The Gratitude Diaries
Podcast #74 — Aired November 23, 2015

What if you could improve your life by simply being grateful for what you already have? It turns out, you can! This week on BetterWorldians Radio we’re speaking with Janice Kaplan, author of The Gratitude Diaries. Janice will discuss her commitment to focusing on gratitude for an entire year and how it transformed her life.

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Janice Kaplan
Author, The Gratitude Diaries

Janice Kaplan is widely known for her achievements as a writer, television producer and magazine editor. She served as the Editor-in-Chief of Parade, the most widely read publication in America, was deputy editor of TV Guide magazine and executive producer of the TV Guide Television Group, and began her career as an on-air sports reporter for CBS Radio and went on to be an award-winning producer at ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. Janice is author and co-author of twelve books and her bestselling novels have been translated and published in more than a dozen countries.

 

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Today we are kicking off a special gratitude series for Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Well be featuring four special guests who will each week speak about the importance of gratitude and the positive impact it can have on all of our lives. We begin this week by discussing the book The Gratitude Diaries with author Janice Kaplan. Janice Kaplan is widely known for her achievements as a writer, television producer and magazine editor. She served as the Editor-in-Chief of Parade, the most widely read publication in America, was deputy editor of TV Guide magazine and executive producer of the TV Guide Television Group. And she began her career as an on-air sports reporter for CBS Radio and went on to be an award-winning producer at Good Morning America. Janice is the author and co-author of twelve books and her bestselling novels have been translated and published in more than a dozen countries. The Gratitude Diaries begins on New Years Eve when Janice makes a resolution to be grateful and welcome the bright side of whatever happens. Getting advice at every turn from psychologists, academics, doctors and philosophers, she brings readers on a smart and witty journey to discover the value of appreciating what you have, and discovering the role of gratitude in everything from our sense of fulfillment to our childrens happiness. And now, let me welcome Janice and my co-host MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Janice, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Janice
Oh its such a pleasure to get to talk about positive and good things, what a treat.

MarySue Hansell
Exactly. So what inspired you to live an entire year being grateful?

Janice
Oh well, you know, I had recently done a survey on gratitude for the John Templeton Foundation, and we were looking at national attitudes toward gratitude. And when the results came in, I was surprised by many things, but one of the things that particularly struck me was that some ninety percent of people said they thought being grateful made you happier. And a similarly high percentage, up in the ninety percentiles, when asked directly are you grateful for family and friends said, absolutely, of course Im grateful for my family and friends. But then when we asked do you express gratitude, the numbers plunged, and all of a sudden less than half, forty-seven or so percent of people said they actually expressed gratitude. So it struck me that something kind of strange was going on. Here we had something that we knew could make us happier, that we actually felt, and yet we werent going ahead and expressing it. And so I started talking a great deal about this gratitude gap in America and how we could close it, and then one day, on this one New Years Eve, I was at a party and I was thinking about how I could make my coming year even better, and it struck me, hey I was as guilty as anybody else about not being grateful and maybe what would really make that year a head very special was if I change my attitude, and my outlook, and my perspective. That, that was going to make a difference far more than any events that actually occurred. And so I went ahead and gave myself the challenge to see what would happen if I lived more gratefully.

MarySue Hansell
And were really glad you did, we love that book. You know, you write in the book you couldnt change what happened, so, but it felt good to change how you think about it. Can you explain that to us and how that mindful approach is so helpful?

Janice
Sure, you know, we all think we can control our lives, and we make plans, and we should make plans, and we should figure out what we want to do. But, random events happen, the unexpected happens, and ultimately what actually is going to make us happy is how we look at things. I think theres been a bit of a happiness cult in the last number of years. And happiness can be a little bit dangerous because you wait for that great even to happen and maybe it does happen, and then it ends, happiness can be pretty fleeting and ephemeral and sometimes if youre just sitting and waiting for that great event thats going to make you happy, youre going to be waiting for a very long time. And gratitude does something very different, gratitude says no matter what the event is, no matter if its good stuff or bad stuff, Im going to be able to turn it around so I feel better about it. And that gives you just an amazing sense of power and control over your own life.

