What does it really mean to have gratitude? Gratitude impacts the brain and mind, and yes, there is a difference. Gratitude is an actual science, backed by real research. Gratitude in good times and bad, is powerful with impacts on life outlook, sleep patterns, stress levels, and more. Gratitude directs mindset formations for each of us up to 70,000 thoughts each day.
“You have the ability to change your life at any moment of any day whenever you change your thoughts.” -Staci Danford
00:27 Grateful for Being Grateful
06:19 Mind vs Brain- What’s the Difference?
09:17 How to be Purposely Grateful
13:17 The Most Important Minutes of Your Day
17:02 The Science and Benefits of Gratitude, No Matter What
20:03 Outthink Your Brain
22:07 Yell: “STOP!”
26:08 You Can Change Your Life Any Moment of Any Day
Life is full of things we can be grateful for. But our mindset needs to be focused on the right direction for them to be visible. @arlene_gale sits with @StaciDanford, Gratitude Expert, to dig in deeper on the science and benefits of expressing… Click To Tweet
“So just because something is YOUR truth does not mean it is THE truth.” -Staci Danford
“Being purposely grateful is very different than saying thank you.” -Staci Danford
“It is true that being grateful when things are difficult, is the most difficult for sure. But it is the most beneficial…” -Staci Danford
“There’s so much we have to be grateful for if we just take the time to look for it.” -Staci Danford
“You have to outthink your brain or your brain will outthink you.” -Staci Danford
“You cannot outthink another thought. Thoughts will never override another thought. That’s why willpower does not work.” –Staci Danford
“You have the ability to change your life at any moment of any day whenever you change your thoughts.” -Staci Danford
Staci Danford, an Educational Neuroscientist and owner of The Gratitude Business, helps individuals and companies increase their overall wellbeing. She has earned a Master’s Degree in Mind, Brain Education. Staci’s experience includes 25 years of teaching and communication. She was voted as one of Fort Worth Magazine’s Top 10 Teachers of the Year. She has educated thousands of people on how to achieve greater success by using their brain to maximize their strengths. During her graduate studies, Staci focused specifically on the Neuroscience behind GRATITUDE and the chemical and electrical changes it causes in the human brain.
Arlene Gale: Today, we’re going to talk about gratitude. Specifically, we’re talking about the science of gratitude. Yes, there is such a thing who knew, but we’re talking about the science of gratitude and how it works and impacts our brain, which then in turn impacts our entire life. Well, I learned reluctantly, I have to admit, many years ago during a really dark and desperate time in my life about how gratitude can do amazing and unexpected, even unbelievable things. So, let me tell you what happened for me, again, a few decades ago, I was in a really bad dark place and a friend of mine came to me and suggested that I keep a gratitude journal, and what she wanted me to do is at the end of every day to write five things that I was grateful for. Well, did I mention that this was a really hard time in my life. There was not a whole lot at the end of most days that I was very grateful for. So I did, I decided to take the challenge. Some days, I would clench my teeth and put a death grip on a pen and write in very big harsh letters “Thank God this day is done.” Or I would say: “I’m grateful I’m done.” You know, things like that. Not a very positive giving attitude, but the more I wrote the word grateful, the more I tried to find things to be grateful for. It was really kind of weird because, then I started transitioning to things like writing about, “I’m grateful I got to tuck my son into bed tonight.” Yeah, occasionally there were still those clenched teeth and iron fist death grip on the pen of, I’m grateful this day is over, but sprinkled in more, and more, and more often I found things to be grateful for. I was grateful that today was less stressful. I was grateful that I got home in time to cook dinner for my kids, for my family. I was grateful that I had something nice to wear and could easily find it in my closet because I’ve had time to do laundry. I mean, I never in a million years would’ve thought I could be grateful for having had the time to do the laundry, but I was, again, the more I started looking to be grateful, the more I found to be grateful about. And I did indeed feel less stressed, I felt more relaxed, dare I even say I felt a little bit happier and I started to feel better so that I was sleeping better. It was really weird because other people started asking me what was going on because I seemed more relaxed and I seemed more happy with who I was and what I was doing. I, not in a million years would I have thought that being grateful or being aware of gratitude would have had that kind of transition in my life, but it really, truly, amazingly did.
