Kristin Deiss of ‘Stir the Sage’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness
Make it a point each day to express gratitude to yourself. This one is important. When is the last time you expressed gratitude to yourself? So often, we focus on what’s not right about ourselves — what we’re not good at, what we need to improve, how we need to change. But what about the stuff that makes us awesome?
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 the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristin Deiss.
Kristin Deiss is a dancer, educator, yogi, healer, and mom trying to live her best life through helping others improve theirs.
She holds an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and is a certified yoga teacher, Reiki Master, and Integrated Energy Practitioner.
Kristin is currently the Commercial Dance Department Chair at Hussian College Los Angeles and writes about overcoming failure on Stir the Sage. For inspiration, laughs, and cute pics of her toddler, follow her on Instagram.
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?
When I was just seven years old, from the backseat of my mother’s Buick, I matter of factly exclaimed, “If I can’t dance, I’ll die.” I have carried the weight of those words ever since.
My dream was to be a principal dancer in New York City Ballet and after years of being on scholarship at the most prestigious ballet schools in the country, I was well on my way. That was until I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of thirteen. That disease took its toll and took me out of training for a little over a year. I was one of the lucky ones however, and after a year it went into remission, so I went back to training, not knowing that my body would never be what it once was.
Needless to say, I never achieved that dream. I did however show up to the studio every day, even as my body was breaking down, my mind was starting to turn on me, and my soul was feeling like it was being crushed. I eventually decided that enough was enough and left the ballet barre behind to pursue another path, but ultimately, I returned to the world I loved. Since then I have earned an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, I have performed and toured with multiple concert dance companies, I have premiered choreographic work at festivals and colleges across the country, I have held adjunct positions in dance departments at multiple institutions of higher learning, and have most recently been named the Chair of one.
And you know what? I still feel like a failure. I still carry an immense amount of shame that I wasn’t able to achieve my goal. And I still battle every day with the limiting beliefs I hold of myself about who I am and what I am capable of. So, I started the intense inner work to heal from my past and decided that rather hide from my defeat, I would learn to dance with it.
I am passionate about sharing that message with others, so that they too can dance with their defeat, whether it’s through teaching dance, yoga, reiki, meditation, or though my blog Stir the Sage.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Oh geeze, too many to count!
That time I thought I was going to be a principal dancer with NYCB and then quit dance due to injury?
Or maybe that time I thought I was going to work in a museum when I was studying to earn my PhD in history and then has the realization that wait, is this my life?
Or perhaps that time I was dancing on the stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LA Opera and remembered moments just years prior where I thought I would never dance again?
The most interesting things that have happened to me in my life are when things have not worked out as planned. Though painful, they usually have a way of creating something even more beautiful than you could have originally imagined.
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?
When I was 13 years old, I was asked to provide a quote for my eighth-grade yearbook. This is the quote that sits underneath my adolescent face: “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”
Corny, I know. But at the time I thought it was the most mind-blowing thing I had ever read.
The author of that quote, Dale Carnegie, understood that the past and the future only exist by the attention we give them. If we refocus our attention away from these linear concepts of time, and into the only time that is real, the present, we are better equipped to feel at ease and content.
To be content, we must understand that the only thing that is guaranteed, ever, is the present moment. The past is gone and the future may never come. All we have is now.
And this goal to be present, to be in each moment, is something I work toward every day. And you know what helps me achieve that presence? Gratitude.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
I have always been interested in the intersection of science and spirituality, especially when it comes to my energy work practice. So, when I read Molecules of Emotion by Candance B. Pert, I was blown away. It helped me to bridge my own gaps between my logical and intuitive mind. I highly suggest it for those also interested in doing the same!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My newest venture is Stir the Sage, where I deliver the tools and support necessary to heal wounds and trauma caused by past failures in order to create future opportunities for abundance and success. Too many of us carry limiting beliefs about ourselves, so it’s time to say goodbye to them and hello to all the power, potential, and peace waiting to be uncovered within us.
Over the course of my own journey to do so, I have taught countless others to heal and overcome those beliefs. I know it is possible. I also know that it is hard work. And I know that it sometimes takes a village to support us on that journey.
So, I started Stir the Sage to be that village. To inspire others. To encourage others. To support others. To provide information, guidance, and the simple reminder that we are enough.
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?
My husband is probably my biggest cheerleader, and that person who sees things in me that I don’t even see in myself. I am endlessly grateful not only for his support, but for his insight into who I am and what I am capable of.
I implore everyone to find who your biggest cheerleader is. Listen to what they say about you. Sometimes, we are so clouded by own perceptions of ourselves that it’s difficult to see through the haze of limiting beliefs and past failures. An outside perspective, especially from someone you love and trust, is immensely helpful in being able to clearly see who you are and what you are capable of.