MarySue Hansell
Now how did your career as a journalist help influence these plans to live the whole year being grateful?

Janice
Well, since I am a journalist I wasnt going to write a book that was just about my experiences. That became the basis of the book and it was fun to do that, but I spoke to all the researchers and academics and psychologists and neurologists and doctors and philosophers, who I could, to make sure that what I was experiencing actually had a reason, and to see how it could have an effect on other people also.

MarySue Hansell
And you decided to focus on marriage first, in the first chapter, can you tell us, tell the listeners that email trick that you learned from the marriage counselor?

Janice
Oh sure, well, one of the issues with marriage is that we stop noticing our spouse and we stop appreciating the things he or she does. And in that same survey that I mentioned before, it turned out that people were more likely to be grateful to the barista at the coffee shop or the mailman, then they were to their own spouse.

MarySue Hansell
Oh thats funny.

Janice
Maybe in some ways that makes sense, all the barista has to do is get your cappuccino order right, and youre grateful to them, and we have pretty much higher standards for our spouse. But, I found that simply stopping and saying thank you to my husband for things that he probably had always done, and that I had just stopped noticing, started to make a huge change in our relationship. And I did speak to several marriage counselors to see was I imagining this, or did this really happen. And it turns out that a lot of marriage counselors are actually using that as a part of therapy now. That theyre starting their sessions, no matter what difficult straits people are in, by saying, say something that you appreciate about each other, say something, say thank you for something that you did, that they did this week. Theres always something, no matter how low you set the bar. And then the, what you referred to, I spoke to one marriage counselor who said that, he has people send their spouse a simple fill in the blank. Which is one thing that I appreciated that you did was. And he says he does it every day, he does it with his own wife who is also a marriage counselor. And I said well wait a minute, you guys should be able to talk to each other, youre both therapists. And he said, yes of course we should, but you know, the day gets busy and something great happens, and one of the kids runs in and you forget to say anything and it slips by. But if you make that a priority, if you make it that at the end of every day, youre going to stop and send that one line email, it really changes everything, and makes you just stop and really appreciate the person, the person who you love and who youre with.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah, thats really nice. I did try it with my husband, whos our co-host here, Ray Hansell. And not that I wrote an email, but I did it in an email fashion and it still gave a very warm feeling, it makes you think and you both felt good about one another when we did that. So thank you for that.

Janice
Yeah, its pretty amazing how much it, what a great effect you can get from something so small. And I had started out, the first month of my year of gratitude was going to be appreciating my husband, and boy that month had such a huge effect on both of us, that we certainly continued it for the whole year and have had tried very hard to keep it going ever since.

MarySue Hansell
And were all doing it and were all still married, so thats one good thing. You know, you joke though, that appreciating your husband didnt strip you of your feminist credentials. Why are some people so afraid to express gratitude to those that they love?

Janice
You know, isnt that interesting.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah.

Janice
I think particularly if youre not in a great state in your marriage, or you worry that saying thank you is going to upset the balance of power in the marriage. As one friend said to me who was going through a bit of a difficult time, and I recommended the gratitude technique to her, she said, no, no I dont need to appreciate him, he needs to appreciate me. And so, people worry about that, but I think its a mistake, I think its a mistake and fear. If your marriage is at such a terrible place that you cant find anything to appreciate in the other person, well then, then thats a different story. But if youre feeling unappreciated take the first step, be the one to say thank you and appreciate your spouse and I bet it will come back to you. Because its just natural, when were appreciated, when were feeling like somebody loves us, when were feeling thanked, we feel warmth and we respond in kind. So somebody has to take that first step and doesnt matter who does. And the other interesting point, is often its the person who says thanks who feels even better than the person who is thanked. Just being the grateful one changes your attitude, makes you feel so positive that you get the benefits even if your spouse doesnt respond.

MarySue Hansell
It really does. You know, you tell the personal story about your husband getting called into work late like he did very often. I think you mentioned he was a doctor, and how you reacted to it, and it was a big turning point for you. Can you share that story? Because I thought it had a lot of lessons.

