Boost Your Well-Being Despite Covid-19

Audio Description

Many of us are feeling extreme levels of stress these days—and for good reason. Turns out our brains are hardwired to hate uncertainty. What can we do to tamp down our “fight or flight” response? Happiness expert Nataly Kogan takes us beyond meditation or turning off the news. She offers prescriptive tools you can incorporate into your daily routine to reprogram your response. COVID-19 remains an unprecedented threat to your health, wealth, and emotional well-being. Here’s the best way to cope.

Transcript

00:00 - 00:35

Welcome to Women & Wealth. Before we start, I want to let you know about a special new microsite dedicated to COVID-19. It is filled with up-to-date information and includes all of the communications that we have put out since the peak of the markets on February 20th. A lot of insights there and how we might prepare for our future after the crisis has passed, as well as how our portfolios are positioned and our latest thinking on the economy and markets. We're still going to provide you with all of our usual helpful tips and tools elsewhere throughout our site.

00:35 - 00:41

But you can find the site at Bernstein.com/covid-19

00:45 - 00:57

Welcome to Women & Wealth, I'm Beata Kirr, Co-head of Investment Strategies for Bernstein, and our podcast aims to educate, inspire, and empower women to make the right choices for their wealth. Let's dive in.

01:05 - 01:39

Welcome to a special edition of Women & Wealth. So many of us are experiencing what I think is fair to say, chronic stress these days as we try to cope with extraordinary levels of uncertainty while most of us are sheltering in place. And that means whether you're working from home, you're worried about your own health or your family's health, or you're trying desperately to keep your business afloat at this point. This crisis has raised concerns in so many ways. It's not just your wealth. Like I said earlier, it's your health and frankly, emotional well-being.

01:39 - 01:59

So we hosted a recent virtual event along these lines with a woman by the name of Nataly Kogan, who is a happiness expert. In addition to being a happiness expert, you'll hear her talk about her upbringing and her background. She came to America as a refugee from the former Soviet Union.

02:00 - 02:26

And when I first heard her speak at one of our events, I listened to that story and thought, wow, we have the exact same story. We just emigrated in different years. So it resonated with me not just in terms of her focus on happiness, but in terms of her own personal journey. She shared a lot of tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to really reprogram your response to today's environment.

02:26 - 02:37

And I hope you enjoy it. I'm so grateful to the team at Bernstein for creating this opportunity and making this possible. It speaks a lot to the values of the firm.

02:37 - 03:04

And I'm so grateful to every single one of you for taking this time out of what I know is a stressful and challenging day. Whatever is on your to do list, I know it's stressful and challenging to be here and to invest in your emotional health and your well-being, which is so essential right now. So just to tell you a little bit about me, in some ways I am an expert in uncertainty, which is what we're all facing right now.

03:04 - 03:19

I came to this country as a refugee when I was 13 years old. I grew up in the former Soviet Union and when I was 13, my parents left everyone and everything we had behind and after several months in refugee camps in Europe, were given permission to come to the US.

03:19 - 03:50

And I got a lot of lessons in uncertainty and challenge and stress. I spoke almost no English. Every single thing felt new to me. And I remember how hard that was. And the uncertainty we're all feeling now is even more challenging. It's even more overwhelming because it comes with so much fear and so much of what we're feeling is we're also sharing it with each other because we're stuck at home with our loved ones and we're sharing that stress with others.

03:50 - 04:24

And so I'm here today because over the last 30 years on the journey that I've taken from starting out actually in finance, I started my career at McKinsey and was a managing director at a venture capital firm in New York. And I've been, I have either started or been part of a management team at five different finance or technology companies. And then because I was really starving for any sense of well-being, because I was so overwhelmed and stressed out, I eventually founded Happier.

04:25 - 04:52

And a company with a mission to help millions of people, people like you, to boost their well-being, to help you thrive by practicing science-backed emotional health skills. And the way that I learned about these skills, the way that I began to practice them myself, was I completely burnt out from all of the success that I had achieved. And I had to learn basically from scratch how to boost my own emotional health and mental health.

04:52 - 05:16

And that's where I started doing all the research, some of which I'm going to share with you today. And it's incredible, meaningful work that I get to do. But I'm particularly grateful to be able to share some of these skills and practices with you today. That is my bigger why, that is my purpose, because right now we are under so much stress that we really need to make our emotional health a priority.

