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Home » Jane Ransom: Discover the Three Keys of Gratitude to Unlock Your Happiest Life at TEDxChennai (Transcript)

Jane Ransom: Discover the Three Keys of Gratitude to Unlock Your Happiest Life at TEDxChennai (Transcript)

Jane Ransom

Here is the full transcript of professional hypnotist Jane Ransom’s TEDx Talk presentation: Discover the Three Keys of Gratitude to Unlock Your Happiest Life at TEDxChennai conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: Discover the Three Keys of Gratitude to Unlock Your Happiest Life by Jane Ransom at TEDxChennai


You are a great audience. I hope you know that. You’ve been amazing today. Yeah, thank you.

And you have my deepest respect for choosing to be right here, for choosing to spend a whole day learning and growing. When you change yourself, you change the world; you have my gratitude. And gratitude is gold.

When my two brothers and I were little kids, we rode the bus to school. There was a boy on the bus named Robbie. He was mentally handicapped. He had a low IQ. He spoke kind of funny. The other kids made fun of him. Robbie never took offense. He was so sweet natured. The other kids wouldn’t play with him but I always liked Robbie because he was nice.

Robbie became my friend, and he taught me some important things. Great teachers don’t need big IQs; they need big hearts.

When I think of Robbie, I think of gratitude. One morning, around eight years old, I’m late getting ready for school. As my two brothers leave the house, I’m still pulling my little dress on over my head, open my underwear drawer – empty!; dash to the laundry room, grab some underwear from the clean laundry basket, put those on, pull on my socks, lace up my shoes, find my lunch box and begin to run. It’s a half mile to the bus stop, down a hill, then around a sharp turn. Before I can even see the bus I hear its horn… mm-hmm… telling me to run faster.

Taking that last sharp turn, I look up, see all the kids faces in the bus windows frowning at me for keeping them waiting, and the driver, shaking his head with impatience, almost there when I feel something creeping down my legs and realize that when I grabbed that underwear from the clean laundry basket, I must have gotten my mother’s underwear. Hers is bright white cotton just like mine, only a whole lot bigger. And suddenly I have to stop running because that bright white underwear lies wrapped around my feet.

I look up. All the kids’ faces, howling with laughter, I set down my lunch box, reach for the underwear, pull it back on, pick up my lunch box again, holding the underwear in place, hobble to the bus.

Then what happened? As the bus door swung open, all that laughter shrank into silence. Not one kid would make eye contact with me, much less let me sit with them except there in the back was Robbie waving at me with one hand and then with the other patting the seat beside him, just like always.

I sat down, ready to burst into tears, ashamed, full of self-pity, so sorry for myself. Robbie waited quietly until the bus began to move and then he kind of elbowed me, made a funny face. We both began to laugh. The more we laughed the less ashamed I felt.

And then something truly remarkable happened. My heart swelled with gratitude for Robbie. And that was when full of gratitude — I didn’t just feel unashamed, I felt wonderful. Gratitude can take us from feeling sorry for ourselves to feeling joy.

Over the decades, turns out it’s me who’s the slow learner, because I’ve had to learn gratitude more than once. Think I’ve finally got it and want to share with you the full scoop on gratitude.

New scientific research reveals that doing a daily gratitude exercise will make you happier, more self-disciplined, more able to achieve your goals, even physically healthier, and perhaps, best of all, gratitude frees us from emotional pain. If you want to let go of emotional pain, choose gratitude.

Or if you simply want to feel more joy, choose gratitude, because when you feel more joy, you make the world more joyful. You need just three easy keys: emote, extend, and exercise.

Emote: meaning it’s not enough just to think about gratitude; you’ve got to feel the emotion.

Extend: as in extend your gratitude beyond yourself to include other people. Be grateful for other people.

Exercise: do your daily gratitude exercise.

Emote, extend, exercise. Say it with me: emote; extend; exercise.

When you practice gratitude correctly, you tap into neuroplasticity, brain plasticity. That’s the discovery that we can restructure our physical brains by using our minds to create better brain cell connections. When you use the three keys you unlock your neuroplasticity.

When you emote you fire up the hippocampus, your brain center of learning and memory. When you extend your gratitude to include other people, you spark the most highly evolved areas of the human brain devoted to social intelligence. And finally, in order for those wonderful new brain cell connections to go into long-term memory, to spread out into the subconscious where they become deep beliefs that drive you forward, that takes the regular repetition of daily exercise.

Emote, extend, exercise. Say with me: emote, extend, exercise.

Gratitude is especially powerful at healing childhood wounds. One of my clients, talented architect, grew up with a cruel abusive father. And my client was carrying around a sense of victimhood which was understandable. But it made him feel helpless, less self-confident which was limiting his personal and professional success.

Using the three keys, my client began doing a daily gratitude exercise. Within one month was attracting better customers making more money. Plus now he’s just a whole lot happier. He emailed me to say how glad he is, “just being thankful for the things I have”, he wrote, “instead of focusing on the things I don’t have.”

See, all of us experienced some negativity during childhood. That’s just life. The problem is children are vulnerable. Children cannot defend themselves against negative information. The part of the brain that allows us to make our own judgments and to block bad information is the prefrontal cortex, right up here. It’s the last part of the brain to develop. Its physical structure isn’t fully formed until after age 20.