Janice
Sure. My husband is a doctor and hes a wonderful one, and hes a general internist, and hes the kind of caring doctor that everybody would like to have. But I used to joke that it would be better to be his patient than to be married to him, because he was always running into the hospital late at night. And so in the middle of that first month of gratitude, he sure enough got a call at midnight and he kind of snuck off to the closet to get dressed, because he knows I get upset when hes leaving late at night and I sort of lay in my bed and I thought, okay this is my month of gratitude, I cant be angry, how do I turn that around? What, how can I be grateful for this moment? And all of a sudden it was very clear to me that I was very lucky to be married to this kind and wonderful person who cared enough to go off late at night to see a patient. And I also thought of that patient who was lying in a hospital emergency room somewhere and how good she was going to feel when her doctor showed up, and how lucky I was that I got to be the one lying in my own bed and not in that hospital. And it completely changed how I felt and all my anger and frustration just completely dissolved and I went over, and I kind of opened that closet door and gave him a big kiss, and told him how lucky I was, and how lucky his patient was, and he was very surprised because it was not something I had said before. But, again, it changed me probably more than it changed him, because Ive never changed that feeling now and its every time he gets a call, or he has to leave, I can get that sense back. And again, something thats changed our marriage because I so appreciate him and who he is so much more.

MarySue Hansell
Well thats wonderful.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah thats wonderful. Especially being the husband in this situation, I can sure appreciate all that appreciation. Were going to take a short break, but when we return well talk more with Janice Kaplan, author of the Gratitude Diaries. In the meantime if youre a fan of BetterWorldians Radio, perhaps you should check out our game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World encourages habits of goodness, positive mindsets, and giving to social causes to make a positive impact in the world. Players do things like express gratitude, share acts of kindness, send get well notes to real world sick children and many, many more. You can find out more at A Better World dot com. Well be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Youre listening to BetterWorldians Radio. Were speaking with Janice Kaplan, author of The Gratitude Diaries. Janice you write that many young people have trouble with gratitude due to their perspective on life. But could you explain that to our listeners?

Janice
Well theyre a couple of different issues at different ages, and I think what happens with really young children, is that they dont realize that they have a reason to be grateful. Little kids understand that mom and dad are supposed to provide them with a house and food, and that is our obligation as parents. But kids dont necessarily make the distinction that mom and dad arent also obligated to provide them with Lego sets and a new iPhone every six months. And I think its very hard for parents to understand that, why children dont seem more grateful for the gifts they give them, and its because kids dont necessarily have a way to compare it to anything. And I think one of the gifts we can give our children is to expose them to a bigger world and to let them know that not everybody is as lucky as they are, and not everybody has the same experiences that they do. And lecturing our kids on that isnt going to work, but perhaps showing them the world will do that. Kids are naturally altruistic and I think when they see people in need, when they understand what others dont have, theyll respond to that. I think with college kids it becomes a different issue, in that same survey I mentioned before, college kids, or what we call the millennials, ages eighteen to twenty-four or so, turn out to be the least grateful of anybody. And part of their issue is not that they dont recognize that point that mom and dad are paying for college or helping them with their apartment, or supporting them through their first not very well paying job, but that they feel a little bit guilty because they think they should be able to do these things themselves. So as one twenty year old said to me, the guilt outweighs the gratitude, and I think again, if parents can recognize what the issue is, then they can find a better way. Again, telling your kids that theyre ungrateful isnt going to help, recognizing the issue that theyre struggling with and encouraging them to understand it and to appreciate what theyve been given, is perhaps the better way.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah, I was thinking as you were speaking about this and as I read the book again this weekend, of the famous song from Bye Bye Birdie, Whats the Matter With Kids Today with Paul Lynde. And Im thinking, well this has been going on for generations, but maybe weve got a particularly more difficult challenge in todays affluent times than perhaps we had in past times.

