This week on the podcast I’m talking about gratitude, which, since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, is what this time of year is all about. And when that year is 2020, it can also be a little hard to access, which is ironic, because gratitude is a powerful way to make tough times less hard.
Today I’m talking with Polly Campbell, who is a great source of guidance for personal development in the real world.
Listen To The Podcast Here
Polly is the host of the Polly Campbell, Simply Said podcast, and author of many wonderful books, including You: Recharged, How to Live an Awesome Life, and Imperfect Spirituality. And I’m excited to hear her down-to-earth perspective on why gratitude matters and how we can make it a habit.
Polly, thanks for being here today! Let’s start with the basics. How do you define gratitude?
I think it’s the expression of appreciation for what we have. The big and the little. It’s a noticing and a feeling. Gratitude is an emotion. We get all warm and tingling in our body and we feel good. But it’s also a mood or a feeling that we can create and practice and share. So I think simplified, I think it’s feeling good. I think it’s a pick me up after we appreciate the goodness that’s in our lives.
I like the duality of that. That it’s something that we feel and something that we do.
Yeah. I think it’s an active thing. You know, I don’t see gratitude as being passive at all. It’s something we take in. But the practice is about the noticing so that we can also extend our gratitude. From anything as simple as saying thank you to writing a thank you note to just giving a hug to someone we appreciate. Or sitting still and in that still moment thinking wonderful thoughts about somebody we appreciate or something we have.
What’s your story? How did you come to be a person who cares so much about personal development and gratitude?
Yeah, gratitude I was slow to learn. I did my pleases and thank yous as a kid. But when I was three years old, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. And I was raised on the rainy coast of Oregon by the ocean, by the Pacific. The weather was always really bad. And when the weather got bad, I felt a lot sicker. And I was a pretty wimpy kid who didn’t feel very good. So I couldn’t go out to recess.
So they would send me to the library. It’s like the ultimate punishment for me. I’m like, thank goodness. I loved the library on those rainy days. I had, there was this older librarian. She was probably my age now, but she was ancient at the time when I was in first grade and second grade. She had always set aside books for me. And she would set aside books by about Chris Evert, these biographies and, Donny and Marie Osmond, and writers and politicians, Abraham Lincoln. And all of their stories had this trend of resilience.
Like these are people that have major hardship in the life pain, physical injury or hardship in their life. And they all found this thread of resilience. Or they did things that helped them create lives they wanted. And I just became really stuck on that idea. I was a sick kid. I couldn’t do a lot of what I wanted and I thought, huh, I wonder if there’s something to these belief patterns and these ideas? And I was also kind of a nerdy kid, you know, so as I grew, then the time was the era when Wayne Dyer was becoming popular, the great self-help personal development coach and, and all these things kind of emerged into my life.
And I thought, huh, maybe there’s something to this and make a long story longer. I also entered into this newspaper sewing contest, when I was about fourth grade. And the winner would get a bike and I was way behind, I was way behind. But I started trying on these ideas that I was learning from Chris Evert, Donny and Marie, about overcoming hardship. And I ended up winning the bike.
So I became an instant believer that what we put in our head and how we think can actually influence how we feel and how we operate in our lives. And that’s all it took and I became really interested in psychology. And it became kind of a lifelong study for me.
Love that Donnie and Marie plays a role in this. I wanted to be the, what 10th Osmond, the 11th? I don’t even know.
Well, you’ve mentioned in your own personal story that these books you were reading, that the people you were reading about were going through hard times. And you know, collectively, we’re going through hard times right now. I wanted to ask about how do we access gratitude when it feels like things are going wrong? You know, it could be a health crisis or something hard happening in your family, or pandemic.
Yeah, I think this is a really tricky time because every where we turn, we’re reminded of what’s going wrong, right? We turn on the news. We scroll on social media. Or we talk to the husband, who’s been laid off. Or our wife who’s been laid off, or people are working at home. We’re under foot. So we’re maybe more impatient with each other.
And, I think this is the game changer anytime, but especially right now. And here’s how it starts for me. It’s the little thing. Get up in the morning and take a breath and be grateful for your breath. And look around at what you have and gain perspective from the outside world. So while you are in the shelter, or maybe you have a hot cup of coffee in the morning. Or maybe your kid is at home studying, at least your kid is healthy. At least you have that hot cup of coffee.
Start small. Gratitude’s not going to heal everything. It’s not going to make you feel better about everything. It’s not going to cure the pandemic. But what it reminds us of is that as human beings, we’re complex. We can hold lots of things. So you can feel grateful even at the same time that you’re feeling fearful or worried or upset about the other things going on in your life. And what happens when we deliberately choose to feel gratitude is we begin to rewire our brain, to see more of the goodness.
So it slowly changes how we perceive the world. So challenge yourself, you know, challenge yourself to name one goodness when you sit on the edge of the bed in the morning. Or when you’re drinking your coffee, give yourself one, what’s one thing I’m grateful for today? And I think you’ll surprise yourself because we have the opportunity still to take a breath. To still be listening to a podcast. To maybe be able to work from home on a computer. We can hold all of that. And there is goodness out there. And when we begin to notice little bits of it crash the rest of the way open and helps us get through these tough times.
I love that you’re suggesting that we tie an expression of gratitude, whether it’s, you know, outloud or internal, to something that we do every day, like sitting up in bed. Are there other ways that we can turn that fleeting feeling of gratitude into a habit, into the action?
