Dr Gaya I Ep #12 | Making gratitude acceptable



hey guys i’m tasha hey listeners this is ghooni and you’re tuned in to doctor of the podcast where we chat and explore all things on integrative medicine welcome dr gaia back to jojo of

the podcast we are super stoked to have you back with us it’s wonderful to be back thank you awesome so gooney and i were talking recently about this concept of gratitude um it feels like it’s kind of a buzz word these days with you know wellness and you know holistic living being a trend uh that you see on social media and you know with celebrities and whatnot and i guess yeah we’re really curious to know if you know is this gratitude thing is it a fad well i certainly hope not in fact many uh ancient civilizations and religions and others have always centralized gratitude because i think they’ve instinctively known its power and in roman times it was surfaced also uh from the buddhist tradition and many many traditions gratitude is very central to human life and well-being but it’s only in the last few decades as you know because neuroscience is developing so fast we’re actually able to find out where gratitude is affected and triggered in the brain in its structures it’s in its neural chemicals but also there’s been a lot of research in the last couple of decades about the psychological physical and social benefits of uh gratitude so i think uh people are beginning to be aware of it and it may appear like a fad but actually it has some historic and scientific uh facts that really speak to its value and speak to why we should think about it much more yeah for sure i think it’s tricky because sometimes it feels like you know it’s kind of forced upon us like you know you should be grateful for what you have you know you’re privileged or you have all the basic necessities in life so why are you complaining you know these are like the common things people say to you when you you know rant or have a off day right yeah so you’re explaining the benefits of gratitude right but there is a very natural aspect of us complaining and sometimes i i wonder can i really complain because i i feel to a certain extent that i have a very privileged life and so is my privileged life less important it’s complaining okay basically that’s what i’m asking well complaining is okay because you have to express what you are feeling and to bottle up any frustration whether it’s guilt or shame or anger that’s not good in the long run for you or people around you so let’s let’s be very clear when we say we are being grateful we’re not asking people not to complain or express their emotions right but really what are these what are emotions emotions are actually neurochemical processes right this is what they are and it’s very interesting you said that you feel guilt should you know people shame you right guilt you you have so much others have so little but that’s not an emotion that’s an action right people are trying to rationalize right they’re trying to find okay how do we relate to all of this yeah so you know um first you must express what you feel second it’s very very important that uh we do not give in to guilt and shame and things like that and it’s really interesting there are studies that show if you actually practice gratitude not for everything in your life but for some things in your life your brain actually changes and what it does is it affects the prefrontal cortex which is where negative emotions like shame guilt violence like so actually if you practice gratitude in one part of your life even these other feelings of guilt and shame and you know they will reduce over time so in fact they’re not mutually exclusive you can practice gratitude in some parts of your life and you can very honestly and reasonably say well actually i’m not happy about other things and also very important to know your happiness unhappiness is very subjective right it doesn’t help you to constantly think i have food to eat i live in a good place i have clothes to wear i have money that doesn’t actually help you to compare yourself with other people all the time so whatever you’re feeling you have to be aware you have to acknowledge right but there must be something in your life you’re grateful for and beginning to actually focus on that can in fact not only give you direct benefits but there are indirect benefits that your tendency to feel shame and guilt will actually reduce interesting when you as you were explaining this right um one theme comes to my mind which is toxic positivity so i can see the contrast now because you’re saying it’s not about having to be grateful for every single thing in your life but to find what it means to you if you choose to deny your feelings you’re kind of falling into toxic positivity and not being realistic about what’s happening around you right absolutely you know i mean i think it’s very important to talk about why we should focus on this right and the science is very clear i mean let’s just look at the psychological because toxic positivity is also psychological so let’s see if you regularly practice gratitude even for tiny little things you know you know to having a functioning body right okay having the food to eat so somebody’s telling you you should be ashamed you have food to eat no actually having that could be focused into gratitude your positive emotions will increase and your feelings of happiness from insight will increase you will be much more aware and awake and you will feel self-satisfaction again internally and you will have enhanced mood we talked about the difference between emotion and mood emotions come and go mood is more like the climate and weather it persists for a longer time so your general mood will increase but that’s not all physically you will have a stronger immune system right you fight off diseases much better you will have less body pains and eggs you will have an optimal blood pressure not too high not too low and improve cardiac functioning and you’ll have better sleep cycles but that’s not all it’s not finished the social benefits to it it gets better and better right so you better communicate you’ll have more empathy and emotional intelligence you’ll have stronger relationships at home and at work and in society at large you’ll be liked much more and you’ll be a much better team player right so this is research there are lots of different research that come together to paint this picture of the actual psychological physical and social benefits right so when the benefits are so much and they in fact counter our negative emotions and counter the challenges we have this is really the case for this and again