05:16 - 05:37

And before I dive in, before I share some of these skills and how to practice them with you, I just want to pause and talk for a little bit about why uncertainty is so hard for us as human beings. You know, when...so I live outside of Boston and we went on lockdown, so schools closed about four weeks ago, three and a half weeks ago.

05:37 - 06:03

And I decided to take this opportunity of this uncertainty and crisis to better understand what we're all going through emotionally. And I was doing some specific research on uncertainty and what I learned I want to share with you, because it turns out that uncertainty causes more stress as human beings than knowing that something really bad is definitely going to happen.

06:03 - 06:06

I don't know if that surprises you. It surprised me.

06:06 - 06:35

We would rather, our brain experiences less stress if it knows something certainly bad is going to happen than if it doesn't know. And the reason for that has to do with our, what our brain, how our brain functions. So I run a company called Happier. I teach emotional health skills for a living. And I often say this, your brain's number one job is not to keep you happy. Your brain's number one job is to keep you safe.

06:36 - 06:58

And every day, even before we've entered this crisis, your brain is scanning every situation you're in to try and determine is this safe, and then approach, or is this dangerous? And then it activates a stress response. We've heard of it as a fight or flight syndrome to figure out what to do right, fight it, get ready for it, or run away.

06:58 - 07:29

So your brain is doing this on a normal day all the time. Now, when we're in a situation of uncertainty, which is where we are right now, your brain is still trying to do that. Your brain is trying to figure out, OK, is this safe, is it not? But it doesn't have enough information to know. And it doesn't give up. Our brain is a really important ally. It just works harder and harder and harder, trying to figure out is it going to be safe, is it going to be dangerous. How do I keep you safe? And every time that your brain is trying to do that, it releases the stress hormones.

07:29 - 08:03

So in addition to the many challenges that you are feeling from so many of us are working from home or having to homeschool our kids, trying to figure out the future viability of our businesses and so much more. In addition to all of that challenge, there is this chronic underlying stress that is caused by uncertainty. And one of the best examples that I've seen, it was cited in one of the research studies that I want to share with you, because it really helped me understand this, was around...think about you have an important meeting that you need to get to.

08:03 - 08:08

And so you get in your car, get on the highway, you start driving. You left yourself enough time.

08:08 - 08:42

There is not a lot of traffic. So you're not stressed out about getting there. You know, you'll make it. Now, think of what happens and how you feel. You get on the highway, you go into the same meeting and it's standstill traffic. And you see there was a huge accident ahead. So, you know you're not going to make it. Now, you are stressed. Absolutely. But it turns out you are less stressed in that scenario than if you get on the highway, you start driving, there's no traffic for a while, and then there's some traffic, and then there is no traffic, and then there's some traffic. So it's uncertain. Your brain doesn't know if you're going to make it.

08:43 - 08:53

That causes us the most stress, that uncertainty, because the brain has to work so much harder to figure out, is it safe? Is it dangerous? Am I going to make it? Am I not going to make it?

08:53 - 09:10

So we are all in, in a way, on that highway right now where the traffic is changing all the time. And we don't know, right. There is challenging news and difficult news. And then there are some hopeful news, right? Every single hour, every single day, things are changing.

09:11 - 09:38

Everything is uncertain. And so we are in that state of chronic state, of chronic stress of our brain trying to figure out, well, how do I keep us safe? And that's really hard. And I want to start there because being aware that our brain is working so hard right now to try and figure out how to keep us safe, being aware of how much additional chronic stress that is causing us is really important, because I don't know if you felt this,

09:38 - 09:53

you know, I've been doing a lot of these keynotes and sessions with companies in the last couple of weeks. So many people have said to me, I feel physically exhausted and I don't know why. And I felt the same. I usually travel a lot to give these kind of talks in person. I haven't gotten on a plane in four weeks.

09:53 - 10:16

I'm sleeping in my own bed. Why am I so exhausted? Well, that's because this chronic stress that your brain is experiencing, there's no outlet for it. So it goes into our body. So if you've been feeling stressed and exhausted on top of being just overwhelmed with all that difficult and news and worrying about your family, this is why. Because uncertainty is so hard for our brain.

