Look Inside

interview with the author
• about the author

What prompted you to write Alphatudes? I had been told at various points in my life to be grateful and I didn’t exactly know how. I went through the typical laundry list—health, family and friends—but it was a sporadic practice that didn’t stick. What I needed was a methodical, structured way that was easy to remember and integrate into my daily life. The idea for an alphabet of gratitude - alphatudes - came to me in a most unlikely way. I wasn’t feeling grateful at all. In fact, I had been going through a period of disrupted sleep and was quite cranky over my inability to sleep soundly. I had tried many different techniques, but so far had not had any luck. One particular night while lying in bed and the concept of gratitude entered my thoughts. I started thinking of the various things I was grateful for and within moments my mind started drifting toward other things. I couldn’t seem to stay focused on the concept and how at this very moment in time, it applied to my life? Then, I started thinking of things I was grateful for using the structure of the alphabet – something I had conquered as child and was easy and fun. I started thinking of apples and the beautiful colors: yellow, green, red. How the grocery store displayed them so beautifully, the store employees who took such care in displaying them so enticingly, the store owner who hired these workers and gave them jobs, the trucks that brought the apples to the store, the farmers who tilled the soil, planted the seeds and picked the apples from the trees. By now, I was well on my way to putting positive things in my mind prior to sleep. Like a grade school child, my mind automatically went to B, then C, D, E…and by F I was out like a light. I had finally found a simple, practical and structured method for incorporating gratitude into my life in a consistent, easy and rewarding way. Like evening prayers, reviewing my Alphatudes is now a part of my daily life. Why count your burdens when you can count your blessings?

Start to finish, how long did it take to write the book? A year and a half.

Which part of the writing process did you enjoy most? Why? I loved writing the affirmations and prayers. This part particularly inspired me to move to new heights spirituality and made my connection with something greater than myself even stronger. I always felt inspired, energized and grateful when working on these aspects of the book.

Which part of the writing process did you find most challenging? Why? In each alphabetical teaching I tried to incorporate a famous quote or lesson from someone else. There were so many choose from and I wanted to pick the one that enhanced what I was trying to express most closely. There are so many wonderful quotes out there, narrowing them down was tough!

How did you come up with the title? I had shared the method with a few of my clients who had achieved fabulous results and eventually, the term alphatudes: "alpha" for alphabet and "tudes" for gratitude was coined! Ellen DeGeneres does a great job at coining new terms and I always admired how fun and clever her addictionary words are.

Why do you think people in general sometimes overlook the importance of gratitude? I don’t think people truly understand the amazingly profound benefit to our mental, spiritual and physical health. We were all taught when we were young to "be grateful", more as a sort of punishment rather than a lifestyle choice. I also don’t think most people know how to sustain a practice of gratitude for it to be optimally beneficial.

Sometimes it seems like we are bombarded with bad news on a daily basis. Do you think this makes it difficult to practice gratitude? Why or why not? Yes, sometimes it is like going against the river’s flow. Because we are bombarded with "the bad stuff" from external sources, this even makes it more important to reach inside to that calm, still space within each of us that holds "the good stuff." Sometimes, people are actually more appreciative when they hear the “bad news,” because they are grateful that it is not happening to them.

Do you ever find yourself becoming trapped in the cycle of bad news? If so, how do you break the cycle? We all get in ruts of negativity and pessimism. Sometimes it is a simple change of scenery that we need. Other times we truly need to go on a "bad news diet" – this could mean not watching the daily news, reading the newspaper or hanging out with nay-saying friends that drain us. At times, going back to less complicated times and enjoying the simple yet magnificent things that are all around us—a sunset, a beautiful flower, uplifting music or an inspirational reading can break the pattern of focusing on our burdens rather than our blessings.

What are the benefits of using Alphatudes? Alphatudes gives you a practical, simple method to count your blessings. It provides an experience of gratitude through enchanting illustrations, heartfelt quotes, heartfelt prayers and inspiring quotes - not just an intellectual or theoretical understanding. It brings us back to the days of our simple childhood victories – the ABCs—nothing too complicated to add to the stress of our modern times.

When did you start your personal practice of gratitude and why? When I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This may seem like a strange time to begin a practice, but this is when it happened for me and really sunk deep into my soul. I had lost my job, my boyfriend and my hair—things were looking pretty grim and depressing. I had the idea one day to make a list of all of the things I could do and what I was grateful for and then to list the things I couldn’t do. The gratitude list was huge! I was shocked. I started only focusing on those things and I felt full and abundant despite my illness.

