In this episode Kayla Tapia joins the podcast, who is a colleague of Gordon’s in the mental health field. Gordon and Kayla talk about using gratitude as a practice to show kindness and compassion in the world. They also talk about how there are parts of our brains that have a way of looking for danger. But when we practice gratitude it helps calm those fears and help to use the higher parts of our brains.Kayla also talks about ways she has incorporated gratitude practices in her life to be more grounded and less anxious about the world.
Kayla Pennington Tapia is a counselor and therapist in private practice in Johnson City, TN. She is a native of the Appalachian region and is passionate about helping people find new ways to work through their “stuck” places.
“In my work, I will place an emphasis on emotional exploration, as I believe all emotions serve a purpose – to motivate us, to guide us, and to alert us that something just isn’t right. Rather than fighting or ignoring emotions, we can lean into them and listen to the messages they are trying to send through mindfulness and compassion.
I will offer a space of safety, support, and acceptance, free from any judgment. It takes strength and courage to heal, and I would be honored to stand with you through your journey of self-discovery and transformation”
Kayla is in private practice with The Journey For Healing Arts located in Johnson City, TN.
Habits for The New Year
Most of us have started the New Year by trying to establish some new habits and practices. One in particular is the practice of gratitude. By practicing gratitude it keeps us grounded and staying away from this false belief that we need and want more material things in life. The push to get more and/or be more can create a lot of anxiety for folks.
A simple practice is to begin each day by finding 3 things we are grateful for and sharing that with others. By doing this it keeps us grounded in the present and makes us more aware of what we have rather than what we don’t have. Finding what is going right rather than what is going wrong. This helps keep anxiety at bay.
Gratitude Allows Us To Be Kind To Ourselves and Others
When we look at the definition of gratitude one source defines it this way: “To show and return kindness.” So at the very core of gratitude is this stance of being kind. By showing appreciation of others we engage a different part of our brain. It is the part of our brain that controls our emotions, the prefrontal cortex. It is also the part of our brain that is the “thinking” part of our brain.
Our Brains Are Wired To Protect Us
Kayla spoke in the podcast about having a “negativity bias” hardwired into us. It is in the part of the brain called the amygdala. It is there to protect us and keep us safe. It is always looking for bad things that could potentially happen to us. Again, it is there to keep us safe. But if we let this part of our brains dominate it leads to an attitude of negativity and fear.
Gratitude practices help us to train our prefrontal cortex to be more in control. It forces us to look for the good in things. An example of this to think about a time when you mighty have gotten a performance review. It could be a wonderful review with a lot of positives. But instead of looking at the 98 good aspects of the review, we hone in on the 1 or 2 negatives. Gratitude helps us look at the bigger picture and focus on the positives.
Connecting Through Gratitude
We also have a propensity to connect with the negative in others. If we are not careful, we can let others’ lack of gratitude hold us back from seeing the positive in things. We do need to give voice to the negative times. But healing comes from community building and connecting around those positive things and show gratitude for people differences
Kayla and Gordon discussed the impact of the “Black Lives Matter” movement over this past year. Certainly we need to call out at times the wrongs of society and in others. But healing comes when we can be aware of the needs of others. In particular, show gratitude for other people’s points of view and the lens for which they see the world.
It is important to recognize and show appreciation of other people’s differences. We need diversity in order to have a healthy society. We see this in ecosystems. The more biodiversity an ecosystem has, the stronger and healthier it is. It is the same for humankind. And the more we can appreciate people’s differences it’s an act of gratitude and kindness.
Seeking Gratitude Experiences
It is important to seek out experiences that put us outside of our comfort zone with others. It’s how we can begin to discover gratitude for differences. We can appreciate other people’s cultural differences, it helps us to feel a connection with them. It is a way to be actively grateful.
An example of this is a tradition with the Maori people of New Zealand. They have a greeting that for most westerners comes across aggressive and frightening. The Haka is, though, a dance and ceremony originally intended to be a war dance to intimidate opponents. But it has evolved to now have a different meaning. It is a ceremony of respect and honor.
Here’s and example: https://youtu.be/MW3BMJFe2pY
Gratitude is a way of learning to let go of fear and getting to know people and why they see the world as they do. Gratitude for the differences and learning to have compassion for all that is different.