10:16 - 10:50

So what I want to do today is I want to give you a couple strategies, a couple science-backed skills and simple ways to practice them, not to eliminate stress. I wish I could do that. I think if I could do that, that would be pretty amazing. But to help you better manage through it, to help you find a little bit more ease in getting through this really challenging time and to stay more connected to each other, because ultimately that is essential. We are social beings. We need each other's support, and we need to be more intentional about it right now because we are not seeing each other as much.

10:50 - 11:19

And so I want to begin by talking about the skill of acceptance. Now, I'll tell you, when I used to hear this word, I hated it. I'm an immigrant and entrepreneur, like, I'm a fighter. What are you talking about? Acceptance, like? It sounded like, oh, whatever happens, happens, like that was way "wooo" for me. But I had it wrong because acceptance is really the skill of looking at how things are and how you feel with clarity instead of judgment.

11:19 - 11:40

And then given how you feel and given how things are, asking yourself, what is one thing, one single thing I can do? What is the next best thing that I can do, given how things are and given how I feel? And I want to just unpack that a little bit, because I'll be honest with you, it's, acceptance is one of the most challenging things to practice when things are going OK.

11:41 - 12:14

And it's really hard to practice, but really essential and important when you're facing a huge challenge like we are right now. So one of the things that we all have fear of, whether we are acknowledging it or not, is, research shows that many of us fear that if we allow ourselves to feel a difficult emotion like stress or sadness or a sense of loss or fear, which are all emotions we're feeling right now, we fear that if we allow ourselves to acknowledge them, that will get stuck in them. Right.

12:14 - 12:28

Like if I allow myself to feel sad of all, because I'm not seeing all the people I'm seeing or because I'm not getting to travel and deliver these keynotes that I love to do so much that I'll get stuck in it forever. But it turns out to be the opposite.

12:28 - 12:59

Research shows that when you acknowledge your difficult feelings, when you actually give yourself an opportunity to feel them and be in them without judgment, without thinking, this is not how I should feel, right, this is not how it should be. When you allow yourself to do that, research shows you actually experience them with less intensity and for a short amount of time. And the reason that happens is because when you feel an emotion like sadness or stress, it comes from the amygdala.

12:59 - 13:32

It's actually the back part of our brains, the ancient part of our brain. It's the part that controls emotions. And you've probably experienced this even in the recent days, like feeling really overwhelmed with an emotion. Right. That's your emotional brain. That's the amygdala in control. When you allow yourself to acknowledge an emotion, to witness it, to actually name it, right, to say, wow, I'm feeling really sad, or I'm feeling really stressed, you move the brain activity moves from this emotional part of the brain into the frontal cortex, which is the more analytical part of our brain,

13:32 - 13:39

more thoughtful part. So instead of being consumed by an emotion, we are now witnessing it.

13:39 - 13:59

It puts a little bit of distance between our stress, our sadness, and ourselves, and that process of acknowledging, even naming it, it allows us to feel less overwhelmed by it. It allows us to move through it. And so that first part of acceptance of allowing yourself to acknowledge how you feel.

13:59 - 14:21

And you can do that just by thinking about how you feel, by checking in with yourself and saying, how am I feeling right now? It's really powerful to write down how you feel. That's why research shows that journaling is so beneficial, because in that act of writing down your feeling, you move the activity into that frontal cortex, you witness it by definition, and it gives you a little bit of distance.

14:21 - 14:39

It's really essential right now. And the same applies to kind of witnessing how things are, right. Our brain loves to tell stories and there's research that shows that when you're telling a story or hearing a story, the pleasure centers in your brain light up. So we love stories.

14:40 - 15:11

So our brains right now are telling really dramatic stories and I'm raising my hand. I'm not immune to this just because I know the research, just because I know the science, the brain science. We're telling dramatic stories of, oh, my God, what if the economy completely collapses for a decade or what if my kids never go back to school or what if we are stuck in the house for months and months? So our brains love to tell dramatic stories. The practice of acceptance is to bring us back to the present moment and to say, well, what are the facts right now? That's the clarity part.

15:11 - 15:41

What do I know to be true? And right now we need to do that moment by moment, like this isn't, the skill I'm talking about isn't like do it once and it's done. This is something that the situation is calling us to do moment by moment. And so when you find yourself kind of running away into that dramatic story, can you bring yourself back and can you say, well, can I just witness how things are with clarity, like, what are the facts that I know to be true versus what is the story that my brain has created.

