(Author of The Awe Factor) Allen Klein explains the ways in which people can use their practice of gratitude to also better their mood.
Keep a reminder handy. We are all busy beings. Some days we may forget to practice gratitude. A simple reminder can help with that. Carry around something like a marble, a rubber band, or something funny like a rubber duck. Whenever you put your hand in your pocket and feel it, stop whatever you are doing and remember something for which you are grateful.
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 Allen Klein.
Allen Klein (aka “Mr. Jollytologist”® and “The Ambassador of Light”) shows audiences worldwide how to use humor and positivity to deal with life’s not-so-funny stuff. Klein is an award-winning professional speaker, a TEDx presenter, and author of 30-plus books including, The Healing Power of Humor, You Can’t Ruin My Day, and Embracing Life After Loss. SpiritualityandPractice.com named Klein’s most recent book, The AWE Factor, “One of the Best Spiritual Books of 2020.” www.allenklein.com
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?
Mywife died at the age of 34. Although the loss was devastating, her sense of humor was therapeutic for me and her joy for life helped me get through it. I had a passion to share that with the world, but I was afraid of speaking in public. In fact, I almost failed speech in college. My passion to share that important message, of how a sense humor can help us get through almost anything, helped me overcome my fear. I became an award-winning speaker and best-selling author of The Healing Power of Humor.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Several years ago, I was asked to be the speaker at an all-weekend retreat. I would be teaching burn survivors and their caregivers how to lighten up. It was the most challenging program I had ever done in my entire speaking career, and, as it turned out, perhaps the most gratifying.
When I was first asked to do the retreat, I didn’t know how I could possibly teach this group about therapeutic humor when they had been through such a horrible ordeal. First, I didn’t know how I would react to their disfigurements. Second, I didn’t know if I had enough material to fill the long weekend. Third, I didn’t know if what I was saying be relevant to them. After all, they had been through hell. I hadn’t.
The truth was that all my fears were unfounded. They loved what I did. They jumped at any chance to laugh. And once I got over the initial shock of seeing their deformities, all I could see was their radiant and beautiful spirits. They didn’t know it, but they taught me more than I taught them.
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?
“Our attitudes are the crayons that color our world.”
One day I was on my way to the gym. I was happily driving while singing a song from a Broadway show I had just seen. I wasn’t paying attention to the speed limit and got a ticket. When I got to the gym, my fellow exercisers questioned how I could still be happy after getting a speeding ticket. Out of my mouth came, “I’m not going to let that ticket or that policeman ruin my day.”
How often do we let other people or other situations ruin our day? We don’t need to do that. Change your attitude and you change your life.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
One of the books I wrote is Embracing Life After Loss. After my wife died, I searched for books about grief that would uplift me. Most did not. They told me about how depressed I might be, how I might lose my appetite or sleep. I didn’t need to hear that. What I wanted was a book that would comfort me and lift me up, not bring me down. Since I couldn’t find one, I wrote my own.
And, most rewarding, many people have told how helpful this was after losing a loved one,
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m publicizing my latest book, The AWE Factor: How a Little Bit of Wonder Can Make a Big Difference in Your Life. Most people think that awe need be some grand religious or earthshattering experience. The book will help people because it demonstrates that AWE is all around us, how to find it, and the mental health benefits of getting more awe in their life.
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?
All of the self-help authors who have inspired me with their words of wisdom. Authors like Wayne Dyer and Marianne Williamson.
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?
Gratitude is appreciating everything you have in life, even the not-so-great stuff. It is saying “Thank You” for it all, even for stuff you don’t want. For often it is those things that can be our greatest teacher.
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 people tend to focus on what is wrong in the world instead of what is right. They would rather complain about something than pay a compliment. The nightly news, for example, teaches us about that. Is it no wonder than that people don’t feel more gratitude when so much of what we hear doesn’t seem worthy of gratitude?
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?
Being grateful helps me put negative things in the background and allows me to focus on a more positive helpful attitude. And it builds. The more things I find to be grateful for, the more things come into my life for which to be grateful.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Science has proven that stress can be detrimental to our health. As noted above, being grateful for the things in our life helps us focus on good while putting the not-so-good in the background, thus keeping us mentally fit and physically healthy.
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.) Send a note to someone who has made a difference in your life. A few years ago, I decided to send an email, or letter, to one person a day for every day of the year. In it, I told them how much they had enriched my life. I wasn’t doing this to gain anything only to tell them how grateful I was for them being in it.
To my surprise, many people wrote back thanking me for being in theirs. A number of others wanted to know how I knew that they were not doing well just then and how the note made their day. Another thing that happened as the year was coming to a close, was that I thought I would run out of recipients. What I found, however, was that there were more people I needed to thank than the number of days in the year. It made me realize how truly blessed I am.
The simple act of expressing my gratitude towards others not only uplifted me but improved my mental well-being as well.
2.) Say “thank you” more often. Meister Eckhart once said that, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
I grew up when people held doors open for others behind them, when bus drivers greeted you with “Good day”, and when people said, “thank you.” I think we have lost the art of saying those two words. Doing so acknowledges what the other person has done for us and helps us express our gratitude for their efforts. All of which aids our well-being by confirming and celebrating our connection to others.
3.) Affirm gratitude. Words are powerful. Negative ones can bring us down; positive ones can lift us up. Therefore, it is important that you set your intention with affirmations to practice gratitude. Affirmations like:
-Every day I give thanks for everything in my life.
-I am in a constant state of gratitude.
-My heart is filled with joyful gratitude.
I have used affirmations for years. My favorite is “The world treats me as royalty.” And it does. Neighbors have continued to shop for me during the pandemic. One neighbor brings me homemade goodies on a regular basis. And I’m frequently finding money on the street when I walk my dog. And not just dimes and pennies. A while ago, I found a one-hundred-dollar bill.
4.) Get a gratitude buddy. Making a commitment to someone else is one of the easiest ways to foster gratitude. Set a time each day, or each week, when you call someone to tell them one to three things for which you are grateful. Even if you are having trouble finding your quota, merely having to report it to someone else will spur you on to coming up with something. It is like having to turn in your report to the teacher.
A second benefit of this process is that the same time you are committing to practice being grateful, you are helping someone else do the same.
5.) Keep a reminder handy. We are all busy beings. Some days we may forget to practice gratitude. A simple reminder can help with that. Carry around something like a marble, a rubber band, or something funny like a rubber duck. Whenever you put your hand in your pocket and feel it, stop whatever you are doing and remember something for which you are grateful.
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 someone else. Helping others is the quickest way to help yourself.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
Some of the books I’ve written, which help readers have a happier, more grateful, life.
The AWE Factor
The Healing Power of Humor
Embracing Life After Loss
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. 🙂
TAKE AN AWE WALK. Instead of just going out of the house, intend to find something of wonder or amazement on your outings. Recent research has shown those that do that are happier and mentally healthier.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
A Gentle Guide for Growing through Grief
Work through the depression of grief and loss with resilience: Losing a loved one is never easy. Allen Klein knows how it feels—just like you, he’s lost many loved ones in his life. Inspired by Klein’s experience with the loss of his wife, Embracing Life after Loss will help you to recover from grief and loss—just like Klein did.