So today we’re going to talk to my guest, Staci Danford, and she’s an expert in all things gratitude. And I’m going to ask her: “Am I just weird?” At least about the gratitude, the other stuff’s off topic. But, am I just weird that gratitude played that kind of role in my life, or that could make me feel that way? Cause it seems like such a simple thing to have done that made huge impacts in my life. But my guest, Staci Danford, is an educational neurologist and owner of The Gratitude Business, which is a consulting company using neuroscience, specifically the neuroscience of gratitude to help individuals and companies increase their overall wellbeing. She’s earned a Master’s Degree in Mind, Brain & Education. Who knew there was such a thing? Staci’s experience includes 25 years of teaching and communication. She’s actually been voted by Fort Worth magazine, one of the top 10 teachers of the year, I mean amazing. So during her graduate studies, Staci focused specifically on the neuroscience behind gratitude, and the chemical and electrical changes it causes in the human brain. So first of all, help me welcome Staci Danford, hello Staci.
Staci Danford: Hi. Thank you for having me.
Arlene Gale: Well, thank you so much for being here and talking about the myths and misconceptions around gratitude. And as promised, I’m going to give you an opportunity to address the question. Am I crazy, or am I weird? Does gratitude really work the way I described it?
Staci Danford: It really does, and people think that gratitude is kind of a woo-woo term. And there are actually 1.6 million scientific studies about gratitude and what it does in the human brain with data and control groups. And there’s a lot of research to prove that you are not crazy, you’re exactly right.
Arlene Gale: Woohoo. I may have to give you my teenage son’s phone number so you can call them and tell them I’m not crazy (laughs), that’s another episode. So, how do you turn educational neuroscience and gratitude into a business? What kind of services do you provide around gratitude?
Staci Danford: Well, educational neuroscience is a very specific degree that is mind, brain, and education. And we teach people the difference between the mind, and the brain, and then educate them on how to use one to affect the other. And my specialization is in how gratitude affects the human brain. It’s a very misconception that people think that the mind and the brain are the same thing. But the mind is actually like the software in your computer, like the powerpoint in the word and Excel, and your brain is like the hardware, like the motherboard, and the RAM, and all that. And they think that they’re the same, but they work together so seamlessly that they appear the same, but one of them directly affects the other. So your thoughts are like your mind, and your brain is just the physical mechanism. We all have exactly the same physical mechanism in our brain. Unless you’ve, you know, been born with some type of, you know, malfunction in your brain, or had a traumatic brain injury. But we all have the same physical mechanisms, but our brains do not work the same because we don’t have the same thoughts. And our thoughts are what wire in the connections in our human brain which released the chemicals that make you feel happy, feel sad, and gratitude ranks at the very highest level of the things that change the wiring in the human brain.
Arlene Gale: So that mind, that difference that you’re talking about, is that what explains how and why people react to stressors or emotions in a different way?
Staci Danford: Yes, exactly. Because research shows that really and truly your thoughts contribute about 90% to what your life is like, and about 10% of it is the actual reality. So it’s really the lens through which you view your life that changes the way your brain wires itself. So for example, somebody could see a dog and from people like me who love dogs, you know, in my brain, that’s why our Dan is precious, and sweet, and my pet, and other people, when they see a dog, their brain wires in danger be afraid. You know, maybe they were bitten by one, or maybe somebody in their family taught them to be afraid of a dog. So, just because something is your truth does not mean it is the truth. It’s the way your brain has wired that changes the way that it functions and changes the chemicals that it releases.MMM 004: The Science and Benefits of Gratitude, No Matter What with Staci Danford Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Hmm, very interesting. So you talk about being purposefully grateful. What does that mean, and why does that matter?
Staci Danford: Oh, it’s my favorite question, it matters (laughs). Being purposefully grateful is very different than saying thank you. So, I teach people in my company the difference between scientific gratitude and casual things, and casual thanks is just saying thank you, you know, when your Starbucks lady hands you your drink, or if someone opens the door for you, or those types of things. But if we don’t take the time to be purposely grateful for that and process that cognitively in our brain, then it doesn’t do any benefit for your brain whatsoever. It doesn’t change the wiring, it doesn’t change the chemicals. But when you be purposeful in the lady hands you your drink and you consciously, “Thank you so much for making this coffee exactly to my order. I love the taste of my morning coffee.” And you hold that thought in your mind between 10 and 30 seconds, that’s long enough for your brain to process cognitively through all the networks in your brain to release the chemicals that last up to six hours in your brain.“Being purposely grateful is very different than saying thank you.” -Staci Danford Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Wow. So that’s interesting because that brings an example to my mind, there are some days when I get out of bed and I lay there hitting the snooze, and there are some days that it’s like, oh I don’t want to get out of bed, oh I don’t want to get out of bed, oh I don’t want to get out of bed. And the more I think, the harder it is to get out of bed–
Staci Danford: Absolutely.