Janice
Yeah, and I think that parents can do so much, theyre a few very simple steps that you can do, how about if you talk about gratitude at dinner? How about what if at dinner everybody at the table says something that theyre grateful for? A very simple step like that means that, you know, your fourth grader, instead of telling you about the kid who wasnt nice at, on the playground is going to tell you about the kid who was nice. And all of a sudden he or she is going to feel better about himself too by seeing the world in a more positive way. You can do it before bedtime, you know, what a nice way to end the day by talking about gratitude with your child. And I think setting the example of gratitude, you know, appreciate your children, just like we were talking about earlier with your spouse, how many parents say thanks to their kids? You know, say thank you to your children when they do something that you like, or thats positive. And they see that model and theyll return it.

Raymond Hansell
Now you had an interesting conversation with Matt Damon of all people about gratitude and children. Could you share some of that with our listeners?

Janice
Sure. When I was the Editor-in-Chief of Parade I was lucky enough to meet some, many wonderful people and I had done a couple of cover stories with Matt Damon, the terrific actor, and back when he was doing the movie Invictus, which was about Nelson Mandela, he had his oldest daughter with him. And he wanted to, he was wondering if he could show her the slums of South Africa where they were shooting the film. And he went to Morgan Freeman, who was actually playing Nelson Mandela, and he said, Im going to take her out to see this, but what do I say to her? And he said Morgan Freeman gave him the wonderful advice, dont say a word, just let her see. And I think thats what I was suggesting earlier, we need to just let our children see the world, then theyre going to take it in, theyre going to get it. Not all of us are Matt Damon, and not all of us get to bring our children South Africa, but there are soup kitchens in just about every neighborhood, and you know, we can show when its age appropriate, we can show our children pictures of difficult situations or children who are refugees or are having difficult times. And I think it will just, Im not saying scare them, that would be, that would not be a goal, but let them understand, let them have a sense that theyre safe, but not everybody in the world is.

Raymond Hansell
Yeah. Let them observe it, yeah. Now you made a commitment to stop complaining, which we all know can be very difficult, and you started by trying to appreciate the weather in New York when it was in the middle of an ice freeze, a polar vortex. Now how did that go for you?

Janice
Yeah, well, you know, we all complain about the weather, right? And we all complain probably just too much. And I did decide that I would try to take a month and not complain about things. And complaining tends to be a way that people bond, when its a snowy day as it was that winter, too many snowy days, you go outside and youre waiting at the bus stop and everybody is complaining about how cold it is, and then you go into Starbucks and theres more complaining, by the time you get to your office youre just so exhausted from saying what terrible weather it is. And so I decided to just try something fun, that whenever anybody said something negative, I would counter with something positive. When they said, boy its cold out, I would say, yeah and you know these great pashmina scarves you can get them on the next corner for five dollars. And immediately people respond to that, they go, oh yeah really? Thats great. Or you just talk about, if youre in Starbucks and somebody complains about the bad weather you say, yeah doesnt it make it feel then that we get to enjoy these hot drinks all the more, its a reason to have hot chocolate. And I know it sounds silly and small, but its amazing how it changes your perspective and how it changes the perspective of those around you. Because all of a sudden youre starting to bond about something positive and good, rather than only finding the negative. Now it doesnt make it any warmer, I agree, but maybe it does make you feel a little warmer.

Raymond Hansell
Warmer in the heart, right?

Janice
Right.

Raymond Hansell
So can you tell our listeners about the concept of the gratitude visit? This is really interesting and its such a nice idea.

Janice
Theres been a lot of research that suggests that if you write a letter of gratitude and then go and bring that letter to the person and read it to them, it can have really major effects. Surprisingly not on that persons life, but on your life. And writing a letter of gratitude is really just a lovely thing, even if you just end up sending it and not bringing it. There has to be somebody in your life, whether it was a parent, or a clergy person, or the guy who gave you your first job, or a teacher who meant something to you. And probably you talk about that person to other people, but have really never stopped to thank them. And take a few minutes and sit down and write a letter and tell that person why they mattered to you, and how theyve changed your life. And theres a psychiatrist I spoke to at Mass General Hospital whos done very extensive research into severely depressed and suicidal patients, and he found that writing that letter of gratitude is one of the most successful interventions he can do. And that includes all sorts of drugs and other therapies, but simply writing that letter changes, again, how we think of ourselves, and how we feel about our own worth, and also its just a really lovely and wonderful thing to do to the person were sending it to.