15:41 - 16:04

And you may need to do that a bunch of times a day, but it's incredibly helpful because it allows us to just focus on the things that we know and just focus on the things that we can control versus getting lost in the overwhelm, which, the only thing that does is it drains our emotional energy. And every morning when we wake up, we have a limited amount of

16:04 - 16:21

emotional, mental and physical energy. All of us, even those of you watching who feel like you can just go on forever and ever, I used to really believe that about myself until I burnt out completely, we all have a limited amount of energy. That, by the way, goes for your cognitive energy.

16:21 - 16:47

And so if you're finding right now that things that you used to do quickly are taking longer or you're finding that you're slower on things or even small things seem difficult. There's nothing wrong with you. All that stress you're feeling, it's using your limited amount of energy. It's pulling on your cognitive resources. And so this practice of constantly coming back and saying, well, what's clarity like? What are facts?

16:47 - 17:12

What do I really, what is really true about what's going on and bringing yourself to that awareness and then checking in with yourself and saying, OK, well, how am I feeling? And allowing yourself to feel that is incredibly powerful because it allows you to not waste your precious, limited emotional and mental energy getting lost in the overwhelm so that you have more of the energy to actually feel resilient, to move through this challenging time. So that's the first part of acceptance.

17:13 - 17:42

And then the second part is equally as important is once you are aware of how you feel, once you acknowledge how you feel, once you look at how things are with clarity instead of the drama, the dramatic story, asking yourself, OK, given how I feel, given how things are, what is the next best thing I can do? What is one thing I can do right now to serve this moment, to serve myself, my family, my business, whatever it may be?

17:42 - 18:13

And notice I didn't say, how can I solve every problem everywhere forever? No, no, no. I'm just asking you to think of one small thing that you can do. And there is such power and shifting into the action mode after you practice the awareness of your feelings and how things are because your brain is your ally. You know, one of my favorite quotes about the brain, it comes from Zen Buddhism and it says, your brain is a terrible master, but a great servant. Your brain is a terrible master, but a great servant.

18:13 - 18:47

And in that is the acknowledgement of what is also shown in Western science, that if we're left to kind of the wherewithal of our brain, like it gets distracted, it tells dramatic stories. But instead, if we direct our brain, right, if we ask it to say, OK, let's look at things clearly, what's one thing I can do to feel a little better or to help someone else or to honor this moment, the brain will become your ally. And not only will that one thing really help you feel a little more ease and less stress, your brain is going to start coming up with many, many more things.

18:47 - 19:21

And there's a lot of research around stress that shows that 80 percent of stress reduction actually comes from 20 percent of effort. And I know the 80/20 rule applies to a lot of things, but when it comes to reducing stress, it's actually really specific. Making that decision that you're going to do something small to help yourself feel a little better, to serve the situation a little better, making that decision gets you 80 percent of the way there because all of the faculties of your brain start to help you to feel actually less stress.

19:21 - 19:41

So it's incredibly powerful to practice these two steps of acceptance. Now, it's incredibly powerful for you, but it's also so powerful to practice it with others. You know, one of the questions I've been getting so often in the last couple of weeks from folks with whom we're doing these sessions is, you know, so many people in my life are struggling.

19:42 - 20:15

My kids are sad, my loved ones are worried, like, what can I do to help them? And that question is really personal to me. My daughter is 15. Her name is Mina. She was just here helping me set up this digital studio in my home, which is where we are. And it's been really hard for her. It's been hard. She's been home for four weeks. She misses her friends. She's been sad. It's really challenging. And the thing is, an instinct, and I know there's probably many parents watching this. My instinct when my child is sad is to cheer her up. That's my instinct.

20:15 - 20:44

And I know it's probably true for you. That comes from love, right? When someone we love is sad or struggling, we want to cheer them on. We cheer them up. We want them to feel better. But actually, the most helpful thing we can do for them is not to cheer them up, is not to kind of force them to feel better or encourage them even. The most helpful thing we can do is to practice acceptance of how they feel and to let them know that it's OK to not be OK.