Practices of Gratitude
- Finding a few things that you are grateful for and reflecting on that everyday.
- Focusing on what we have rather than not have
- Start a gratitude journal
- Sending thank you notes everyday; writing it out in long-hand
- Being intentional about expressing gratitude
- When we have gratitude for others, be intentional about sharing that thought about them.
Other Gratitude Resources:
And when we can get really grounded in what we feel grateful for in this moment, at least for me, it helps so much. Um, and so it, it's almost so popular that it's cliche now, but the idea of just every morning, um, finding three things that I'm grateful for. And, um, part of that too, I think has been a lot of times, there are people in my life who are involved in that. And so to also be able to share with them, mm-hmm
Speaker 2 (00:41):
To the kindness and compassion podcast, where we will explore the intersection of psychology science and spirituality. My name is Gordon brewer and I'm a licensed psychotherapist and mental health provider. I have spent my career helping people learn how to better manage their remote and find more meaning in their lives and connection in their relationships. Join me as we think and talk about the ways we can find happiness and be content in our lives, through the practices of kindness and compassion. We will talk with other experts in the fields of psychology side and religion. I'm so glad you're with me on this journey as we learn how to be at peace with ourselves and others.
Well, hello everyone. And welcome to this second episode of the kindness and compassion podcast. Hello folks, I'm Gordon brewer. Glad you've joined me on this journey and glad you're with me and listening in, uh, hope you're finding this, uh, podcast. That's giving you a lot of food for thought, and that's my hope. You know, when I started this project, this new podcast, uh, in January, I really started working on it in earnest back in November of 2021. Uh, but I had originally planned on having a co-host with me on the podcast and that person is Kayla Tapia. She's another therapist, um, licensed therapist and practice here in our region. In fact, Kayla had worked with me in my practice for a while and I got to know Kayla back, um, when she was doing her internships with us and was in graduate school. And then later joined my practice for a while.
And now she's moved on to greener pastors with of practice. But Kayla was one of these people that was soon as I got to know her and got to really have a lot of deep conversations with. I knew that she was the kind of person that, um, I had in mind in interviewing for this particular podcast. Kayla is such a gentle soul and she is also extremely smart. And so this, um, this particular episode is our conversation around gratitude and, uh, Kayla, um, had, um, when we, I had a conversation with her about a week ago and she really, uh, kudos to her. She set some good boundaries for herself and that she realized after we got started in working on this, she wasn't gonna be able to devote the time to it that she had hoped to. And so, uh, that's another, uh, good, uh, that's a demonstration of self compassion and self kindness, and being able to set boundaries for yourself.
But anyway, I still wanted you to hear from Kayla and I'm sure Kayla's gonna be joining me for other episodes because she's exactly the kind of person that I hope to have on this podcast. And just having these meaningful conversations, uh, around the practices of kindness and compassion and why it matters in people's lives. I know in my own life, just as I shared in the first episode, I've had just a lot of ups and downs, which we all potentially do. Not that I'm not, I'm not unique in that way at, um, all of us have trials and just different things in life that can become hard. And I think our way forward, at least as I've learned along the way is through the practices of kindness and compassion, kindness, and compassion to others, not only that, but also kindness and, and for ourself and learning how to take care of ourselves well, but also be able to, to take care of others in the same way. So anyway, looking forward to you, hearing my conversation with Kayla and this particular topic that we're tackling in this episode is on gratitude, and we're why that's important for kindness and compassion.
Hey, Kayla, how are you? Hey, I'm doing great. How about, yeah, I'm doing okay. Um, we're, we're excited to get this podcast going and in these first episodes, we're just gonna be reflecting on some of our thoughts about some different aspects of kindness and compassion. And so in today's episode, we're gonna be talking about gratitude and how we might practice that in early lives. And just our thoughts about how that makes an impact with our practices of kindness and compassion. So, Kayla, I know that you had mentioned you're started with this, this new year as we're coming out and recording this in 2022, that you'd started a new practice, a gratitude practice.