Raymond Hansell
Now heres a chapter in The Gratitude Diaries that discusses money, and I think people often get confused, gee if I got this much money I would be happy for the rest of my life and internally grateful. But you found that often people have a hard time being grateful for the money they have, why is that?

Janice
Right, well I think you just said it right, if only I had this amount of money? What exactly is that amount of money? And once you have it theres a good chance youre going to think its a bigger amount of money. So were always comparing ourselves, and were always comparing ourselves usually to people who are richer than us, rather than the people who have less than us. And it becomes a game that you cant win. Because once you reach one level, you just want to get to another. And I was like everybody else, I was always worried about money and wondering if I had enough and what I should be doing, and I found that the way I could change that perspective was really to try to get a perspective. And too, as I said, theres always going to be somebody richer than you, but theres always going to be somebody poorer than you. And actually theres been a lot of research that finds that giving, and using your money to help other people is one of the best ways to feel rich, and to appreciate that money. Some very simple experiments where they would randomly give people a five dollar bill or a twenty dollar bill and tell them that they had to either spend it on themselves, or somebody else. And if your spending it on yourself, you probably havent even noticed it by the end of the day, youve just bought an extra cup of coffee or another notebook. But if youre told you have to spend twenty dollars on someone else in the course of the day, you think about it, and you think what might be interesting, and what might be fun, and what might make somebody excited, and that becomes something that increases your wellbeing, and your sense of happiness. And the people who were asked to spend the money on somebody else, on psychological tests at the end of the day, actually were happier than the people who had spent it on themselves. And I just thought that was a wonderful, wonderful approach and a way to change your sense of gratitude towards money and what you have.

Raymond Hansell
Giving provides a lot of getting as a result. I know I came to mind, I was in town as we occasionally do in center city Philadelphia and going to a restaurant and what have you, and I ran across somebody who just came up to me in the poorest shape and asked me for enough money for a cup of coffee and I didnt have any kind of smaller change, and I gave him a larger bill. And I said I cant help you with the coffee, but I can give you this. And he looked at me like I just handed him a college degree. And he said, Ive been here for five months on the street and nobodies been, nobodies done this. And he had tears in his eyes, and I wound up with tears in my eyes and I thought, wow what a great feeling that provided for both him and me as a result of that. So you really do, get this jolt of good feeling when you give.

Janice
Thats a lovely story and so very true. And again, if you had spent that bill on something else throughout the course of the day, you wouldnt have remembered it, and it wouldnt have that effect on you. But that will stay with you as the fact that you can make a difference in the world.

Raymond Hansell
Yes indeed.

Janice
And sometimes in very small ways, and thats really important to know.

Raymond Hansell
Well thank you very much. Were going to take another short break and when we come back well be talking with Greg and author Janice Kaplan. By the way in the spirit of the holiday season, our game on Facebook called A Better World is now one hundred percent free to play until the end of the year. Through January 1st the only currency accepted in the game is your acts of kindness and other social good that you can do, perform right in the game itself. Were also challenging players to perform one million good deeds total by the end of the year. And when they do, A Better World will release funds to provide new coats for kids in need nationwide through our affiliation with Operation Warm. Well be right back.

Raymond Hansell
Were back now with Janice Kaplan, author of The Gratitude Diaries.

Gregory Hansell
Hey Janice this is Greg.

Janice
Hey Greg.

Gregory Hansell
So I absolutely the love the book as I was telling you before the show, and I wanted to chat about what you call, vitamin G, and how gratitude can have a positive impact on our physical health. What did you learn about that?