20:44 - 20:53

And I actually had this experience with Mina the other day. So last week she had been home for about three weeks and I think it really hit her. So she had a day

20:53 - 21:26

she was really sad and she was crying. And I would come into her room and I would just, I really just wanted to, like, be goofy or say, like, let's go watch our favorite show. But I didn't do that. And I just kept saying, I love you. I know this is really sad. It is really sad and it's OK to feel sad. It's OK to cry. And she told me over the weekend after that that, you know, that was really helpful because it gave her permission to just be sad. And this is really hard to do because it's easy to feel like we're not helping as parents.

21:26 - 21:57

Right. We're not doing something to make our kids feel better, but recognize that in that moment of you just allowing them to feel how they feel, to help them feel safe, to feel difficult feelings, you're actually helping them have that power of acceptance. You're helping them to feel like it's OK to feel that way. You're helping them be present and acknowledge their feelings. And by doing that, you're actually creating an opportunity for them to identify something they can do to feel better.

21:57 - 22:20

And so I know it is challenging, but I encourage you so much to practice acceptance with people that you care about who may be struggling or feeling sad, and to let them know that it is OK to feel sad or stressed or worried, that you are there, that you care, but to not make them feel like they need to feel better right away.

22:21 - 22:29

I'm not saying to not cheer them up later, but that first step of just giving them permission to feel not OK is incredibly powerful.

22:29 - 23:01

And so I really encourage you to give acceptance a try, these two steps of acknowledging how you feel with clarity instead of judgment, of looking at how things are with clarity instead of kind of dramatic stories that our brain likes to make up, and then to ask yourself, what is the next best thing I can do, for myself to feel a little better, for others around me, and then to practice that same skill with others by allowing them to feel what they feel and letting them know that it is OK to not feel OK.

23:03 - 23:07

The next skill that I want to talk to you about is gratitude.

23:07 - 23:37

And I want to start, I want to share a story with you that happened 30 years ago actually in a refugee settlement. When my parents and I were... first place we went to after Russia was Vienna, Austria. That was the first huge refugee settlement where we landed and we lived in this dilapidated apartment building with dozens of other Russian Jewish refugees on the way to try and make our way to America. My parents and I shared this tiny room.

23:37 - 23:55

They had one bed, I had the other. And my father, who is my hero, who is a triple Ph.D. and like, he's like one of those brilliant, crazy Russian scientists. But he was, at night, he found a job unloading fruit crates at the local farmer's market to make just a few extra dollars for us to have for food.

23:56 - 24:17

So one morning he comes in and it was like super early, like 6:00 in the morning. My mom and I were just waking up and I so remember this. He comes in and he's like girls, OK, today we're going to go, we're going to see the Vienna Opera House. It's gorgeous. And I heard the tours inside are absolutely free. So we're going to go. And I said, you are nuts. You are crazy.

24:18 - 24:52

Like we are here. We have no money. We have no idea like, if we'll even make it to America. And you want to go sightseeing. It was absurd to me because, you see, at that time the idea that you could enjoy something, that you could be grateful for something while nothing else in life was OK, it was ridiculous to me. It felt like cheating on reality for us to go enjoy the day. And so I had to go, my parents, like, I had to go. But I made sure that they knew how unhappy I was about this idea the whole day.

24:52 - 25:14

And outside, when we were waiting in line to get the free tickets for the tour, the outside of the opera house, my dad was incredibly charismatic. He befriended this gentleman who spoke... my dad, and he spoke enough English. And the gentleman offered to buy us all ice cream after the tour. So here we are outside of the Vienna Opera House enjoying ice cream.

25:14 - 25:48

I mean, it's amazing, right? There's a picture of us from that day and in the picture, everyone's smiling. But I was not. I had this look of, like, stern, like, I am not going to enjoy this moment. And actually, a couple of years after we came to the US, I cut out my photo from that picture, my face, like, I could not stand it. So we still have the photo, just a hole where my face of unhappiness was because, again, I was so committed to this idea that happiness comes when everything is perfect, but nothing was perfect. So I couldn't allow myself a moment of happiness.

25:48 - 25:56

I thought that when life isn't perfect, you got to own the struggle. You got to like own the worry. That's going to be all that you feel.