What changes have you noticed in your life since starting the practice of gratitude? Although I still am affected by the normal ebbs and flows of life—the peaks and valleys—however, I now find that I naturally look for what is working and what the gifts and lessons are, even in life’s challenges.

How does the practice of gratitude unfold in your daily life? Finding the blessings of my day has become a positive healthy habit. Before I go to bed at night I review what I am grateful for in that day. I find that the more I expect to experience opportunities for gratitude, the more opportunities are presented!

Is it possible to still practice gratitude even when times are tough? When we choose gratitude in a challenging circumstance, we are making the internal choice to see the good and trust that the circumstance, no matter how difficult, will provide an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. Each day we are all presented with situations that are beyond our control, but in each situation we are in complete control of our perception and response to the situation. Gratitude is one of the best tools I know to alter our perception. And, perception is reality.

Can you practice gratitude even when you don’t feel grateful? Absolutely! In fact, this is one of the best times to "just do it" and "act as if". This is an opportunity to "act ourselves into right thinking" rather than "think ourselves into right acting." In other words, by choosing a positive action, despite our feelings, we can actually change our feelings and transform our mood through a positive behavior, such as gratitude.

The concept of practicing gratefulness is, at its heart, quite simple—even common-sense in some regards. Is it really that simple? The concept itself is simple. Being consistent in the practice is not as quite as easy because so many things distract us from this simple yet profound practice. The good news is that we can change our lives by changing our focus. Just as a change in diet creates a change in our physical bodies, so does changing our thought patterns change our brain and thereby the way we perceive and experience life. If we decide to lose weight, we must change our eating habits for longer than one day. If we want to save money, we must curb our spending for more than one day. If we want to make a high score on a test, we must study more than one time. So it is with the practice of gratitude. If we want to change the neural networks in our brain to be our best version of ourselves, we must be consistent.

What do you think prevents people in general from embracing this simple, timeless concept? I don’t think people are aware of or fully understand the benefits and impact that gratitude can have on our personal and collective outlook. It is a dynamic, practical tool for seeing our lives through the lens of optimism, abundance and thankfulness. When we see our lives from this perspective, we can’t help but feel a deep sense of fulfillment, even in challenging situations. Many times it is the simplest things that transform our lives in the most profound way.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who would like to get started on the road to leading a grateful life? Take even a small amount of time each day to think of or write down at least three things that you are thankful for. I like to do this at night before bed because the sub-conscious is most receptive just before we sleep and as we awaken. Gratitude is cumulative, so over time, with daily steps, you can literally alter your thinking toward optimism.

Do you think people in general are ungrateful — or just not aware of how important gratitude is? Societal pressures promote the idea that we are deficient; that we don’t have enough stuff, and that we are not enough as we are. This leaves us feeling deficient and unappreciative of all of the abundance and prosperity that we are blessed with. It almost goes counter to our culture to be satisfied and content with our lot. It takes personal initiative and responsibility to be happy and joyous NOW, even if we are striving and desiring more in our future.

What is your hope for the book? My hope in creating Alphatudes: The Alphabet of Gratitude is to provide an easy-to-implement, effective means of helping others find the wellspring of optimism, serenity and prosperity that comes from the simple practice of gratitude. I hope that people who read Alphatudes will discover how to heighten awareness and appreciation of life’s daily gifts, surmount life’s challenges by drawing upon a healthy reservoir of gratitude, find blessings in difficult situations, and become free — once and for all—from worry, anxiety, negativity and resentment.
"Research shows that positive people are generally happier, have more fulfilling relationships, advance more quickly in their careers, are healthier and have a greater overall sense of well-being. The ability to sustain a positive outlook on life is a beneficial by-product of the practice of gratitude. And, when we transform our own attitudes, we naturally uplift others in need of hope."

What’s next for you? Do you have other books in the works? I want to create a gratitude community through articles, books and coaching. I plan to create a series of Alphatudes: The Alphabet of Gratitude books. The next ones will have 26 Solutions for a different, more specific audience. It will be revealed at a later date.

Michele is available for
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"Out of all of the people I
have met on my life's journey, Michele
by far, has helped me the most in the
shortest length of time."

Ruth Thomas,
CEO, Girls, Inc.

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more and grown more in my time with
Michele than in all my years of therapy
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