So when we are kids, negative information slips easily deep into the brain unfiltered. And the more emotionally charged those negative messages are, the more they stick in the subconscious. They become what we call limiting beliefs which will hold us back, just as my client’s sense of victimhood was holding him back. Gratitude freed my client from old limiting beliefs. It can do the same for you.

Being a slow learner, it’s taken me a long while but today I’m grateful even for my own family history, as strange as it was. And I want to share with you some of that history to show you the power of gratitude.

When I was young, my mother abandoned our family. Eventually she became a radical lesbian. At one point, she told me she was no longer my mother. This may be hard for you to understand here in India where mothers are revered. But she saw the role of motherhood as being oppressive to women. And so for a while she simply resigned from being my mother.

My father was a hopeless alcoholic. He showed up for work so many times drunk he got fired from his job. Then one afternoon lying on his bed he passed out drunk with a cigarette in his hand and burned down the house. He and my brother Toby, who was also home at the time, were lucky to get out alive.

My brother Toby, three years older than I, twice as big, became violent during his teenage years and quite dangerous to me personally. Today he’s classified by the federal government as a severe paranoid schizophrenic. By law, he’s on a lot of medication, so he’s no longer a danger to others.

There were many wonderful aspects about my childhood. We lived in the forest with dogs and cats and pet bunny rabbits. That was heaven. But the negative effects of my childhood crept up on me around age 30 in the form of self-pity and bad behavior. I was destructively acting out, behaving badly, blaming my own behavior on my family. Hmm, I was confused. Living at the time in New York City, I did what confused New Yorkers do.

I went to see a shrink. Psychotherapy going all the way back to Freud was based on an interesting theory. So the psychotherapist was a nice person but she didn’t know what we know today about the brain. All the way back to Freud was based on the theory that if you kept digging at the roots of a psychological problem you could eventually yank it out like a weed as though the brain were a sort of flower pot.

Now there was never any real scientific evidence to support this flower pot theory. But for nearly a century most psychotherapy was based on it. So the psychotherapist had me endlessly dig up bad memories, dredge up old traumas, pull up old pain, dwell, dwell, dwell on a negative.

Today neuroplasticity shows us that when we dwell on the negative we reinforce those negative brain cell connections, making ourselves more negative.

Finally, this time in my late 30s, a friend came to the rescue once again. My friend Steven taught me a gratitude exercise. Gratitude saved my life. Gratitude has kept me happy ever since. It will do the same for you.

I still do my daily exercise. Each day I say out loud my gratitude. I’m grateful for this, I’m grateful for that. It turns out there is so much. For example, my mother, for all her faults, was an extraordinary woman, determined to realize her intellectual ambition, to realize herself. I too want to embrace my intellectual passions. I thank my mother for being brave enough to follow her own dream.

My father, for all his failures, was at heart a deeply kind man. He befriended many of the psychiatric patients he met while visiting my brother whenever Toby got himself locked up in the state mental hospital.

Also, my dad loved us children, sane or not, unconditionally. There’s no gift more precious. I thank my dad for teaching me kindness and love.

Even my schizophrenic brother — our parents have passed away and although Toby and I live in different parts of the country, I help take care of him. My other oldest brother Farley helps even more. Farley has my gratitude. Together we manage Toby’s clothing; we shop for him online. His finances, his grocery deliveries, his household repairs — every week I phone Toby. We talk. He tells me that our friendship keeps him steady enough to avoid getting locked up again in the mental hospital.

Can you imagine how satisfying it is to be able to provide friendship to someone for whom it makes all the difference? What amazed me those many years ago when I began practicing gratitude was how my mood, my thoughts, and my behavior, all improved; gratitude replaces victimhood with joy; no more self-pity, just an infinite supply of things to be grateful for.

Today neuroplasticity reveals how a consistent gratitude exercise works to physically remap the connections among our brain cells to literally reform the subconscious mind, if we use the three keys: emote, extend, exercise. Say it with me: emote, extend, exercise.

Research has shown the power of a simple exercise called the Three Blessings. You can do this. At the end of the day, simply write down and appreciate three things that went well that day. For example, did you learn something new, maybe at a TEDx conference? Perhaps you shared a lovely meal with your family. Remember, extend the gratitude to include other people.

It’s easy to think of just three things, and as you write them down, take a moment to emote, to feel grateful for each one. Research shows that if you do this exercise every day for at least two weeks, you will become much happier. But don’t stop after two weeks. The point is to keep exercising.

There are many ways to exercise. You might choose to write down your gratitude list as in the three blessings. Or maybe like me, you prefer to speak a longer gratitude list out loud or sing your gratitude or dance to it. What matters is that you do your exercise.

How many of you are willing to commit to doing a daily gratitude exercise for at least two weeks? Nice. Let’s start right now together.

If you would please close your eyes, close your eyes and bring into your mind someone you’re grateful for. It could be someone close to you – a parent or a child, a friend or a spouse. It could be someone you’ve never met who’s writing or art or political courage inspires you. Consider the preciousness of what they’ve given you, whether it’s encouragement, wisdom, love. As that feeling of gratitude grows stronger within, allow yourself to smile — to smile with deep gratitude, to feel it in your body. It makes me grateful to see your smiles.

You may open your eyes now. Can you feel the joy in the room? Yeah.

When you practice gratitude, you change yourself. And when you change yourself, you change the world.

Thank you.


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