I did, I feel like in so many ways last year, I lost touch with that a little bit. Um, and so when I was reflecting on the new year, that was something that felt really important to bring back, um, because it made me think about all the ways that gratitude keeps us grounded. I mean, even just in terms of, of materialism mm-hmm
Yeah, yeah. Uh, yeah. And as I think about gratitude, I think one of the things that, um, if, for lack of a better, one of the selling points for, for gratitude is, is that I think it does keep us grounded in the present. Um, it keeps us, keeps us aware of, um, what we have rather than what we don't have. Um, I is a big, is a big part of it. And I think one of the things is, is that, um, I know you and I work with a lot of folks that have a lot of, uh, struggle with anxiety. And, and certainly in the times we're living now, particularly during this COVID pandemic and just the world in gen genuine in general, excuse me. Um, there is a lot of anxiety out there. There's a lot of, um, a lot of a sense of what ifs.
And when I think about gratitude, I always think about finding, finding in our lives, what is going right rather than what is going wrong, um, of really kinda looking at, at it in that way, and also looking for that and others, as opposed to trying to always kind of point out and be critical of others with, with what, what they're doing or how they're, how they're going through life. So I think this, these practices of gratitude, um, go a long way with this, just again, this whole topic of kindness and compassion, because I think gratitude can allow us to be, um, kind to ourselves number one, uh, but also, uh, express that to other people in many ways. Mm-hmm,
And so the people who could do that better and more effectively, those are the people who lived and passed down those traits. So now we find ourselves just kind of always looking for the bad, which keeps us safe, but I think also can lead to a lot of anxiety, a lot of mental, um, health struggles, um, and a gratitude practice sort of does the opposite. It trains our mind to look for the good instead of the bad, and it sort of rewires those connections. So the at, yeah, I'm seeing the bad still, but, but let me proactively search for the good things, the things that are going right. Which I think is a huge piece of what you were just saying too.
Right, right. Yeah. Uh, and, and the, um, you know, the science behind it really is makes a lot of sense. I mean, there, as you were, as you were saying this, I was just thinking about, uh, I have in my, in my office in a resource notebook, um, a prick, a picture of the brain, and there's a part of our brain called the, a amygdala that is it's whole it's whole purpose is to keep us alive and keep us safe. It's that part of our, our brain that controls our breathing, our heart rate, all of those kinds of things. Uh, it also controls that fight or flight, uh, instinct that we have that fight or flight mechanism. And a lot of times we can, that part of our brain can at, can hijack the other, the rest of our brain, particularly our prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of our brain, but also the emotional part of our brain that allows us to, to, um, feel some of the softer emotions. And so gratitude really engages that prefrontal cortex so that it has the ability to kind of override that part of our brain that is constantly there, you know, the danger danger will Robinson kind of part of our brain, um, is, um, can take over for of people. And so there is, there is some science that, that supports the fact that gratitude practices help us engage that part of, of our brain and, and, and make it, um, make it easier to navigate the world that we're in.
A lot. Right. Yeah. I think too, just being, you know, um, another thing I'm reminded of is just thinking I've, uh, by both of us have been, um, studiers of people and that we're fascinated by people and human behavior and all of that sort of thing. But we, um, one of the things that I've always found fascinating is, is, and I don't know if it's more of a cultural thing here where we're located in a, in Appalachia, uh, Kayla and I both live in Northeast Tennessee. And, uh, it's very much, uh, very much influenced by an Appalachian culture. Uh, but seeing two people get together and commiserate over the negative things, you know, um,
And, uh, there's a, if you think about it, maybe even in your own life, um, when, when we have been in conversations with people over something that was troubling or something we didn't, we felt, you know, um, I I'm reminded of, of this past year in one of the things that was an important awareness for our whole society, but the whole black, black lives matter movement that occurred. Um, one of the phenomenon of that is that there was a lot of focus on what we were getting wrong. So there's, there are times when we need to do that. And I think we, we need to call attention to those things, but the solidarity and the connection over the people that were getting it right and were, were giving voice to those things and being embracing of, of our diversity and of our, our differences, um, and being grateful of the differences that we have as human beings had a whole different feel to it. And there was that there was that air of kindness and compassion that was coming out through that. And so that, that for me instills a lot of hope.
