Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions, improve our health, deal with setbacks, and strengthen relationships. Learn how small gratitude practices can make a big difference in your life. We also follow up on our previous episode with more on self-compassion as an antidote to perfectionism.
Announcements & Listener Feedback
Thank you to our new Patreon patrons, Katie Hathcock and Sierra Abukins! We appreciate your support so much; it’s another step toward our big dream of doing this work full time. Learn more about becoming a Semi-Together patron.
We also wanted to thank you listeners for sending feedback:
- Kathleen shared a Got It Together inspired by something we’ve talked about in previous episodes: using an app like TouchNote to mail photo postcards as thank-you notes. She was feeling guilty for being behind on thank-you notes for a Labor Day event for her son and said, “I was feeling so guilty for being behind but used Postable and just got them all mailed out with a super cute photo I took of him this weekend. Feeling much more together!”
- Sarah wrote to us about Episode 22: Why We Procrastinate and What to Do About It. She said, “I feel like I am failing when I procrastinate…. but then I have the entire day to work on the website… right after I clean up the house, do a load of laundry, meal prep…. and it’s bedtime. OR worse I CANNOT get myself to do whatever it is. Listening to the Podcast helped me to realize sometimes I am not getting around to the thing because I am not sure I can do whatever it is, or maybe it is going to be really hard, or sometimes I am just feeling discouraged and am being rebellious, (rebellious against myself). SO I LOVED hearing you guys talk about addressing the reasons why. You gave the tip to just set an amount of time to get started on something. I have been telling myself, “Just do 5 minutes then you can move on.” I always end up working way longer than 5 minutes and get so much done. I feel less failure, and make headway.”
Perfectionism & Self-Compassion Follow-Up
In Episode 25: Perfectionism and Self-Compassion, we did a deep dive into why perfectionism is harmful and how we can manage it, but we knew we couldn’t cover the breadth of the topic perfectly in one episode. So we have a follow-up segment before getting into our main topic, practicing gratitude – which is an evidence-based tool for healing perfectionism and boosting happiness.
Listening to our own episodes is a practice in healing perfectionism because they’re never perfect, and we tend to notice all the imperfections. But Melia feels like channeling this energy into a recurring For the Record segment helps her shift her perfectionism into healthy conscientiousness. Instead of beating herself up for not being good enough, she feels reassured that she can set the record straight next time, with a sense of humor about her need to do that.
For the Record
Melia has two corrections:
1. When talking about being a perfectionist while putting together her son Evan’s baby registry, she mentioned that Darren was content with good enough and said, “A bib’s a bib.” Darren reminded Melia that it wasn’t actually a bib he commented on; it was cloth diapers to use as burp cloths. This illustrates the point even more: there are some pretty cool silicone bibs with food catcher pockets and adorable bandana bibs, but it’s a lot easier to find a good enough burp cloth.
2. Melia was talking about being self-compassionate when making mistakes and modeling that for your kids. She said when she gets lost, she doesn’t say, “I’m so stupid” because “I don’t talk to myself like that anymore.”
As she listened back to the episode, she realized she doesn’t say that out loud (like when recounting the story to friends later), and not for getting lost anymore. But she does still do it in her head when she runs into things (“Why are you so clumsy?”) or forget things (“How can you be so careless?”)… fill in the blank with worthless, a burden, a bad mom, etc. But because she’s now announced that she doesn’t talk to herself like that anymore, she’s using that to hold herself accountable and shift that thought into talking to herself like she would to someone she loves.
There are a few terms we used in our last episode that we wanted to unpack. You probably figured them out from the context, we wanted to define them.
Satisficers vs. Maximizers
We talked about how satisficers are happier than maximizers. These terms come from the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz:
- Maximizers strive to make the choice that will give them the maximum benefit.
- Satisficers are content with the choice that meets their criteria.
For example, a maximizer looking for a winter coat would do extensive research, reading reviews, comparing prices and features, asking friends for recommendations, before deciding on the best possible choice. A satisficer, on the other hand, would look for a coat that met their criteria – black, water-resistant, warm enough for 30-degree weather, under a certain price – and then buy it, feeling satisfied that they made a good choice.
