It wasn’t until I met STACI DANFORD at a workshop and heard her story that I really started to understand the healing role of gratitude thinking in the brain. It was so powerful that I asked her to share her inspirational story in this blog. I especially enjoyed her animated “squirrel” signature story. So, will you!
The following year all attendees at a Global Women’s Peace Network luncheon received a Gratitude Diary, which was donated by the author, MELANIE SPEARS. I contacted Melanie in Australia and ask for her story for this blog. It also is powerful!
Okay, that’s two gratitude hints! So, I didn’t put the diary away, I immediately dove in and it helped me start a new morning ritual, which I share in a video clip on my Instagram page cover “Inspiration.” I had been dealing with relationship challenges and emotional hurts; trying very hard not to live my life depressed and angry! My morning wakeup ritual of inspirational readings and gratitude diary journaling helped me choose a different path and so glad I did. Life is a choice! My spirit is no longer feels compromised; instead, it has re-evolved! I’m grateful to be me!
I asked Melanie and Staci three questions to help you with your journey. They are thought provoking and attitude changing. We will start with a gratitude mindset from Staci and progress to establishing the practice with Melanie.
Neuroscience on Gratitude
What was your inspiration to go from art teacher to a brain-based gratitude speaker?
“Thank you so much for the opportunity to spread some GRATITUDE to wonderful folks I may have never otherwise had the chance to meet!
My inspiration to go from teacher to brain-based gratitude speaker was truly one single sentence from a troubled 16-year-old student. This young man was the hardest student I’d ever taught in almost 25 years. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t reach him or get him to behave. Then, one day I came home upset and asked my teenage daughter her advice on dealing with a troublemaker. She said, “Mom, what do you know about him?” I said I know he’s terrible. She said, “Exactly … you know nothing about him, and HE KNOWS THAT. And no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care!” Those words from her sizzled my soul. I made it my mission the very next day to start asking him questions about his life and telling him one nice thing I liked about him every day—even if I had to search to find it. I saw no change for weeks, then suddenly one day, he walked in with a smile and both of our lives have never been the same since.
Many years later, I met him for coffee and asked what changed his attitude in my classroom, and I will NEVER forget what he said. He told me, “Mrs. Danford, you smiled at me every time you saw me and made me feel like you were GRATEFUL I was alive.” WOW! That afternoon, I began researching smiles and gratitude. I had no idea there was a science behind it. And the rest is history. I went back to school to get a neuroscience degree and haven’t stopped spreading the importance of smiles and gratitude since that day.”
How did a squirrel impact your decision to just “go for it!” (I loved this story.)
How a squirrel changed my destiny: To say going back to grad school at almost 50 years old is an understatement. I hadn’t been a student in over three decades, plus working full time, going to school at night, and raising an 8-year-old magnified every difficult moment. On the day of my very first neuroscience exam, I thought I’d studied hard, and felt more than prepared. I walked into class, looked at my exam, and tears started rolling down my face. I felt like I’d studied the completely wrong chapter. Needless to say, I FAILED! Walking out of class, I felt like that exam was a clear sign that I wouldn’t be able to do this. After crying until I had no tears left, I made the decision to drop out of grad school—leaving my dreams of neuroscience behind. I went to my professor’s office to tell him, but he was with another student, so I had to wait outside.
While sitting outside, a squirrel kept coming up to me and looking at me in the strangest way. I tried shooing him away, but he would not leave. It felt like he was taunting me for hours (in reality … only about 15 minutes). But, that squirrel had me stop—so flustered and mad—that I stormed off and drove home … forgetting all about dropping my class and leaving my dream in the dust. Of course, by the time I realized what I’d done, I was halfway home with a new perspective on that exam. I decided I’d give it one more day, and one more try. I never failed another exam, but still give that silly squirrel credit for a little portion of my degree.
What do you want the world to know about your unique approach to gratitude to encourage a daily mental practice commitment?
My unique approach to gratitude comes from a life of failure and a million mistakes. I spent decades trying to “get happy” but nothing lasted. I kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again, no matter how hard I tried to be different. But, when I learned about the SCIENCE of gratitude and what it does to the human brain, I knew I’d found my missing piece.
Science is no respecter of persons. It does not care what gender, what race, what religion, or what carbs you ate for dinner. Science is UNIVERSAL and works for everyone. And so does scientific gratitude. I truly believe understanding the science behind how it works in the human brain is the key to producing the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. Gratitude is like a magic “thank you” that not only lights up your brain, but also lights up your life!
