Show gratitude for all of those things you have acknowledged: Quickly jot down five things you are grateful for, make sure they comprise the good and not so good things. What are the lessons and triumphs you can see coming out of the struggles? Note: Be honest with yourself in this assessment, as the balance is critical.
As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic.”
What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?
One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Brianna Gaynor.
Brianna Gaynor has been a Clinical Psychologist in Georgia for the last ten years at her private practice, Peace of Mind Psychological Services. She has the honor of serving children, adolescents, and adults in identifying and treating mental illness. Her vision is to help clients find peace in every circumstance, which she can achieve with the help of her incredible clinical and administrative team.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?
Well, my name is Dr. Brianna Gaynor. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I received my Master’s and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Georgia School of Professional Psychology/Argosy Atlanta in 2009. I planted my roots as a Clinical Psychologist in the state of Georgia in May 2011, and I haven’t looked back since.
The main path that led me to become a Clinical Psychologist was always being someone who advised a genuine place of love and understanding. My earliest memory is from middle school; kids would always find me to talk about things going on in their lives and ask for advice. At that time, I thought that was what a psychologist did and, since I seemed to be good at it. So I decided early on that this was a path I wanted to take. I couldn’t shake the desire to explore this exciting career field, so I was all too eager to take my first psychology class upon entering college. I immediately fell in love with the possibilities of where this could take me, and the rest is passionate history.
I now specialize in comprehensive psychological evaluations that assess one’s strengths, weaknesses, and specific treatment needs. And I pride myself on creating a caring, supportive, and collaborative therapeutic environment for each client.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
While the hazards of being a clinical psychologist may vary, I accept that there will always be challenging clients. These challenges require my staff and I to continually find creative ways to handle volatile situations within the practice. However, since starting my career, the most exciting story revolves around protecting myself and staff from the threat of physical violence at the hands of child clients during sessions and emotional abuse. However, most times, situations involve being yelled at by clients who are going through some trauma.
I’m reminded that none of these aggression are targeted at my staff or me in these situations. That is why I am present with the client, to help them find peace of mind.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite life quote is, “There are no coincidences.” I believe that we are constantly right where we need to be in any given moment when we are staying true to who we are and our spirit. For instance, I spoke once at a conference, and my future publicist was in the audience unbeknownst to me. My goal was to speak from my heart, which resonated with her. As a result, we began to work together in the area I was most interested in developing, public speaking. Was it a coincidence? I’d say, “no.” There is always a divine intervention in the air, even when we can’t see it initially.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
The book that has made the most impact on me to this day is entitled, Big, Bold, and Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Created You To Be by Kierra Sheard. This book has been significant to me because it has helped me identify areas I need to address in my personal and professional life. It helped me to appreciate the process of life and embrace God’s role in my life. The added benefit of Sheard’s book is that it has brought my sister and me closer as we read and discussed it, which helped us bond.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m currently working on a few new passion projects that have me excited about the future. One project underway is developing my presentation about resilience — how it impacts our culture and how to build this trait in therapy. I am excited about this work because it will allow us to focus on strength building to develop and maintain this skill in all age ranges. Then there is my public or motivational speaking tour. This is an area of service that is new to me because the audience could be a conference room, stadium, or workplace. In the past, I’ve enjoyed speaking virtually as well in small conferences. However, this next project will place me on even bigger stages and platforms. I’m looking forward to the challenge and reaching more people.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful for my former supervisors because they have been beneficial in my career. Because of them, I was able to grow as a professional through triumphs and struggles. I learned how to engage with clients, what a good work product is, and complete some administrative tasks. One particular story that comes to mind at my last job, our office manager, left, and we had no one to fill in for months. As a result, I began answering calls, calling insurance companies to verify insurance, and scheduling, all of which helped me manage when I moved into private practice. I am grateful because my former positions helped provide the framework for what I would need in the future within my own practice and a clear vision as to what my future employees would need to feel supported.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
Gratitude is an appreciation for what is, either positive or negative. So when we are grateful, we can enjoy and see the benefits in both positive and negative circumstances. For instance, appreciating my ability to pay bills and meet my needs when business revenue is down is something to be grateful for, especially through this pandemic. The mere act of paying bills shows that I can manage my struggles and finances in a way that is enough to sustain me. I can also appreciate that, although I may not have everything I want, I am cared for and can enjoy what I have.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
We tend to look at what is not going right instead of what is going right. We can also not appreciate things we take for granted, such as food, shelter, clothing, love, and support. We don’t consider how blessed and privileged we are to have needs met even if our wants are not always being addressed.
This might be intuitive to you, but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
Increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our lives in many ways. It can help improve our mood, which sets us on a positive path at the start of our day or get through a rough week. Gratitude can also increase productivity, lead to positive emotions, and change how we engage and interact with our loved ones for the better.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Gratitude changes our thoughts, which are often the basis of mental health struggles. We often struggle with negative thoughts about ourselves, others, and the world, which impact feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger. Therefore, gratitude can help challenge and change our negative thoughts, improving our mood and behaviors.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Acknowledge what is going well and what is not going so well: Take inventory of your life, career and what is going well and what is a struggle.
- Show gratitude for all of those things you have acknowledged: Quickly jot down five things you are grateful for, make sure they comprise the good and not so good things. What are the lessons and triumphs you can see coming out of the struggles? Note: Be honest with yourself in this assessment, as the balance is critical.
- Take time just to be: mindfulness is a word we hear a lot. What that means is to be present at the moment. Therefore, make sure that you are enjoying and engaged fully in conversations, tasks, and eating. That helps you enjoy and not miss moments that may also create gratitude.
- Think about the past: Consider how you have dealt with things in the past. What are the areas you have been able to overcome? What have you accomplished? What goals have you met? Sometimes acknowledging your progress can lead to a sense of joy and gratitude.
- Self-care: yes, we hear this a lot, but what does your self need to feel cared for? Sleep, eating, and exercise are some of the things we always hear-but what about quietness, laughter, and fresh air. Whatever you need that fuels and makes you feel good needs to focus on you to function well.
Is there a particular practice that can be used when feeling down, really vulnerable, or sensitive?
Journaling has been a great practice for me. Specifically, taking time to process my feelings and emotions has been amazing. Also, personal therapy has been an amazing experience for me. It helps me understand myself and the next steps to take.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them live with gratitude?
The book Trust by Iyalna Vanzant is a great resource to help align with what you need to be at your best. Another great resource that has helped me appreciate life’s struggles is Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Embrace how you feel; your emotions are important. Never invalidate yourself, be aware that how you feel is an indicator of what may be impacting you, and do your best to recognize all the signs. Doing these things will allow you to move forward, trusting you can get through anything as you always have.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @drbriannagaynor or visit www.DrBriannaGaynor.com. You can also visit my private practice, Peace of Mind Psychological Services’ website at www.peaceofmindpsychology.com, or follow us across all social media platforms at @peaceofmindpsychology.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!