Gratitude is all practical. And everything I talk about is practical because I’m kind of lazy. I don’t want to work that hard. This stuff has to fit into my life. I have a child, I work full-time, I’m married, I’m managing a house like everyone. So gratitude is one of the easiest things. Which is why I think I’m such a fan, because it’s so easy.
So another thing I do to practice my gratitude is I sit at my desk a lot. And so I remind myself to get up at various times of the day and walk around the house. So I’ll go get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom, go take the dog out. Whatever the chore is, I try to get up every hour or so just to go check on the kid, all those things. When I do that with the first 10 or 50, or a hundred steps, I take whatever it is for you. I do a deliberate gratitude practice.
So if I am walking to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, the first step is I’m still grateful. There’s still coffee in the kitchen. The second step is I’m grateful I can walk. I’m grateful I have a house. All the way until I get the coffee. And what it requires is number one, it moves my body. So I’m not stiff behind the computer all day long. But number two, it requires me to notice right now what is working.
And there is a whole lot that ticks me off. I mean, I was frustrated the other day with my husband. He leaves coffee grounds all over the counter. Like, am I the only person on the planet that can wipe down the counter? I’m like, dude. And then I got back to my office and I thought, boy, I’d rather have the coffee grounds and have him than have a clean counter. And that’s a way of practicing gratitude.
So I take these steps one at a time and I give deliberate thanks. Another way is to notice what isn’t working and then ask yourself, what would I rather trade that out? Would I rather trade out him to have a clean counter? No, I’m grateful for him. I’m grateful he makes the coffee. So sometimes looking at it from the alternative perspective is a way back in. And sometimes for me too, it’s a way you can just say, no, I’m feeling angry about this, or I’m upset. It doesn’t take that pain away.
But for instance, my daughter and I were having a loud conversation, she’s fourteen so we have some of those. And what she was demanding and requiring was so healthy and so age appropriate. And I didn’t like it. But right in the middle of that argument, there was a place for me to go. Thank goodness. I am so grateful that she’s healthy. It didn’t make the moment easier for me to deal with. But it put me in a new frame of mind to recognize, okay, this is part of being a human being. And that is what I can give thanks for.
Also your listeners, since they’re really well versed and intelligent about these things, probably make a gratitude list. I do one every morning. I sit down and I write five things I’m grateful for before the day starts and get up early to do it. Because it immediately shifts my frame of mind. So each day I try to find a way to do this on paper, a way to do this while I’m moving my body and a way to do this while I’m in more of a spiritual place or an awareness place. And that’s not always a good one. It’s just more aware of my humanity because that helps me make it more of a habit. And that’s what it’s had to become for me to remember to do.
I love it. I love it. So tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. What’s something we could do at our, probably not normal Thanksgiving dinner to amp up the gratitude factor?
Yeah. One thing you can do is, if you are having a meal together is go around the table and everybody can give thanks for one, or 10, or 20 things they’re grateful for this year. And there’s no wrong answers. So if you’re doing this at your table or, um, you know, it doesn’t have to be around a Thanksgiving meal. It could be while you’re going for a drive or while you’re playing game or watching football together, whatever it is. But there’s no wrong answers. There’s nothing too small.
So if what you’re thinking about is I’m grateful. I don’t have to work today. That’s great. Well, I’m grateful that I can see a football game. That counts. No judgment for anyone involved. Sometimes at a table, people are uncomfortable or they’re feeling upset where they can think about something right away or they’re feeling emotional.
We have a Mason jar with the lid off and we have a stack of post-it notes and a pen next to that. And while we’re eating dinner or going about the day that the Mason jars in a real pronounced area. Everybody can see it and people can stop by whenever they want and write down something they’re grateful for. And they can put their name on it if they want or not. And then they just fold up the post and they stick it in the mission jar.
In my house, we do that all year long and we read those on New Year’s Eve. It’s kind of like a time capsule. But you could do that Thanksgiving day and have the head of the household, or your child, or whoever read those gratitude notes at the end of dinner.
You could pass the spoon and when, or the turkey feather or whatever it is you want to pass. And whenever somebody wants to, we call it blurting gratitude. If something comes to mind at any point in the day, everybody stops what they’re doing and the person blurts the gratitude. I’m grateful that grandma’s here. Or I’m grateful nobody’s ill. Or I’m grateful for the food on the table.
My family, we keep it very simple. And that’s fine because life is made of all these little moments. The little moments that make up the big delay. So if we notice the little moments, my daughter is often grateful. She got a new pair of converse. She’s very grateful for her converse. Hey, that counts. That counts.
I love it. I love it so much. Polly. Thank you. So for folks who’d like to connect with you more, where should they find you?
You can find me a www.pollycampbell.com it’s a bright new website, check it out. And from there, you can get to my Facebook community, which is @PollyCampbellAuthor. Or you can join my newsletter where we talk about all kinds of things like this. And my podcast is Simply Said with Polly Campbell. It’s on Spotify and Stitcher, and I Tunes.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Today your Tiny Assignment is brought to you by Therapist Preferred, makers of premium organic CBD products.
I love how Polly talked about blurting gratitude–it makes the whole idea a lot less formal and precious, and really helps you look for moments where you feel it and then recognize it in that moment. SO! I challenge you to blurt some gratitude today–to open your mouth and say thanks or express your appreciation to someone else, in the moment that you feel it. You don’t have to get it right, or be poetic. Just blurt it out.