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 feeling grateful. Of course, sometimes this happens naturally, like if someone were to hand you a million dollars! But as a practice, gratitude is a choice. It is an outlook and a mindset. It is a choice you make daily to notice the wonderful things about your life and feel grateful for them.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
We are wired to see what’s wrong. It helps us survive. We see what’s wrong so that we can fix it. But that instinct doesn’t help us thrive. Too often, it allows us, many times unconsciously, to turn a blind eye to the many wonderful and beautiful things that come into our lives every day.
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?
Gratitude has been shown to promote a bevy of physical, psychological, and social benefits, some of which include: a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, more joy/optimism, better resiliency in the face of stress, and a stronger sense of connection to others.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Because increased gratitude enhances our lives in such a full way, it also lends itself to helping us find contentment, which in turn improves our overall mental wellness.
Being content does not necessarily mean being happy. But it does mean being able to better weather the storms of life. A gratitude practice helps to shift perspective and moves our attention from pain to peace. All humans are on a quest for fulfillment. All humans strive for ease. All of us, whether obvious or not, are seeking how to be content in life, and the power of gratitude can help us achieve it.
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?
1.) Begin your day with a gratitude practice. By starting each day by choosing gratitude, we allow ourselves to begin the day with a positive outlook on life. This practice can take shape in many different ways. You can think of three things you are grateful for while you brush your teeth. You can write down three things you are grateful for while you have your morning coffee. Or, my personal favorite, if you are a morning shower person, you can verbally express three things you are grateful for out loud while you are in the shower!
2.) End your day with a gratitude practice. Ending our day with gratitude is a wonderful way to calm the mind and prepare for rest. It helps relieve any anxiety/worry that may be hampering your ability to sleep. I have been doing this recently and I love it. Each night, before bed, I simply write down three things I am grateful for that happened that day and why.
This nightly practice can also highlight for you how prone you are to either keeping those wonderful moments at the forefront of your mind or shoving them way in the back. And in full disclosure, it has shown me how quickly I release moments of joy and contentment to make way for feelings of failure, discontentment, sadness, and dis-ease. Ouch. But, I am happy to report that after a few months now of this practice, I am much quicker now to not only remember reasons for gratitude at the end of the day, but to spot them during my day as they happen.
3.) Be mindful each time you say “Thank you.” How many times do you say “thank you” simply out of habit without really thinking about why you’re saying it or who you’re saying it to?
I don’t know about you, but my count is high.
Being more mindful each time you say “thank you” can help you to fully access the gratitude that so many of are haphazardly expressing throughout the day.
The next time you say thank you, take pause, realize what it is you are grateful for and why you said it.
4.) Make it a point each day to express gratitude to someone you love. Set a phone alarm for the same time each day to remind you to express gratitude to someone you love. It can be as simple as sending a text message to a friend that says, “I am so grateful that you are in my life.” Or, maybe you send them an interpretive dance that expresses the same sentiment — I know you’re laughing, but that’s the point — make them and yourself laugh! A gratitude practice doesn’t need to be all serious all the time. Make it fun, make it interesting, and express your gratitude to those you love!
5.) Make it a point each day to express gratitude to yourself. This one is important. When is the last time you expressed gratitude to yourself? So often, we focus on what’s not right about ourselves — what we’re not good at, what we need to improve, how we need to change. But what about the stuff that makes us awesome?
Write yourself a love letter and read it to yourself out loud every day for a month. Jot down a few things you are grateful for on some sticky notes and place them where you will see them throughout the day. (Just make sure they are centered around you!)
While a gratitude practice is really wonderful for helping us make the connection between ourselves and our surroundings, it can also help us connect more deeply to our own selves.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Sometimes the best thing we can do when we feel these things is to get it out. Talk to a friend or write it down in a journal. Don’t keep it bottled inside. Express how you are feeling and it may be easier to change your mindset to one of gratitude.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
If you do not know who Prem Rawat is, I highly suggest you google him and listen to him as much as you can. The wisdom he shares really touches my soul, and I think it will touch yours too.
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. 🙂
I would love to see a movement centered around teaching children the importance and practices of concepts like gratitude and mindfulness.
As humans, we are capable of such beauty, but too often we suffer immensely and don’t have the tools to cope or transmute it into peace. If we were to learn those tools from a young age, we would have a population of people better equipped to handle everyday stressors who, instead of operating from a place of pain, hurt, anger, and anxiety, would operate from a place of acceptance, ease, joy, and peace.
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Kristin Deiss of ‘Stir the Sage’: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.