25:57 - 26:16

And one thing that my dad said that day that took me thirty years to really internalize, and the lesson to learn is, he said, you know what, life sucks right now. You're right, everything sucks, like, we are here. We have no money. It's really uncertain if we can get to America, but we have a choice.

26:17 - 26:40

We can either sulk and just allow ourselves to feel down or we can find things that we can do together that bring us a little bit of joy, like going to see the Opera House. And like I said, it's not like that lesson landed with me right away. It took me decades to internalize it. But that is what I want to share with you today, that, yes, we're going through so much challenge right now.

26:40 - 26:55

And we all have loved ones we're so worried about. And many of us have people in our lives we are losing and it's so, so hard. But amidst all this challenge, we can still find moments of joy and it is so essential.

26:55 - 27:30

And the best way to do that is by practicing gratitude. Now, gratitude is very simply the skill of zooming in on something in your life that is good, that is beautiful, that is kind, that is meaningful, and the smaller the better. Right. There isn't the right way to practice. The most essential thing is that you practice. In my talks, I often talk about gratitude compared to broccoli. So we all know that broccoli is good for us, right? I think most of us know broccoli is healthy. It's good for us. But you can only get the benefits of broccoli if you eat it, right.

27:30 - 28:03

Like, knowing the broccoli is good for you does not give you the nutritional benefits of broccoli. You have to eat it. The same with gratitude. Many folks, you know, when I give talks to a live audience, versus you guys I can't see, I often ask, like, how many people here know that gratitude is beneficial for how we feel, for reducing stress? And usually many hands go up. And then I ask, well, how many people are practicing gratitude daily? And very few people raise their hands. And so gratitude is like broccoli. It's not enough to know that it's good for us. We actually have to practice it as a skill.

28:03 - 28:05

We have to be intentional about it.

28:05 - 28:27

And not, gratitude isn't just this fastest path to joy, right? The minute you begin to come to think of something that you are grateful for, you feel better. In fact, I want you to do this right now. I want you to, every single person either watching this live or recording, just pause and think of something you are grateful for in your life right now.

28:28 - 28:57

And I'm going to interrupt you, because even before you come up with the answer, your brain releases serotonin and dopamine. And these are two neurotransmitters that make us feel good. Think about how powerful that is. The minute that you begin to think of something you are grateful for, your brain is already helping you to feel a little bit better. So gratitude is the fastest, the surest path to joy. And it is so essential to practice, but not only just gratitude, help us feel better.

28:57 - 29:31

Gratitude is an essential source of resilience when we are going through a challenging time because we all have what's called a negativity bias, right. The negativity bias means that we're all much more sensitive to anything that goes wrong, to anything negative, to anything stressful than we are to when things are going well or to anything good. And the reason that we've all developed this negativity bias is because usually danger comes with negative stimuli. Right.

29:31 - 29:56

And our brain, remember, your brain's number one job is to protect you from danger. And so our brain is always looking out for these negative stimuli and we all have a negativity bias. For some of us that's bigger than others. I'll just confess and take this moment to say that mine is really high. You know, I say this, like. I am a tortured Russian Jewish immigrant, like my natural negativity bias is very active.

29:56 - 30:19

I come from a family where I learned a lot how to suffer. I learned it from my mom and I learned it from my grandma. You know, I always tell the story that my grandma, who passed away a couple of years ago, she would make these incredible feasts, these incredible meals for us. And I don't know how she did it because it was always a shortage of food, but it was amazing. And she would bring them out.

30:19 - 30:42

And part of the enjoyment of the meal was for her to tell us how hard it was to make, how much she suffered making it, right, and be like, oh, my God, I almost died, and oh my God, the kitchen is terrible, and oh my God, this lamb is not even good. And so, like, that was part of the experience and part of our experience of like being grateful for the meal was to join in the suffering, you know, to, like, be like, yeah, grandma,

30:42 - 31:17

that was really hard. Or like, yeah, this lamb is not that good. And so I come from that tradition. I'm really good at noticing anything that might go wrong. Some people, their negativity bias is a little bit less, they're generally more content. I think we all know some of those people in our lives, but we all have it. And what happens when we are really stressed out is our negativity bias gets even more sensitive. So this idea that negativity begets negativity is really true. When your brain is tired, when you are stressed, when you are feeling anxious, your negativity bias is even more sensitive.