it is not an all or nothing equation right humans are complex we are subjective our suffering is very serious for us you know you can stub a toe and and really be in extreme pain and it doesn’t help for anyone to tell you oh well you have a toe or you have a leg right this is not helpful at all and in a way if you’re a generous person when you interact with others you’ll stop saying oh you should feel lucky you know you should you should yourself not perpetuate the guilt that we impose on people by the way we speak that’s a really good point because we tend to also approach things with messaging we’ve had growing up right so then we carry that forward when we see other people and then you don’t realize i’m also doing this to other people and forcing them to be grateful for for their life but actually no i should give them space and allow for their emotions to kind of express themselves right suppressing your emotions is is really a dangerous thing our enculturation as you said how we’re brought up you know what we think is normal and if we’re not aware we perpetuate suffering in other people like you can see how bad you feel when someone says oh you should stop complaining be grateful right so so but we don’t think that we automatically are doing the same thing um yes so so really being self-aware you know there’s a saying do unto others as you would have done unto yourself actually i think if there’s something else is do unto others as they want done to them okay they don’t want you to sort of rub their noses in their in the resources they have either right because everything is subjective um but is there some science behind where just being always negative or complaining every time does it have an effect on your body as well yes on the flip side absolutely if you’re always negative you know your hormones like cortisol go up your stress goes up your psychological physical and social health are deteriorating absolutely but i think you know it’s much easier to create something then try to suppress something and in fact if you are grateful practicing gratitude not just for what you have but even for yourself for you know others around you for the general life conditions you have if you practice it in fact the stress hormones like cortisol are suppressed they actually go down and uh when that happens your cardiovascular function your body functions your all of these increases but actually two other hormones go up neurochemicals and these are what we call the feel good hormones right they’re dopamine and serotonin and what they do is they improve your mood and you become what is known as happy from inside so things may be happening outside but you’re happy from inside have you wondered why some people in very challenging situations are happy right they’re happy and you wonder why right because happiness comes from inside it is created in the brain by how we think and how we react to external things but the number one thing with the brain it is called neuroplasticity that means by activating a certain pathway so you’re being grateful you’re practicing this every day even for two minutes you are creating new pathways the brain is reshaping itself and that in turn increases the hormones that are released and so on it’s what we call a virtuous cycle right if you’re constantly trying to suppress your feelings you know all this negative stuff what happens is you are playing with a vicious cycle and that’s very very dangerous so when would you say that it’s a point where you don’t suppress those emotions and that fine line between indulging in that emotion versus uh just going and acknowledging what’s happening and what would be ways for people to say okay i’ve done my complaining and how to revert back to that place of gratitude or what are some of the things that i can physically or practically start doing when i say practice gratitude yeah so i agree with you you know i also do that sometimes i have a very bad day i go to my team or i talk to my family members and say i’m going to winch for two minutes okay i want to just listen to me i just need to express it but then after that i’m going to move on because then i’m telling myself and i’m i have an audience so those are that’s a little quick so it’s like you know you eat only one square of chocolate instead of eating the whole bar right so you really you do need to do it because suppressing it is very bad but how we express it how we deal with it should be healthy right now instead of focusing on that so how can we grow gratitude you can speak about it or you can do something about it right so think feel or do so whatever the the outlet it’s a process so the first thing i would do is we go back to this meditation practice for two minutes just create a barrier between yourself and everything else that’s happening by simply being quiet and paying attention to your breathing because when things are swirling around in your head there’s no way you can be grateful you’re just stressed right so create that barrier that’s the first then i would say you could do in several ways you could think feel or write about what are you grateful for yourself so if you can do a one minute exercise two-minute exercise you know i’m healthy i have food to eat you know i’m a nice person i have these skills it could be anything you know i’m grateful that i’m a doctor and i can help people that’s a great great thing you know it took a lot of suffering but it’s something i’m grateful for then i suppose you could ask well what am i grateful for other people what what they’ve done you know your parents who brought you up your friend the the person who serves you coffee in the coffee shop you know you’re grateful because he gives it with a smile it doesn’t have to be big things it can be tiny things the neuro chemistry is the same okay big things small things and then i think you can even think about what am i grateful for in my life so so during convert i’m grateful that i had income that i had access to hospitals that i’ve had the vaccine that i was locked down with my family and not alone or it could be the other way around you’re locked down alone you’re grateful for that it will be like be intentional and you can just think it you can write it or you can speak it to yourself or to others right but the important thing is that you keep doing it it becomes a habit because when it’s a habit you do it even for a couple of minutes a day your brain is rewiring itself it’s producing more and more of those emotions and words that help you you won’t even notice complaining after a while that’s true yeah this is a practice i i think i cultivated uh especially