Most people are a combination of both. For example, Gill is a maximizer when looking for a place to stay on vacation (that feels like a decision that’s important to weigh factors like location, layout, reviews, price) – but a satisficer when buying a new laptop bag (good size, color, pockets, decent reviews, affordable? Check!).
Research shows that satisficers are less likely to experience regret, even if a better option presents itself after they’ve made a decision. Maximizers are more likely to experience more regret and lower levels of happiness – and they tend to be perfectionists.
We also used the term “buffering,” which Melia learned from Brooke Castillo, the host of the wonderful Life Coach School podcast. Buffering is any behavior we do in order not to feel something. It puts a buffer between you and the experience so you can avoid reality, check out, to not feel that discomfort.
It’s a numbing or avoidant behavior like comfort eating, zoning out on social media or TV, gossiping or getting too involved in other people’s lives; it can ease the pain or give us a high, but it’s temporary. Castillo says that you can feel the pain now or feel it later; buffering is just delaying or prolonging that discomfort.
And now for more on self-compassion! It’s an ongoing practice to learn to talk to ourselves like we would to someone we love, as Brené Brown says.
So how do we learn to do it? Dr. Kristen Neff says that it’s about practicing how you react to yourself in everyday moments. She cites a study by Leah B. Shapira and Myriam Mongrain, who found that speaking to yourself as a good friend for seven days lowers depression for three months and raises happiness for six months.
Neff says you can make up a mantra, like “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need,” and say it with a physical gesture of self-compassion. It may seem silly to give yourself a hug or put your hands over your heart, but your body doesn’t think so. Physical touch releases oxytocin (the love and bonding hormone), reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) and calms cardiovascular stress.
This episode is coming out the day before Thanksgiving, so it’s a timely moment to focus on gratitude. Research shows that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, improve their health, deal with setbacks, and strengthen relationships and connections.
One study found that gratitude is beneficial for people with mental health concerns. The participants were seeking counseling at a university, and reported clinically low levels of mental health at the time.
In addition to receiving counseling, participants were randomly assigned to three groups:
- Group 1 wrote a letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks
- Group 2 wrote about their thoughts and feelings about negative experiences
- Group 3 didn’t do any writing activity
Compared to the other participants, people who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended.
Gratitude is a simple but powerful practice. Here are a few ways to make it part of your day-to-day life – beyond just at Thanksgiving. And maybe some of these strategies can even help you out this holiday in moments of stress with family or last-minute preparations!
- List the things you’re grateful for
- 3 Good Things journaling: write three good things from your day before bed each night
- Dinnertime grace: share something you’re grateful for that day at the dinner table
- Play the glad game: go back and forth with someone else, saying things that make you happy
- Craft activities with kids
- Make a paper chain of gratitudes
- Make a rotating thankful pie
Instructions here. This is Evan’s (it says “my uncles,” not “my undies”).
- Express gratitude to others
- Write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks (or send a text or email)
- Write thank-you notes or send postcards or pictures with captions
Get It Together / Got It Together
We each share something that’s going well for us at the moment, and something else that we’d like to work on.
Melia Get It Together: Not getting to the gym much now that she’s working on the podcast again after the season break
Melia Got It Together: Making big strides in home organization
Gill’s Get It Together: Renewing the You Need a Budget app subscription and not using it yet
Gill’s Got It Together: Planning a hiking trip this weekend
Get In Touch
If you haven’t already, please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. If the podcast has brought joy to your life, why not share it with someone else? And sign up for our e-newsletter.
- Semi-Together Patreon page
- Greater Good Magazine: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain
- Harvard Health Publishing: In Praise of Gratitude
- Brooke Castillo’s The Life Coach School: Episode #132: Stop Buffering
- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
- Psychology Today: Satisficing vs. Maximizing
- The Atlantic: The Power of ‘Good Enough’
- Dr. Kristen Neff: The Physiology of Self-Compassion
- Dr. Juliana Breines: Why You Have to Love Yourself First
- Reschool Yourself: A Mantra for the Holidays: ‘What’s NOT Wrong?’
- Reschool Yourself: It’s Okay to Buy the Cookies
- Read other people’s gratitudes in the comments of this Marie Forleo post