Janice
Its really pretty stunning just what effect positive emotions can have on our health. And I guess we shouldnt be surprised that there are mind, body connections, right? We know that, we know that when were stressed a lot of us get stomach aches or headaches, and you know, if youre embarrassed you blush, so our bodys respond to how were feeling. But, it turns out that gratitude can have really enormous physical effects. Theres been great research showing that it lowers blood pressure, that it helps you sleep better, that it dramatically lowers stress and dramatically lowers levels of depression. Theres also some really interesting research that shows that feeling gratitude, expressing gratitude can lower the inflammation in the body that leads to so many illnesses and inflammation as you know has become sort of the keyword for so many problems that our modern society has wrought in our physical problems. And I found myself in the course of the year of my living gratefully for The Gratitude Diaries, that my migraine headaches disappeared. Now Im not going to write this up for any medical journals, because its completely anecdotal, but I did call a couple of doctors and say, hey could this be? And again, they explained that through the changes in inflammations through gratitude and positive emotions, it absolutely could be. So I think that each of us have our vulnerabilities and using gratitude and love and positive emotions to fight illness, is probably a good way to go.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I thought that was absolutely astonishing. You know, obviously just from the stress factor, its such a character of our modern lives and anyone can say, wow if I could be less stressed thatd be great, but to go even beyond that to more physical aspects, you know, present in peoples lives from inflammation, I know you talk about diabetes and things like that, that youve heard from different doctors its fascinating.

Janice
Well thanks, and I was fascinated by it also. And you know, it turns out that our immune systems are effected by our emotions. And again, it shouldnt be that much of a surprise, I guess for our ancestors when they were stressed or fearful there was a good chance that they were, you know, going to be attacked, or that their immune systems had to get on the alert in order to prevent against, you know, a spear being thrown at them. So our immune systems do the same things, they get on that same high alert even though the illnesses we are now confronting are very different. So by again using gratitude and positive emotions we can take our immune systems off that high alert and lower the inflammation in our bodies too.

Gregory Hansell
Its amazing. You know you also had a chapter where you talked about gratitude and nature, and when you turned into, as you said, wonder woman on the Appalachian Trail. Tell us about that?

Janice
Well I had, in the course of the year I was using conscious gratitude, I was being in a situation and I was stopping and thinking how can I be grateful for this? And so as spring came around, or maybe summer, I started wondering is there anything that naturally makes you grateful. And to me, it seemed that it was the outside. There was some suggestion that maybe it was exercise, I didnt find that quite as much, but I did find that going outside and Im lucky enough to have a house up by a beautiful river and trail and when I would go outside and take a walk there, I just felt so much different. And my emotions changed and gratitude did start to flood in, in a different way. And I think so many of us have had the pleasure of experiencing that. If youre out climbing a mountain, or for people who like to swim, swimming. But there is a lot of research that suggests that simply being out in nature does change how we feel and does change our emotions. So, I think its, it may be a natural way to start feeling more gratitude.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think thats great, Ive had that experience myself. You know my wife and I have tried to walk our kids to school in the morning and sometimes, for whatever reason, I cant make it and shell just go, and then shell come back and she actually smells like the outside and just that scent is enough to improve my mood. And Im like, oh you smell like the outside and it immediately lifts my mood. And I know definitely when Im in a funk, especially when the weathers nice Ill try to get outside and it really turns it around. I loved, you talk about, theres a term I think you mention in Japanese that means forest baths, and the idea that people are kind of soaking in all the nature, and I think thats really, I think thats really appropriate.

Janice
It is actually something thats being done in Japan where theyre fairly congested cities and where they have opened up these areas for people to just go and walk. And there is the sense of, yes I think it translates to forest bathing that just changes our attitude. Thats such a lovely story about your walking to school with your children, and I bet the kids feel good when theyre walking also, and they probably tell you more as theyre walking outside. Theres something about being outside in nature and walking thats just a great release and a great bonding spot also.

Gregory Hansell
Absolutely. Now heres one that I think everybody can connect to, you talk about the use of gratitude to get better control of diet and weight. So tell us more.