31:17 - 31:26

And the best way to help you not spiral out into that negativity, to not become fully consumed by it, is to practice gratitude.

31:26 - 31:58

Because when you're going through a challenge, right, and you're going through a stressful time and you practice gratitude within it, so you're not, I'm not asking you to be grateful for the challenge, but when you find something within the challenge, something within your life as it is to be grateful for you're reminding your brain that this challenge is not everything, that there are good things in your life, and that becomes a really powerful source of resilience. They've done different studies to show this.

31:58 - 32:13

And one of the studies that really impacted my understanding of this is, they for a long time studied vets that come back from various wars and conflicts. And what they have learned is the vets who practice gratitude,

32:13 - 32:37

they still may have PTSD, but it's a lot less intense. Because through that gratitude, they're reminding their brains that the challenge and the stress and the trauma that they've gone through, that that's not everything, that there are good things in their life. And so gratitude is not just really important to find moments of joy, but it's also your essential resource for feeling a little more resilient right now.

32:38 - 33:12

So here is one way, one simple gratitude practice that I've been using a lot in this really challenging time. And it's something I call gratitude antidote. And it's incredibly simple. When you find yourself really overwhelmed with stress or anxiety or worry, can you pause? Can you? Acceptance is always first. Can you acknowledge that that's how you feel? And then can you use that as your reminder, as almost a trigger to practice gratitude? In the shorthand that I use is, this is really stressful, But. And gratitude is the But.

33:12 - 33:45

Right. So now you paused But. And then you identify something that you are grateful for. And it's really important when you're practicing gratitude, to be specific. I often ask people, tell me something you are grateful for. And people say things like my family or my health. And those are wonderful things. But actually they're too general for the brain. So the more specific you can be, the better. You know, I'm really grateful for that, before I got on this Zoom to do this talk with you guys, that my daughter made me some tea. I'm really grateful for that.

33:46 - 34:20

When your teenager does something nice, it's kind of like victory, right? So the more specific you can be, the better. And the other thing I encourage you to do when you practice gratitude, whether it's with gratitude antidote, or maybe beginning your day by identifying a couple of things you're grateful for. It's to be, to give yourself an opportunity to actually feel that appreciation. Right. So to not run through it, to actually take that moment and feel the gratitude, because that's where the benefits come from. One of the other ways that I encourage you to practice gratitude is another simple practice

34:20 - 34:54

I call three gratitudes before first e-mail. We all look at e-mail first thing in the morning. I know we do that. And you know that feeling, you look at your e-mail, it's like you're gone. It's taking you away, like, an hour later and you're like, oh my God, what just happened? And these days, I think another way to practice this is, three gratitudes before you read news first thing in the morning, because so much difficult news right now. And I don't know about you, but I found myself like I just read one article and then it's an hour later and I've read seven. So three gratitudes before you write your first e-mail, before you check the news in the morning.

34:55 - 35:16

What I encourage you to do is capture that gratitude in some way. Some people love to journal. That's great. You don't have to keep a journal. You can jot it down on a Post-it note. You can text it to someone, you can put it in Notes app. You can share it with someone. But some way to capture it because it just creates a greater impact for your brain when you do that.

35:16 - 35:49

So I want to share with you something that happened last week that reminded me to really practice gratitude by sharing with others as much as I was practicing it for myself. So I've been doing a lot of sessions like this for a lot of teams and companies and people in our community and just trying to support people as much as I could. And I realized last week, late last week, like I was feeling so sad and so deflated, like it got to me, the crisis got to me.

35:50 - 36:23

And then I opened my e-mail. And in my e-mail was a gratitude note from a gentleman who had watched one of our training sessions that I shared. And he shared with me how actually practicing acceptance that morning with his teenage son really helped them both, and it meant so much to me, but I also noticed that I just felt this like boost to like keep going, like I felt a little better almost immediately. And that's the power of sharing your gratitude with others. That's the power of you expressing your genuine appreciation for people in your life.

36:24 - 36:50

Not only does it really help them to feel seen and acknowledged, which is so important right now, especially because we're not together a lot, but it helps you to recognize that you have people in your life who you appreciate, who you are grateful to have there, that you are not alone and feeling not alone, feeling like we belong, feeling that we are connected to each other is so essential for survival.