Arlene Gale: –and it’s like woohoo, let’s go, this is going to be a good day. So is that same mindset true when you’re just thinking about approaching your day first thing in the morning?
Staci Danford: Absolutely. And the research is showing right now that the first 10 minutes of your waking morning, so before your feet hit the floor, because once you stand up on the floor, you’ve activated the motor cortex of your brain. So that uses a lot of blood flow in your brain, you know, to have to walk, and stand, and balance, and all the things we don’t think about. But before you get up, if you’ll take that first 10 minutes or non minutes, which is what a normal snooze is on an iPhone. And if you’ll take that 10 minutes and be consciously grateful for all the things that you have, you will rewire your brain so significantly that it will last you almost the entire day. And the research shows that if you do that consistently over a period of time, that some of the old wiring in your brain, the negative wiring will actually atrophy and drop off. So before I get up every single morning, I take that first 10 minutes, and it’s when your brain is altering between brain waves. So you’ve been asleep, so you’ve been in Delta waves and you’re moving into theta waves, and then when you’re consciously waking up, you’re in alpha waves, but that’s called the sweet spot or the fertile zone of your brain, and it’s altering between States, you know, and you kind of goes in and out. But if you’ll be aware of all the things that you have to be grateful for. So every morning I say the same little thing, I say: “I’m so thankful for eyes that see, and ears that hear, and legs that take me where I want to go. I’m thankful for a bed that feels like I’m sleeping in vanilla pudding, a little puppy at the end of my bed. Thank you for the sunshine coming in my window. Thank you for the covers that are fuzzy.” You know, you just go through all the things that you actually have. I’m so grateful that when I get up, I have warm water in my sink, and indoor plumbing in the home, and a family who loves me. I mean, we all have so much to be grateful for, but we’ve been taught to be grateful for things that are given to us. You know, you say thank you for your Christmas present, and thank you for, you know, big things that you’re grateful for. But it’s really and truly the little things that we have to be grateful for that are the ones that are the most detrimental when they’re taken away from us, but we don’t appreciate them while we have them.
Arlene Gale: So that first news in the morning can then, you’re telling me that what we think during that process of hitting the snooze before our feet hit the ground can impact our entire day.
Staci Danford: Yes, definitely, the chemicals last up to six hours in the brain. So if you’re just grateful just for that non minute snooze and consciously, you know, focus on all the things you have to be grateful for and really feel the feeling of what it feels like to have it, you know, and I use my little son as an example every morning, and I consciously in my brain hug him, and your brain doesn’t know the difference in a thought between what’s real and not real because it processes things in categories of pictures. So if you picture yourself hugging your child, or petting your dog, or sipping that first cup of coffee, your brain has to process it the same as if it’s actually doing it, in order for it to think about your son, it has to build a picture of your son. So it’s the same as if they’re actually looking at you. So I think of hugging him every morning and I focus on what it feels like, I focus on, you know, my morning coffee. So my brain has already thought I’ve done all of these things and therefore gives me the chemicals of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, it’s the quartet of goodness, it’s already dumped all those into my body. And those are the pills that people take, you know, that are depressed or have anxiety because they need those chemicals in their brain. But we can learn to do that for ourself at such a level that your body becomes so used to having that wonderful feel good naturally. So it processes it in such a different way in your body than it does when it’s synthetic.
Arlene Gale: Wow, amazing. Well, Staci Danford is my guests. We’re going to take a quick break, but don’t go too far because we’re going to come back and we’re gonna put Staci to the test. So stay tuned, we’ll be right back. So welcome back to Mindset Meets Mastery with Arlene Gale and my guest is Staci Danford, and she is a gratitude expert. And so Staci, I want to test you here because this is something that has bothered me in my life and I know I hear other people talk about how easy or hard it is to be grateful sometimes. It is really easy to be grateful when things are going well in our lives. In the example I gave earlier in the show that, you know, during a dark time in my life, gratitude was nowhere in the picture, I was merely trying to survive. That was what I thought was all I had the energy to do. So is there a reason or a benefit to try and be grateful in good times and in bad no matter what?