I'm saying it. It is. And I think the, you know, having gratitude for a sense of diversity, um, again, to get to kinda going down the science track, you know, in, when you look at EC, uh, ecosystems and that sort of thing, the ones that are the healthiest are the ones that are most diverse. And so I think it's the same for us as human beings. And so I think being able to be grateful for another person's difference, another person's, um, different cultural view, views, different ways of seeing the world, all of those kinds of things, very much tie into gratitude practices.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and it tears down, maybe some of that fear of difference that we have, if we can think of it in that way, um, and sort of start looking for the things that we have in common with other people.
Right. Um, right. Yeah. And I think, uh, uh, you know, one of the challenges I would give, um, people, uh, that are listening to the podcast would be to, to seek out experiences where you get to experience, um, something that feels maybe a little outside your comfort zone, and then being able to practice some gratitude around that, of what it teaches you and what you can appreciate, um, you know, uh, to not to go too far off on a, on a rabbit trail here. But I, and remember, as a, as a kid, um, I grew up, I grew up in a, my dad was a pastor, and so I grew up going to church and that sort of thing. And there was a certain way in which we did church and, and the, the view at that, at least in my NA naivete, uh, a time was that that's the, that's the correct way to do this and that you must do it this way.
And then I can remember visiting a black church. Of course, you know, I grew up white, Southern Baptist, um, um, not gonna judge that at this point, but, uh, uh, anyway, going into a black church one time and, and experiencing the difference of that and the excitement of that and all of that, um, you know, probably at the time looking back, I wasn't as appreciative and didn't have as much gratitude for that. But now when I look back at that, man, that's, that was just such a rich experience for me in my life to be able to experience that. And then even now, when I think of going into, uh, different settings where, whether it be, you know, it doesn't necessarily have to be religious, but going into maybe, um, seeing a, a, another one that comes to mind for me came, is watching, um, the Maori people.
I don't know if you've ever seen New Zealand doing the haw, um, if you've ever seen that well, YouTube it, um, and when you, when you, uh, the thing about it is, is that when you first see it, it feels very, um, very intimidating to watch that sort of ceremony go on. But when you understand the backstory behind that, of when they do that, they do it at funerals now, and they do it in situations where they are showing respect for people and what it was. Uh, it was a thing that was misinterpreted by a lot of people when they would come to New Zealand and, and, and face some of the indigenous people. And we'll probably, I'll try to have a link here in the show notes for a, a, a YouTube video of, of a haka ceremony being, being done. And, um, but once I learned the context and had gratitude for what it meant, it took on a whole new meaning and that now whenever I see one or, or witness that, um, it just fills me with a lot of emotion. And so, um, yeah, so didn't mean to get too much off on a rabbit trail, but I just thought those, that was a story that came to mind for me and just thinking about gratitude.
Well, I love it. And I think it helps me put into words better what I was trying to say earlier, which is that we are sort of wired to be scared of what's different. Um, you know, there is that sort of innate us, them, uh, mentality that's wired into us and, and it comes from a space of, of fear of the unknown, which none of us like that. Um, but I think when we can let go of that fear a little bit and start to under stand and start to, um, ask questions and, and really get to know people in the context and, and, and see their different perspectives and their different experiences as an opportunity for us to learn and connect. Um, it, it makes our relationship so much more rich and meaningful because I can absolutely think of times in my life where I was just surrounded by people who thought believe, acted, everything exactly as I did.
And, you know, I think there was an intentional piece to that because it felt safe and comfortable. I was never cha, um, it also, wasn't meaningful though. And now what I find is that every day in my life, um, through the work that I do, and also, I try to be very intentional about cultivating it in my personal life. I see people who are so extraordinarily different and have such different experiences and such different viewpoints. Um, and it, it does help me tap into, um, a strong sense of compassion of really understanding the background and where somebody is coming from. And it just teaches me every day, you know? Yeah.
Right, right. Yeah. So as you think about, um, maybe, you know, one of the things that I hope that we'll be able to do with this particular episode is put into the shows summary in the show notes, some, some resources around practicing gratitude. What are some practices that come to mind for you that people can start maybe doing to, to kind of dip their toe in the water around gratitude?