the start of covet because some days you you wake up and you feel like you are in this vicious cycle of like negativity right and it’s so hard to break it and i remember because i’m kapha i you know i’m much more prone to being like stagnant for longer periods so i really like have to make a conscious effort to push myself to you know journaling or something and it actually urged me to start a gratitude chart but sometimes the word gratitude i feel comes with like a stigma or the expectation that you need to be grateful right and i find that a bit challenging to grasp some days you just feel like crap and so i shift it and make it like a positive feeling kind of space people do gratitude jars they keep gratitude journals they keep yes or you can even start a meeting you know i often have a exercise regularly with my team i said we have 30 people on the screen so can you just pick anybody on the screen and say why you’re grateful to them or grateful about them and you will see the transformation of that group it’s amazing you know and again with practice you’ll see you’re actually complaining less so one thing people really complain about is the weather right oh my god yes yes and then i found a a statement that always checked because we socialized like that i grew up in the uk and and the english are preoccupied by whether it’s always they talk about whether you know some other countries hello have you eaten anything you say hello and you talk about the weather and then i realize this is really futile right i mean can you control the weather you can’t control it so so what can you do so you know whenever somebody complains about uh bad weather i don’t go and say oh don’t complain because that’s actually not generous that’s because that’s an enculturation i would say you know there is a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather but only bad clothes so if you dress up it can always go out you know i love that and if i can’t go out yeah if it’s raining i always say okay i can write when it’s raining i like to read when it’s training so you’re constantly creating these links in your brain exactly yeah i i started journaling um because um i came across one of oprah winfrey’s podcast and she was saying how she has a gratitude journal and so shout out to oprah if she ever listens to this and uh and so in the beginning so she explained as well that this gratitude so it’s good to to write so that you start having a list of things that you actually see you have sometimes you don’t even realize you have and then you take for granted and so when you start doing that exercise as you were saying dr gaia which is like creating those connections and and actually starting to see on paper oh wow there’s all these things and sometimes you amplify a negative but then you have all those things and um but in the beginning i have to say that it was weird i felt that i was like forcing myself and it looks like an exercise that i have to do and i didn’t feel that the sensation of like i am very grateful for whatever i i was writing i felt that i’m grateful for my family etc i mean it sounds like i’m a terrible person but i was like i don’t feel that gratitude but as i cultivated that as i was writing or as i was thinking it or feeling it i really was starting to have this i don’t know if it’s an emotion or just warmth like in my chest that just calmed me and so then you start being even more grateful and you want to do it even more and it’s a place where you want to go because it feels so nice so that’s called a virtuous circle right and you were just describing what happens when you practice it so in the beginning you didn’t have the neural connection so you have to force yourself you see the brain has changed itself it’s created the emotion you’re feeling of love and connection right so actually you’re just proving what i try to explain about neuroplasticity that the brain changes itself what you practice grows and gets used that’s it if you don’t practice gratitude the opposite will happen that’s exactly why i think i struggled with it at the start and i thought like oh this word gratitude is too heavy for me so i just shifted my mindset about it and said okay positive experiences what did you feel positive about today and that really kind of opened the door and like let me cultivate that skill you know i have tough days like everybody else and some days i think oh my goodness you know how am i going to get through today and then i really do stop and think oh i’m a failure then i think well actually if i look at even my children i haven’t done a bad job but i had two human beings into this world who are very decent so okay gaia maybe you weren’t so good at work today but you know you’ve done something and i didn’t know it was gratitude and and of course many um ancient traditions do this on a on a constant basis you know they try to cultivate gratitude but gratitude is based on something deeper it is kindness and compassion to yourself and to others because when you look with kindness and compassion appreciation yeah right empathy is developed so you know it is not just hold on this is my five minutes of gratitude no but connected and also the question always to ask is you know what did i learn today and then when you keep answering that question you’ll be grateful for the ability to think about what you learned today you know and even you become grateful for the opportunity to be able to learn then you you you see like the gratitude in all it’s correct and all it’s uh all the gaps in between yeah yeah we take it very seriously you know i must say i’m grateful for my life no i can say you know thank you tasha and gunny for involving me in this conversation i genuinely feel nice about it it could be a thank you it could be a gesture it could be you know somebody growing up in your life somebody was helpful or influential to you come visit them now that they’re old you don’t need to even say thank you they call that a gratitude visit visit a family member an old friend remember the birthday of a friend from primary school you know and i think with social media we can do this what you’re saying is i appreciate you i remember you definitely yeah like i really like your tip on starting meetings uh with with uh asking that question because it really shifts the the focus because we’re always looking to get you know meet a deadline or do something and it’s always future looking right and it really makes you stop pause and think be in the present moment and also connect with people absolutely i used to work for an ngo in sri lanka they work in about fifteen thousand villages called san