Staci Danford: Absolutely, it is true that being grateful when things are difficult is the most difficult for sure, but it is the most beneficial for the brain. Because it doesn’t take, you know, a very intuitive person to be grateful when you’ve been given something wonderful. But the measure of how you can change your brain is what happens in the difficult times because you have told your brain that you are overriding the natural emotions that you feel, you are taking charge and overriding those brain patterns, so then those are the ones that reconnect. And I can tell you, I personally learned the most about gratitude in the middle of my greatest heartache. And I was going through a divorce and was heartbroken, and I had, you know, been talking about gratitude, and I’d learned about gratitude, and I thought, wow, this is not feeling very grateful and I don’t have anything to look forward to. And I made myself kind of like you with clenched fist, find something every day to be grateful for, and it’s called comparative gratitude. And when you look at someone who has less than you and compare where your life could be even in the midst of what you feel is horrible. So even in the midst of my divorce where I was heartbroken, and sad, and my income had been cut by two thirds, and I was feeling, you know, pity party of one, and I was looking at all I didn’t have instead of thinking of all I did have. And so every day I would consciously focused on, you know what? I live in a country where we can have freedom to do anything we want. I have a son who is healthy. I have never been in the hospital. I have both of my parents, you know, and so you just think of all the things you do have because our brain is trained to protect us. And so, we consciously focus on all that we don’t have because our brain is going, okay, watch out your sad, be careful, things are bad, and it’s doing that to protect you and keep you safe. But what it’s doing is releasing those chemicals in your brain of creating more of that for you. And you have to override your brain in the midst of those terrible times in order to stop that brain pattern. And if you’ll just compare what your life could be like, you know, if you lived in the slums of India, I bet I wouldn’t be worried about my divorce right now. I’d be worried about food, and clean water, and you know, there’s so much we have to be grateful for if we just take the time to look for it.“It is true that being grateful when things are difficult, is the most difficult for sure. But it is the most beneficial…” -Staci Danford Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Absolutely. Well, you talk a lot about thoughts that come go through us, and I read a number and I’m sure you know the number cause I don’t about how many thoughts a human being has every single day. Because when we know that number, to me it really is, wow, we have a lot of power. So what is that number, and why does that matter?“There's so much we have to be grateful for if we just take the time to look for it.” -Staci Danford Click To Tweet
Staci Danford: The average thought for a human person is about 60,000 thoughts a day. So it can range, you know, a little bit lowered for men and even higher for women. Women tend to think more thoughts than man–
Arlene Gale: Wow, there’s so many directions (laughs).
Staci Danford: And what sad is, out of those 60,000 thoughts, 80% of those tend to be negative. And we don’t realize how many of our thoughts that we just leave on autopilot. And you know, from the thoughts of, I’m so tired, oh my gosh, I hate my hair, could not look at this, oh, I should’ve gotten a nose job, can you believe these wrinkles? oh, gosh, my house is dirty, look at this laundry, you know, and it’s just a bombardment of all these thoughts. Well, we just really, you know, used a hundred of them in a matter of milliseconds to teach our brain, oh yes, keep looking for all this stuff. So when you override your brain with gratitude and say, you know what? Yes, I do have laundry that sturdy, but I’m so grateful that I have clothes to wear because there are people all over the world who don’t. And I’m so grateful that I have indoor plumbing and a washing machine because there are times in all off that I’ve gone to the laundromat. I have so much to be grateful for. You have to out think your brain or your brain will out think you.
“You have to outthink your brain or your brain will outthink you.” -Staci Danford Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Wow, that’s powerful. That’s wise girl, that’s wise. So, you talked about how we can change those thoughts just before we even get up in the morning. Do you have a specific tool or words of wisdom, just like the one thing that you can give the listeners that might help them overcome a negative mindset. Because we know the good news is, as you told us we have the ability to do that, we’re in charge. The bad news is we have the ability to do that, we’re in charge (laughs).
Staci Danford: Right.
Arlene Gale: You know? So can you give us just one little tidbit, of how we do that.