Thank you again for allowing me to share a little gratitude with the world. Hugs and health as we approach a brand-new year.
Learn more about Staci Danford and her offerings, visit
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Gratitude Healing Tool
What was your initial inspiration to write your first gratitude diary?
I was building my dream house like a lot of couples at that age (30 something) do. I had never built a house before and discovered that there are a lot of trappings in the form of over inflated desires and the co-sequential unexpected financial costs involved. The dream and reality can have a big gap in between. Hence to say, after three years, my partner and I had not finished our house and at that point we ran out of money! To be honest, it wasn’t the right thing for us to be doing in the first place and I’m not sure what was motivating us. Perhaps some type of inner drive to be creative because we already lived in a beautiful house and still, we wanted to create something different. There we were with no money and a relationship that was under stress because we could no longer fulfill our mission. This was unbearable for my partner and he became cantankerous—to the point of daily anger outbursts.
After a few months of trauma/ drama, I one day and without knowing this was my path … ended the relationship. I needed to take ownership for and carry the financial burden and clean up the mess of the unfinished house. I needed closure. The problem was, I had no income. What choice did I have but to endure the deep process of surrendering and giving up to “what would be—would be”.
In that time, there was a terrible war in Iraq; people were losing their homes, families, and lives. Children were in great danger and lots of devastation was going on. While watching this on the news, a flash of enlightenment descended upon me. I realized that what I was dealing with was not a crisis—what was going on in Iraq was a crisis! It put my situation into a very different perspective, so I started practicing gratitude for what it was that I had. That eventually evolved into the beginning of my practice.
Was it your intent to differentiate your gratitude diary from others with your personal journey?
It was never my intent to differentiate; it was just an intent to share my personal journey. My motivation was … “this is where I’m at … this is what I’m exploring … this is what I’m going through … how are you? … what is happening for you?” My intention was to just hold space for people to get in touch with what their journey was looking like at that time. I see it more of sharing my journey, sharing some vulnerability about my life; and therefore, it’s an invitation for the reader to go into their own psyche, have a look, and evaluate what’s happening in their own life.
My overall belief is that there is no separation amongst human beings and most likely, if I’m struggling (perhaps with financial hardship, separation, and loss), then others are probably navigating those very human issues, too. My intention was to be exposed or to expose myself, which would then create the resonance or frequency of inspiration and potentially activate change for the reader; therefore, allowing the reader to expose themselves to themselves inside of the diary. It’s a workshop in a book! Because of that, it is different from other gratitude diaries. My gratitude diary is more of a healing tool.
At the time when I originally started (1998), there were not that many diaries like it on the market. It was a completely new thing in terms of the way that I was offering it, and the style I was offering it in—I was a person. Other diaries didn’t seem to have a person attached to it; they were offered by a publishing company or agency. They didn’t have the heart that I was giving and there were no personal experiences to reference.
What do you want the world to know about your unique approach to gratitude to encourage a daily practice?
It’s powerful! It’s a powerful tool for transformation and growth. My journey with this practice is that I am becoming aware that I am a multidimensional being. In other words, there is this third dimensional universe that we live in, but there are multiple other energies and frequencies—times and places—in existence.
What gratitude does is connects you to the space between this dimension and the next one. Because gratitude is a practice, it’s a practice of saying yes and in that practice, saying yes to everything that there is—in other words, the light and the shadow—the good and the bad. Whatever polarity you come up with in your mind, what gratitude does is it collapses polarity because gratitude wraps itself around both sides of any reality and it says yes to it all. If you are living in complete acceptance of everything that is, then you are going to be shown more of everything that is. So, this process has now become a method for your own spiritual evolution.
RESIST NOTHING. In the new age journey, we have been given lots of different methods and tools including meditations—all different types of healing modalities and ways to connect with the spirit and all that is. But, gratitude, I believe, is the key to all of that because without saying yes to both sides of polarity, you still exist on either side; you will still be being doing life in a dualistic way where you will be referencing yourself according to your conditioning, and that’s the wheel. It’s the third dimensional wheel that I’m very happy to be off, but a lot of people are still living on and still getting emotionally triggered about life and thinking they actually have no control about that. So, gratitude is the key for collapsing polarity and actually helping you see the bigger picture of all that is. The more that we can get our minds out of the way and just be more totally present to what is, we start seeing more of what is. So, that would be the message that I want to get out to the world. It’s a spiritual—soul—journey.
Learn more about Melanie Spears and her Offerings, visit
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Gratitude Diary and Planner