rodeo and i had grown up in england so i was really from sort of an anglo-saxon culture and um i was shocked because they start every meeting including with the ceo uh with um a moment of meditation and they together read out like a verse like a poem wishing everybody well wishing the powers that be you know whether it’s government or you know whoever well and wishing the whole world that our country is fertile self-sufficient you know and then when i left and i joined an international organization i remember going into meetings and feeling like something’s missing here we’re coming in attack as sasha said we want to get something and we’re going to get it at the cost of anything um and that’s why i try to introduce within my team these moments you know and of course everybody was freaked out in the first time yes i can imagine because so as i’m starting my journey in entrepreneurship i think this sasha you don’t know but when we hosted that first team meeting i was thinking i want to start that team meeting with the meditation but i didn’t because i was like oh it will make me look great or something like a stick like people might have their own yeah exactly and so um but i always wanted to do this and now that you’re telling me that you know it’s just that first awkwardness and you get over it and then people just know that this is uh something that is part of and they will see the benefits and they they might like indulge in it with me so another trick you know if the the culture of people who are in the meeting is very different from you you know you can say i’m really happy you’re here but i want to really have a meeting where we achieve our purpose so i’m going to ask everybody just to close their eyes and just think about their intention for this meeting what do you want out of this meeting very quietly because even if you don’t have to go to meditation it just at least clarifies in their mind what they want to get out of it so that they don’t just come in and jump into the dynamic and and fight for space and voice and and so on so start from where people are right and then move towards where you want to be right that’s also an act of generosity to acknowledge where people are and that is fine where they are is fine they don’t have to be like you but then you can work as you grow your team you can create a culture and in fact you will attract people who really like this and you will retain people who didn’t like it but who have come to really enjoy it and you’ll have the best team in the world i love it um i wonder how companies would like transform if this was like a you know global policy for big organizations because i used to work in a professional services firm and you know you’re always rushing you’re always meeting some deadline or doing 15 things at once and so if we actually did that in meetings it’d be like a game changer but that you need competencies if you just tell people to do it it’s not going to mean anything it’s the people are going to be resentful so i have eight meetings back to back on an average day you know and before we we used to physically move from room to room and i would use that time even if it was to the next room the three steps i’d focus on the steps and breath and i would set an intention for my for this before i went in right but now of course with two meetings what i do is i get up even if i join the meeting i just excuse myself for a minute or join one minute early if i can just go to the water cooler get a glass of water just just focus on that and on the way back you know 10 15 steps i think what is my intention and now i’ve graduated to not just my physical outcome you know i want to get this project going it’s beyond that what is my intention of how i will behave right what is my intention for how others will feel in this meeting right so i i think okay i want to achieve the finalization of the work plan but i want everyone to feel that they own it and they’re empowered to make criticisms so just by telling yourself you will find you will facilitate a meeting or you will participate in a meeting in a different way that’s also a generous and grateful approach so you know you mustn’t limit these great qualities just to your journals and lists and prior you know meditation practices you can do this all day long right everywhere anywhere and as you you’re telling this i also feel that in a meeting if we all kind of took you know one or two minutes just to reset that intention and that it will create i think the outcome of it is a much efficient short to the point and we wouldn’t you know uh spend time or waste time with like the noise around it or the indulge in the other emotions or the energy you brought from the previous meeting so hopefully we we can start doing this based on that sometimes i come out of a meeting really upset you know yeah then i go into another meeting in fact if it’s my team i do take that minute and say look i’m really upset about what happened in my last meeting do you mind if i tell you why i’m upset so i can get it off my chest right and then i hear myself calm down you know but also practicing that you’re giving other people permission to do that yes that’s a powerful tool that’s true so um we’ve talked about a lot of ways to to use gratitude in our day-to-day life so what would you say are like the three main takeaways for people who are foreign to this concept there’s historical social and scientific evidence that gratitude is a very important aspect of human life it affects your psychological physical and social health gratitude is something to be cultured and nurtured and practiced and you must do this regularly and if you do it will become second nature to you and the third is really don’t worry about you know all the concepts and the fads out there just have confidence in yourself dive in and start start immediately after this podcast then close your eyes breathe and focus on your breath for a minute and then just for one minute just think in your head of all the things you’re grateful for little things big things old things opportunities you have start do it every day yeah awesome thank you so much for that and i hope our listeners uh have something to work with so that they can start their baby steps into practicing gratitude yeah and maybe um next meeting i’ll uh introduce that to you a minute uh intention and gratitude so thank you dr gaia thank you so much thank you if you enjoyed this episode go ahead and select that follow a subscribe button for now stay safe and we’ll see you next week

Dr Gaya I Ep #12 | Making gratitude acceptable

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