Staci Danford: Okay, so the thing I would tell you to do, it’s called, I call it in my practice the Thought Thief, and it is thinking about what you don’t have or what you wish you had. And we all want to move from level A to level D, you know, we want to hurry up and lose the weight, we want to hurry up and make the million, and hurry up and get our kids out of school, but when you jump from one level to the next, your brain does not create the patterns that hold those things in place, which is why people always lose weight gain weight, lose weight gain weight, because you haven’t put the processes into place to keep that lasting, so gratitude works the same way. And when you catch yourself thinking about the things that you don’t have, and you know, wishing things were different, literally, if you will yell at yourself, STOP, and because out loud creates a halt pattern in your brain and you cannot out-think another thought. Thoughts will never override another thought, that’s why willpower does not work. So you have to use your other senses. So I talk out loud to myself because that uses cognition, it uses the verbal part of your brain and the auditory part of your brain, so now I’ve used four things to override a thought. So if you’ll just learn to say things out loud to yourself, and especially the word STOP, just like Cesar and The Pet Whisperers, you know, how he makes that noise and it gets the dogs to stop. That’s really works in their brain, but it works in our brain. And so when I yell at myself, I take a big breath in and then I stop wherever I’m at right in that second and find something to be grateful for. And if it’s nothing more than the breath I took without the use of a machine and some days that’s all I’ve got, or the EYES that see the sunshine, that’s enough because there are people in the world who do not have that.“You cannot outthink another thought. Thoughts will never override another thought. That's why willpower does not work.” -Staci Danford Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Yeah. Wow. So I want to get to wrapping up the program here, and so I’ve got three rapid fire questions that I’m going to kind of put you on the hot seat about (laughs), you’re ready?
Staci Danford: I’m ready.
Arlene Gale: Okay, question number one. What is a mindset that you’ve had at some point in your life that hindered you from making the progress that you wanted to make in your business?
Staci Danford: That I wasn’t good enough, definitely that has affected me. And I think, as a woman you fight that your whole life and you’ll let one negative thing happen and you just like rehash it over, and over, and over, even though you’ve had, you know, three great things. And I think that’s one of those times you have to change your wiring and say, you know what, that did happen. Taught me a wonderful lesson I’m grateful for. Look at how awesome that I can be if I just focus on what’s good.
Arlene Gale: Awesome. So the second question is, give us a mindset that has helped you to make progress in your business.
Staci Danford: I say this out loud to myself every day: “I’m a one of a kind.” And because, you know, women I think definitely tend to focus on all their flaws, and I used to not love myself, and I can say at 52 years of age, I finally look in the mirror and I wouldn’t want to be anybody else but me. But I say that every morning, I look at myself with my gray hair and my crazy — hand. “You’re awesome. You’re a one of a kind.”
Arlene Gale: Yeah, I know. I look in the mirror and I’ll go: “Where did that gray hair come from? Why was there yesterday.” So, yeah, I’m right there in the same neighborhood with you. So I want to leave our listeners today with what is the number one piece of mastery wisdom that you’d like to share personally or professionally that maybe a listener can latch onto and implement, or use, or tweak to fit their needs. The number one piece of mastery wisdom.
Staci Danford: Oh, the number by far, the number one thing I would tell you is that, you have the ability to change your laugh at any moment of any day whenever you change your thoughts, because your thoughts are what is controlling every single thing in your brain. And your brain is what’s controlling every single chemical, which releases all over your body, which is affecting blood pressure, and weight, and happiness. And when you change your thoughts, you change your chemicals, and you can do it at any moment of the day whenever you decide that you’re ready to start.“You have the ability to change your life at any moment of any day whenever you change your thoughts.” -Staci Danford Click To Tweet
Arlene Gale: Wow. Well, thank you Staci Danford for being here, for being my neighbor, being my friend, being so smart and giving us such great wisdom to overcome mindsets to master our lives, but before we leave, tell people how or where they can connect with you.
Staci Danford: Okay. My company is called The Gratitude Business, and I love when people say: “What business are you in?” “I’m in The Gratitude Business.” That’s the name of my company. So it’s www.thegratitudebusiness.com, you can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, they’re all linked on my website, but if you just tap in Staci Danford, S-T-A-C-I D-A-N-F-O-R-D, I post a free blog every Thursday on Thankful Thursday and give people little brain tricks to help them change their life.
Arlene Gale: That’s awesome. Well, again, thank you Staci for being my guest today and sharing your wisdom with us, appreciate it very much. And for you listeners, this is, I mean, this is just a taste of the, an example of the brilliant people that I’ve come across in my life who I want to help be able to share their wisdom with you. So come back again next week and we’ll do more of the Mindset Meets Mastery.