Janice
Well I figured if I was going to live a year gratefully and try to make my life better, I better lose some weight along the way also. Because it struck me that every religion, or most religions do pause and appreciate, or say a grace before meals, say, which is really a way of expressing gratitude. And my book is secular and I was looking for secular ways to approach things, and I thought do we ever stop and look at the food were eating before we eat it? Do we stop and appreciate what were eating? So I came up with a very simple five point plan for myself, which started with that first one, of actually looking at the food for about thirty seconds before I would eat something. And I think if you try it, well first of all, youll be really surprised by how long thirty seconds is, and youll also be surprised how it does change what you want to eat. When youre starring down that piece of chocolate cake for, you know, thirty seconds or a minute, at the end of it, you may not be as excited about it anymore. And when you think about what youre going to put in your body, you tend to put in healthier food. And so I came up with some very simple steps about being grateful for what you eat, paying attention to what you eat, and really only eating the things that are going to make you happy. Whos ever happy by the time they finish a box of saltines or you know, packaged cookies, you just feel bad. So take the time ahead of time to think about it, to think about am I going to be grateful that I ate this? And it will change your diet.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I love that chapter because I think that everyone can connect to that. You know, when you really pig out on an unhealthy snack, youre right, you never feel good at the end. You may feel pretty good during that, but you know, by the end you think, oh why did I do that and I dont feel good. Whereas, when you eat something thats healthy, at the end you actually feel like, oh Im really glad I did that and your body rewards you with that, you feel kind of that glow from eating something healthy. But I think youre also pointing out the mindful aspect of that, you know, the savoring. I think you mentioned one author who talks about the importance of savoring food and how thats also part of the gratitude.

Janice
Right, and it is that the, no you said it very well, it is just that, that appreciating what you have and being a little bit more mindful of what you eat.

Gregory Hansell
Now, yesterday in the studio when we were chatting about the show, everyone was really tore up about the story of your friend Jackie, who found a way to be grateful following circumstances that are almost unimaginably difficult. Can you tell us a little bit about Jackie and what you learned from her?

Janice
Sure. Well you know, Ive had a pretty good life, Ive had a very good life, and even as I was going through my year of gratitude I realized that what I was trying to do for myself was to make my life go from good to better. And, but other people have had very difficult lives, and have had terrible circumstances in their lives. And I wondered if gratitude could be used for that also. And I discovered that sometimes gratitude is even more important for people who have had difficult circumstances. And Jackie Hanson is a wonderful woman who lives on Long Island, was a the young mom of three beautiful daughters who a few years ago were killed in a horrible car crash. And it was a story that got tabloid headlines for various reasons. And Jackie, as you can imagine was just completely devastated, three little girls under the age of eight who had been her entire life, and her whole life was now wiped out. And through various connections I met Jackie and I actually ended up writing a book with her called Ill See You Again. And I was so moved and struck by Jackie, first of all her courage and being able to move on, though she would never see herself as courageous, but mostly by the fact of how she just instinctively used gratitude to get herself through. And how even when she was in the absolute depths of despair, she could pause and say, Im so lucky I have all these friends around me to help me through. And Im so lucky that I have my best friend who comes on Thursdays and takes me out to go bowling. And I used to sit with her and I would say, Jackie how can you say youre lucky? And what a great ability that is to be able to take a situation and theres nothing you can do about it, and theres really nothing that you can do to make it better, but if you can help yourself find that little bit of brightness, that little bit of gratitude for something good, for that kind friend, for the spouse, for whoever it is whos helped you through. And after we wrote our book together, I got so many beautiful notes and letters from Jackie thanking me for what I had done for her. And despite her tragedy, Jackie is a light, because she really is, shes a person who just brings great light into any situation because shes able to find that goodness. And I spoke to other people who had been through illnesses and other terrible situations, Ive been meeting people on my book tour and talking about this, so many people have come up to me and told me about terrible circumstances, about a childs suicide or a husbands death, or about car accidents, and theyve said, and Im very grateful since then. Ive learned, because Ive learned to appreciate what matters, and Ive learned to stop and be grateful for the things that I have. And you know, I hope none of us and none of your listeners have to go through a situation like that, and that we can learn to be grateful without having to have the horror stories to remind us that there is still some good left.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think its, obviously its an inspiring story about Jackie. I mean, any parent immediately thinks of their children and I think you use language in the book that initially she kind of fell into the abyss, I think anyone can understand what that would be like, and how apt those words are. But I think its also really instructive, you know, I mean if someone can overcome that, even with as you described in the book with great difficulty, but she did by using gratitude bit by bit was able to kind of climb out of that abyss, any of us can with the different kind of setbacks that we suffer every day.

