Gratitude Email Chains, Pity-Party Timers, and More with Wellness Coach Jackie Shea
by Kevin Evans — 5 min read
One of our most treasured moments is when we get to talk with our customers about how they incorporate gratitude into their lives.
Kevin, our growth marketing manager, recently talked with Jackie Shea, a Los Angeles-based wellness coach, health blogger, and host of the podcast “Too Sick and Naked.”
After a personal battle with Lyme disease, Jackie shifted her fast-paced life as an actor towards a more wellness-oriented approach, one she’s thrilled to share and talk about with a mix of openness, curiosity, honesty, and above all, a judgment-free sense of humor.
In a blog post, you discuss how you started a gratitude email chain with your friends. How did it start and what is it exactly?
My girlfriend Juliette was just looking for some extra community and put 10 of us girls who had all been friends onto a list and said, “let’s write gratitude lists everyday and stay in touch.”
It just started as, “here are 5 things I am grateful for today, like my apartment, the nice weather, sleep; really, really simple things.”
We’ve had all these fun subject lines like, “Finding your g-spot: on gratitude” or what was happening in the world we found a way to creep that into the subject line.
It has been going for 8 years. We started as friends in New York City and now live in different states and countries.
We started writing to really update each other on our lives. Like someone would write, “I am so grateful that this baby in my belly is kicking,” and it’s like, “Ok, we have a pregnant friend!”
We have adventured with one another through big moves, marriage, children, death, divorce, break-ups, new relationships, new jobs and, in my case, illness—all through gratitude lists.
All you need is one other person and access to your own discipline and consistency. It can take as little as 30 seconds to shoot off a gratitude list and connect with a friend.
How often do you write these gratitude lists to each other?
It’s daily, but people disappear for months. There is no rule. There is no, “if you don’t write, we are kicking you out of the group.”
Sometimes none of us write for a couple weeks and then somebody will get back on it.
I love this idea! I have a group of friends I would love to start that practice with. But I worry I would filter myself knowing that I am writing to someone else versus just for me.
For me, I have found that I need to keep gratitude and have gratitude in various forms in my life. The email isn’t sufficient. Because it does feel like a way to update friends, I also need to make sure I am coming home to myself and writing gratitude in my journal too.
The email does build a community that is just so beautiful and stunning, but for me I need to also meditate in gratitude and journal.
Shifting gears a bit, something I saw you mention and something I’ve seen for those who do The Five Minute Journal encounter is feeling the need to always be positive or use gratitude as a replacement of negative feelings. Times that you are feeling down or not overly positive, how do you practice gratitude?
I do not believe in pushing aside negative feelings. I don’t think it is productive and actually makes us sick. Pushing down feels that aren’t of gratitude that are maybe of self pity or depression or anxiety will come out at some point.
I think it’s really important, and something I practice, is if I am having a particularly hard day or life event, I set timers. I set 20 minute timers where I can be in self-pity in 20 minutes and then I’m going to write a gratitude list; I am going to go out and help somebody else and I am going to put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
And then when I get home, I can take a hot bath and cry all I want, but it’s important to explore those feelings and to get through them rather than around them.
I also don’t believe that gratitude and negativity are mutually exclusive. You get to have them both.
What I love about The Five Minute Journal prompts is that when I am having a really hard time in life, and right now I actually am, things are hard right now, I use the “3 Things to Make Today Great” to help me in the hard moments. I can have it all. I can feel grateful. I can feel sad. I can work on the things I have control over. And I can let go of the things I don’t have control over.
But making those 3 positive things to make today awesome, it helps. Today it was eat 3 healthy meals, drink enough water, and meditate. It has to be that simple when you are having a hard time and I think you need to let yourself have the hard time. Do what you have control over because if I don’t have 3 healthy meals, I will feel worse. And then I have my pity parties when I need to.
You can have gratitude and be depressed and still practice when you feel like it’s getting you nowhere. It will absolutely change your life.
When you set timers, are you literally just setting a boundary of time, saying, “for this period of time I will be miserable,” and then choosing to get back with it?
Yeah. And this came from when I was sick. I was really really sick and I was really afraid of going into the depths of self-pity. I know how misled that world is. I know how untrue it can be.
So what I started doing was saying I really need to feel how sad I am and how unfair this feels. I felt like the only way I could do that so it didn’t take over my life was to set a timer and be like, “I can feel as sad and think about how unfair this is and I can cry in fetal position for this amount of time.”
And it’s not like after it turns off like I’m Jekyll and Hyde like, “Ok I am done!” But, then after, I meditate and write a gratitude list, journal, and think of 3 amazing things I could do for myself that would make today awesome. “The next thing I could do is call a friend and see how they are doing. Go to work and get through it. Whatever it might be.”
There are these pieces we don’t have control over and we need to feel our feelings around them and there are the things we do have control over and we need to get busy doing those things just as much.
We need space to be human. I think that’s why people are sometimes anti-gratitude lists because they feel like it’s this produced, contrived experience.
Any last tips for writing gratitude?
Having written gratitude lists for 10 years, I try to be very specific. It can’t just be, “my apartment.” It has to be, “I am grateful for this apartment that I’ve wanted for years that I’m finally in.”
If you write things to be grateful for, eventually your mind will look for more things to be grateful for.
It is of immeasurable importance to acknowledge cultural differences in values and happiness. However, while there are some cultural universalities, there are also individual differences we need to rely on in shaping our happiness.