36:51 - 37:11

We are human beings. We are social beings. We need to feel like we are connected to each other for us to be able to, forget about thriving, just to survive. And so sharing your gratitude with others is a gift right now. It's an act of kindness and it's an act of kindness and a gift not just for the other person, but also for yourself.

37:11 - 37:38

And so I encourage you right now to overdo it on gratitude. I encourage you to become a gratitude hero. Because to find moments of gratitude and to share them with others and to appreciate others when you're going through a storm, which is what we are going through, this is what I've been referring to as, that makes you a gratitude hero. So can you take that as a daily action for yourself, not just to practice gratitude, but to share your gratitude with others?

37:39 - 37:53

And I'll tell you how we do it in our family just to share some ideas, but hopefully they spark some ideas for you. One of the things we've been doing is my daughter actually made a little poster and we called it Family Quarantine Gratitudes.

37:53 - 38:21

And not every day, but every other day or so after dinner, we take it out and each of us writes down something from that day we are grateful for. And it's really meaningful to just see it fill up. You know, we're in this challenging time and yet we're finding things to be grateful for. Another thing we do, we do it actually on Fridays because we do Shabbat and then we have this jar where we have sticky notes and each of us writes down a couple of things we're grateful for from that week.

38:21 - 38:44

So it's a way to kind of bookend your week at the end with gratitude. There's many other ways to do it. One of the, I mentioned bookends. One of my favorite ways is gratitude bookends. So you can do it during dinner, begin by sharing something you are grateful for, and then maybe someone in your family ends the dinner that way. Or even grab to tag. Right. Share something you're grateful for and then you tag someone else to do it.

38:44 - 38:57

And this is so easy to do even with people who are not in your house or apartment, who are not with you physically. You can do this by text. You can do this on Zoom. Right. Maybe we're all a little tired of Zoom, but you can do it in so many ways.

38:57 - 39:21

And the point there, the most important thing is for you to practice this intentionally, for you to have this intention during these challenging times to commit to gratitude and to find a way every single day to practice it. There is not one way that's better than others. As long as you practice, it helps you feel a little less stressed, a little more at ease as you go through this, a little more resilient.

39:21 - 39:50

And it helps people that you share it with feel seen and connected. And it actually is a way to bring you closer together. So acceptance and gratitude are the two skills that I wanted to share with you today. All we can do is practice, which means you cannot expect yourself to do it perfectly, which means that there are days, even for people like me, I teach this for a living, right, but there are days when I can't bring myself to practice acceptance, and I get lost in the overwhelm and I'm not feeling very grateful.

39:50 - 40:02

And that is OK. We also have to practice compassion towards ourselves and recognize that we are going through a storm. And in a storm there is no perfection. There is not always grace.

40:02 - 40:34

Sometimes it's loud and dirty and messy and all we have to do is just to keep going. And so I offer you these skills and ways to practice them. But I also want you to take that in with a heavy dose of self compassion for days or moments when you can't practice them or you forget to practice them. You are a human being going through something incredibly challenging. And the goal we all have is to make it through. And hopefully when we practice acceptance and we practice gratitude, it helps us.

40:34 - 40:45

It gives us a little bit more ease to get through this. I want to thank Nataly for those essential tools for strengthening emotional health. And thank you for listening.

40:46 - 41:10

If you enjoyed the podcast and haven't subscribed to our show, please go to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you listen, to subscribe and rate us. You can also find us on Twitter at BernsteinPWM, or find me, Beata Kirr, on LinkedIn. Bernstein: Making money meaningful for individuals, families, and foundations for over 50 years. Visit us at Bernstein.com.

Hosts
Beata Kirr
Co-Head—Investment Strategies

The information presented and opinions expressed are solely the views of the podcast host commentator and their guest speaker(s). AllianceBernstein L.P. or its affiliates makes no representations or warranties concerning the accuracy of any data. There is no guarantee that any projection, forecast or opinion in this material will be realized. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The views expressed here may change at any time after the date of this podcast. This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. AllianceBernstein L.P. does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. It does not take an investor’s personal investment objectives or financial situation into account; investors should discuss their individual circumstances with appropriate professionals before making any decisions. This information should not be construed as sales or marketing material or an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument, product or service sponsored by AllianceBernstein or its affiliates.

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