Janice
Right, right. And you know hers, as you said, for any parent its just unimaginable the pain and devastation that she has dealt with. And Im happy to report that she does have a new daughter who I think is three years old now, and of course that is reason to be grateful also. But you know again, the horror never goes away, but all any of us can do is try to find the brightness that lets us move on.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think thats exactly right. So let me ask you, more generally I guess, how did your year of living gratefully change you as a person?

Janice
Really dramatically. I didnt expect that it would and in some ways it started out as a bit of a literary device, you know, Ill live a year of being grateful and see what happens. And I was so struck so quickly by how dramatically it changed me, and how it changed my perspective. And this has continued, you know, what a gift I had that I got to live for a whole year and spend every day thinking about gratitude and talking to great researchers and smart people about what it meant to be grateful. And that year has ended, so I have slipped back a bit now and then, but it becomes a habit. So when I find myself getting grumpy, or I find myself getting frustrated, I can stop, and I can make myself reframe a situation, and I can stop and say, whats the good in this? How can I find the positive in this? And it becomes a natural thing to do and really does change your view and your whole outlook on things. That year of living gratefully that I did for The Gratitude Diaries ended up being probably one of the best years of my life. And nothing dramatic happened in that year, I didnt move to Hawaii, and I didnt win the lottery, from the outside my life was pretty much the same at the end of the year as at the beginning. But by feeling differently, by responding differently, by changing my relationship with my husband, by appreciating the work that I did, by being healthier by being grateful, by spending more time outside, I just had such a happier and brighter outlook on everything. And I think I feel so passionately about the book because I know that anybody can do, theres nothing special that I did, its all described in the book and really anybody can have that same experience. And thats what makes me most excited, to know that we have that power to have, for everybody to have the best year of their life.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think thats the most important point. You know I love the context that you give there, that nothing really profoundly amazing happened in the year, because it shows, as you just said, that we all have that power, its a choice, you know, we can use gratitude and we can really change our lives for the better. And to feel that kind of happiness and connection to life every day.

Janice
Right.

Gregory Hansell
Id love to unpack that more with you, because I think theres so many important connections to mindfulness there, and you hint at that a bit in your conversations with your sister in the book. But unfortunately we only have time for one more question, its a question I ask every guest every week in a different way. And in your case, Im sorry, the question is, how do you hope the lessons learned in your book The Gratitude Diaries can help make the world a better place?

Janice
Thats a lovely question, and I think that gratitude is really the basis for giving, I dont think, we all want our children to be more giving to people in the world, and we all want to see more good things done, and I think the basis of all of that is gratitude. That when you appreciate what you have, you want to share it. And when you feel like you dont have enough in the world, then youre less giving and less likely to share. And so I hope that gratitude can turn each of us into having a better positive experience in our own lives and then wanting to make sure that the rest of the world also has a better way to be.

Raymond Hansell
Thats an amazing story, great story. And Im reminded Janice about the comment in the Lou Gehrig story, he makes his speech at the end in the Yankee stadium, and he says in spite of the illness that he was facing and how quickly it was taking his life, he said, Im the luckiest man on the face of the earth. And so that sort of came to mind when you told Jackies story, how somebody in that circumstances can find a place for gratitude, find a place to keep life in perspective and put all of this in context. So you can learn more about Janis Kaplan by going to Janis Kaplan dot com. Janis please thank you again for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Janice
My pleasure, thank you so much.

Raymond Hansell
Be sure to tune in next week when we continue our gratitude series with filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg, the producer behind the captivating Gratitude Revealed. As we end our show each week we like to share our mission here at BetterWorldians. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and perhaps most important of all, positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone, so that we can all make it a better world. So until next time, be a BetterWorldian.