Yeah. I mean, the one that I described is so easy, um, to start and, and I think maintain, which is just finding a few things every day, um, to reflect on what you're grateful for. Um, a big piece, I think of, of making any habits stick is having a consistency in when you're doing it and how you're doing it. Mm-hmm
Other stuff? Yeah, there was, um, you know, I know there, there are some folks that, uh, keep God gratitude journal where they, um, actually write down, you know, and, um, every, as you're you were saying things that they're grateful for. And another, another idea that I absolutely love, which I think would be a pretty momentous task, at least from my view, as I heard about someone, sometime that would write a thank you note to somebody every single day, and they would mail it to them. And it was just people that maybe they knew, or maybe people that they didn't know. Um, of course, I've got this image in my mind of Jimmy fouling doing his thank you notes on
And I think the, the other thing too, there there's something to be said for actually writing things out in long hand mm-hmm
Yeah. I, I, I just, I wanted to add, um, that I think that's a really important, um, aspect of, of this new practice that I've started. And I really hope that I keep up is that in the past, um, you know, it's not new to me to, to maybe think of three things each day that I'm grateful for, but I think the new thing that feels really especially meaningful to me right now is that if a person comes up in that gratitude BLIS and that gratitude reflection, I let them know mm-hmm
Yes, yes, absolutely. Well, Kayla, I'm grateful for you. I'm glad that we're doing this together. And, um, I'm looking forward to our future episodes here. We are at just episode number two, but it's the place that we start. And so I want to invite everybody to, uh, be sure and follow us and subscribe to the podcast wherever you might be listening to us. And also if you'll go to kindness and compassion.com, um, there'll be a place there for you to sign up for our email list. And, and probably by the time you hear this, there'll be some freebies that you can get from us, some PDFs and some guides, and that, that sort of thing. Uh, that's just our gift to you for signing up for that email list. And thank you so much folks for being with us on this journey.
Well, folks, I hope you enjoyed listing in on my conversation with Kayla, and I'm so grateful for her, uh, as I mentioned in that particular episode and just, um, the thoughts that she's bringing to this and her life experience around gratitude and do, do check out the show notes and the summary we'll have a few links in there to other resources. Uh, one, uh, as I've been doing some research for this podcast, a few, um, things I'll I'll point out to you are just kind of make mention of, there are a few websites that I've discovered. Um, one is the, uh, mindful old.org website, I think is our excellent website on just has a lot of great resources on mindfulness and gratitude and those kinds of practices. And the other one is the, and it's produced by Berkeley it's, uh, Berkeley university, UC Berkeley, and it's the greater good science center.
And I came across, uh, their website and their resources. They have, um, they have a podcast called the science of happiness, which has been on my regular listen list. And, um, just a great resource to, to point out to folks and we'll have have links here in the show summary and show notes. And also I mentioned the, uh, the video for the Hawke dance, uh, which is a traditional, um, dance that it's a, really a, an honorary kind of dance that the Malory people. And so I invite you to go over, to take, uh, a look at that. And there's a link to some YouTube videos here in the show notes and show summary as well. So, well, take care folks. And, uh, again, thanks for joining me for this podcast and this journey and this new venture of mine, uh, be sure and go over to kindness and compassion com and subscribe to our newsletter.
And, um, when you do that, you'll be getting a lot of, uh, freebies and resources just around the practices of self care and kindness and compassion, and just, uh, resources that we're putting together. As we kind of, uh, as I like to say, we're building the plane as we at, uh, maybe that's a bad metaphor, but anyway, that's what we're doing here and be sure and, uh, follow us and subscribe to the podcast wherever you might be listening to it. And so looking forward to you being with me and future episodes and be sure, and drop me an email or reach out to me. Um, you, if you might be interested in being part of this, this, uh, project with me, if, if there's content you would be interested in contributing as far as being on the podcast and us having a conversation or other resources that you know, that you think might be interesting to people love to hear about out those.
And again, if you'll go to kindness and compassion.com and go to the contact page there, you can get information about how to contact me and, uh, also apply to be on the podcast. So take care folks, and, um, looking forward to being with you in the next episode, you have been listening to the kindness and compassion podcast with Gordon brewer, part of the psych craft network of podcast. Please visit firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, resources, and tools to help you in your journey. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you haven't done so already be sure to sign up, to get the free kindness and compassion practices guide. Again, you can find email@example.com, the information in this podcast is intended to be accurate and authoritative concerning the subject matter cover. It is given what the understanding that neither the hosts guests or producers are rendering clinical medical, mental health, or legal advice. If you need a professional, you should find the right person for that.
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L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person. He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook . And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.