, the more we realize it’s possible for us, no matter how young or old we are.
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?
There was a leader in one of my past roles who wasn’t part of my daily work. Once I launched my programs, he asked me how I did it and how they were received so well. He wanted to know my secrets and he wanted me to help him to do the same thing with one of his programs. Realizing the impression I left on one of the executives really demonstrated my influence and built my confidence. I knew what I was creating was valuable, and it was nice to get the recognition for it.
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 it’s this quote that “Gratitude turns what we have into enough”. I have this quote in my bedroom so it’s the first thing I see every day. Being grateful for what you have, acknowledging what you appreciate, expands everything into more. You realize very quickly that you have more than enough. You are blessed and you thank the universe for all of it. Gratitude is a practice. Practicing it will change your life because your existence will feel and be so much fuller.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
I think it’s because we’re taught to focus on fixing our problems. If we think about them long enough, we can solve them. But actually the opposite is true. Focusing on what is NOT a problem will help you fix your problems. Focusing on what is going well, what you have, what you love, what you cherish, will melt your problems away, and then they usually fix themselves without a lot of concentrating from you. I know it’s counterintuitive. I’ve done the opposite for most of my life. Gratitude was always something I did daily, but sporadically. Then I finally built a practice around it about 4 years ago. And what a difference it’s made in all areas of my life!
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?
There is so much research to prove what gratitude can do. It can actually change the cells in your body! Which is why a wrote an entire chapter in my book about how powerful it is. Just a few of the benefits are better physical health and sleep, enhanced empathy, reduced aggression, and improved self-esteem. It’s honestly one of the cheapest, easiest ways to change your life, right now.
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 improves your overall outlook on life, which of course improves your mental wellness. It allows you to feel more compassion, be more empathetic to people, and be more patient in your interactions as well. Because you are feeling calmer in general, you have more space to accept what is happening in each instance. Your reactions aren’t as hostile and because you are looking for something to feel grateful about, you scan situations for the positive more frequently. With all of this happening, your mental wellness can only be improved, in every moment.
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?
- Say or write 3 things you’re grateful for, every single day. Writing has many benefits, and it is preferred, but if that will keep you from doing this, just say them to yourself. Before you get out of bed. Once you begin this and really make it a practice, you will find that you end up saying more than three things. You are looking for it all around and that makes what you have enough. Which then brings you more.
- Turn a negative into a positive. If you think of your experiences as happening for you, not to you, this becomes easier. Ask yourself, in this negative situation, what positive thing may come from it. For example, if you didn’t get that job you wanted, what could that mean for you that is something even better? If you weren’t able to go on that trip, what could that mean for you instead? Maybe you’re meant to meet someone you wouldn’t have met if you had left for that trip.
- Give at least one compliment every day. This takes almost no time and is very impactful. You can compliment a stranger, a boss, a co-worker, your family, the cashier, or the taxi driver. This is the easiest way to be feel better and simultaneously make someone’s day.
- Thank people directly. Another great idea that takes almost no time and costs no money. You can do this via text, a call, an email or good old fashioned thank you cards (which almost no one does anymore, so it’s very easy to impress people this way). Thank people for their efforts, their friendship, their idea, their support, their time, their attitude, etc. Challenge yourself to do this every day, at least once. It’s fun to see what you can thank people for, and you will make their day! And you will never regret it!
- Ask yourself — what will I be grateful for later? In any situation, whether it’s going well or not, you can ask yourself this question. I do this when I’m in the moment, trying to capture what I want to remember for a long time so I can feel that feeling again whenever I want. But if it’s not going well, ask yourself what you’re learning that will help you later. For example, will you be more grateful the next time something is going your way? Will you remind yourself how lucky you are?
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Do something for others. Anything. I was recently feeling this way, and this is what I did. I give to a certain charity sporadically but on this day, I decided to sign up for monthly, automatic donations. Of course, it helps to talk about how you’re feeling, but then you want to get out of that energy and into something more positive so you can shift your perspective. Giving to others, helping someone else, supporting a cause will all help you consider what you have to be grateful for and remind you how powerful you are. Then, because you’re not thinking about your problem anymore, you can usually discover a new solution, a new idea, a new way of thinking about your issue, that wasn’t available before. Try it the next time you’re really feeling down. I guarantee you’ll feel better instantly.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
“Peace, Possibilities and Perspective” by Julie Bruns
“The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brenee Brown
“Big Potential” by Sean Achor
Heidi Dawson’s “Wildly Successful Lifestyle” Podcast
Maria Menounos “Better Together” Podcast
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. :-)
The movement would be: Random Acts of Kindness around the world. This can have an amazing impact. I delivered a workshop on this a few years ago and it was incredible to hear the stores from men and women of all different backgrounds sharing their touching stories and spreading the love from their experiences. Everyone bonded over helping others and it was amazing to see their energy and light shine while telling their stories. We could all see the power we had to make someone’s day. And then those receiving the kindness pay it forward and your act is magnified. What a great way to change the world!
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Buy my book (available as an ebook, paperback, hardcover, or audiobook), subscribe to my podcast or newsletter, or read my weekly blog.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!