Ep 112: Happiness Habits with Kim Strobel


In today’s episode of the podcast we are talking all about happiness with Kim Strobel. Kim is a leadership and happiness coach who helps businesses and organizations prioritize their health and well-being so they can reach new levels in their personal and professional lives. As a nationally-recognized speaker, she is all about empowering others to take control of their health, wellness, and happiness with simple habits. 

When she’s not rescuing dogs or downing a McDonald’s Diet Coke, Kim’s contagious, high-energy style has the ability to embolden her audiences. She’s motivational, inspirational, and always approachable, and that approach allows her to authentically connect with hearts & humans everywhere.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • How Kim’s struggle with panic disorder lead to her career in happiness
  • How Kim defines happiness
  • How happiness relates to pregnancy and parenthood
  • What a “happiness baseline” is
  • How much external factors really influence happiness
  • What makes gratitude so vital to happiness
  • What tips Kim has for happiness
  • Who deserves happiness (hint: everyone)

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Ep 112: Happiness Habits with Kim Strobel

Nicole: In today's episode, we have a happiness coach.

Nicole: Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy and birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Nicole: Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 112. Thank you. Thank you for spending a bit of your time with me today. In today's episode, we are talking all about happiness with Kim Strobel. Kim is a leadership and happiness coach who helps businesses and organizations prioritize their health and wellbeing so that they can reach new levels in their personal and professional lives. As a nationally recognized speaker, Kim is all about empowering others to take control of their health, wellness, and happiness with simple habits. When she's not rescuing dogs or downing a McDonald's diet Coke, Kim's contagious, high-energy style has the ability to embolden her audiences. She's motivational, inspirational, always approachable, and that approach allows her to authentically connect with hearts and humans everywhere. In this episode, Kim is going to share some of what she's learned over the course of 20 plus years of studying happiness and positive psychology.

Nicole: She's going to go into her very personal and intense struggles with panic and anxiety. She shares what it actually means to be happy. She has a really fascinating breakdown based on researching actually of what contributes to happiness. And then she'll also share five easy tips to help, uh, retrain your brain to feel happy. Even during tough times. You are going to love this discussion and get a lot from it. Now we're talking all about happiness. You know what I know will make you happy feeling like you have a solid birth plan. And of course I have just the class to help you in my free one hour class on How to Make a Birth Plan That Works. I walk you through a step-by-step process that helps you to make a birth plan that works to help you have the birth that you want.

Nicole: Listen, those birth plan forms and templates that you find online, they're very well-meaning. But as an OB GYN, who's been in practice for 15 years, I can tell you that those templates and forms simply are not enough. And in this free class, I break down exactly why that is and give you additional information that you need to know that you really must know before you write a single word of your birth plan. Again, the class is completely free. You can sign up for it at drnicolerankins.com/register. It's offered several times a day. There's also an on-demand option where you can join the class immediately when you sign up. So do check that out. You will not regret it. All right, let's get into our conversation with Kim Strobel, the happiness coach.

Nicole: Thank you so much, Kim, for agreeing to come on to the podcast. I am excited to talk all about happiness today.

Kim: Well, thank you for having me. It's a topic that I'm pretty passionate about.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. So why don't we start off by having you tell us a bit about yourself, your work and your family. If you'd like,

Kim: Yes, I am a former fourth grade school teacher, so my heart was first with students. And then I went into leadership and became a literacy coordinator and a curriculum director. And then I had this wild idea in 2016 that I wanted to launch my education consulting business. And so I started to travel across the country and do a lot of trainings for teachers. And I also, at that time, started promoting myself as a motivational speaker and the bulk of my work turned into getting on stages and doing talks about the science of happiness and how do we find our meaning and purpose and, you know, live a very meaningful, joy-filled life a lot of the time. But I think that I had an even stronger calling that was going on in the background, which is kind of how I birthed the happiness coach. So to speak, like it's a baby Nicole.

Kim: Um, and so I have studied the topic of happiness for the last goodness 20 or so years. Oh, wow. Yeah. And I always get a little nervous when people announce me on the stage as the happiness coach is in the house. And I come out from behind the curtain and I'm real quick to say, look, I became a happiness coach because it was really born out of my own darkness and my own trauma. And I'm happy to explain that if you want to go there a little bit, but, um, I really struggled as a teenager and as an adult with a debilitating anxiety disorder called panic disorder. And I can talk about that if you want to, it's a little bit of a story in itself.

Nicole: Sure. We'll, we'll get into it. And just, uh, and just a minute. Yeah.

Kim: Well, I wouldn't say I'm the girl who, or the woman who struggled to walk to her mailbox or drive her car five minutes away to Walmart. And I am also the girl who steps on a stage with thousands of people. And so, um, I just feel really lit up specifically working with women and knowing that we can overcome hard things and that we will always have ups and downs in our life that is just life in itself, but that we can also take 100% responsibility for our life. And, um, there's a lot of things and happiness habits that we can do so that we feel really good a lot of the time.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. And I think, did I ask your family?

Kim: Okay. So, um, my husband's got, I, we have four kids. Um, three of them are my stepchildren and then the youngest, our son is, uh, 20. He is a freshman or sophomore at the Indiana university. And then we have three fur babies. So you don't know this about me, Nicole, but I am a huge animal rescuer. And in fact, I have rescued to date 122 dogs.

Nicole: Wow. That is impressive.

Kim: Well, you could call me the crazy dog lady or you could say it's impressive, it just depends.

Nicole: Well, you have a very interesting background. I have to say, I always have a soft spot for anyone in education. My mother taught math for 50 years. Oh my goodness. And my sister, isn't a cyst. Yeah. Long time. My sister is an assistant principal. My other sister she's deceased now, but she was a principal. So I'm the odd ball. In the sense that I'm not in education.

Kim: Yeah. Well, I may have to get in contact with your assistant principal, uh, sister.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So let's talk about first how did you become a happiness, well you talked a little bit about it, about becoming a happiness coach, but did you do any additional training or specific, um, you know, education, or is this something that sort of evolved as you, as you grew?

Kim: It probably mostly evolved as I grew. I just threw myself into the research and into the self-help field 25 years ago when it was starting to come alive. And I think my soul just lit up in every area when that information was starting to filter out. And so I started to study like under Sean Achor work and Sonja Lyubomirsky who is this amazing researcher and wrote the book, the How of Happiness. But then of course, along the way I have, you know, done all kinds of other programs, like, you know, Gabrielle Bernstein's program and followed a lot of different influencers and done a lot of their work, but I literally just started calling myself the happiness coach.

Nicole: Gotcha. All right. So you also mentioned how your struggles with panic disorder and anxiety contributed to where you are now. Tell us a bit more about that. Yeah.

Kim: I look back, I can see that I was definitely kind of a nervous child. Um, I functioned extremely well. I had friends, I participated in sports. I did fine in school, but I look back now and I see that there were these little anxiety things that kind of took place throughout my childhood. And then when I was a sophomore in high school, I started to have these episodes that came out of the blue. And within one 10th of a second, now that we know the research behind this, um, I would be maybe sitting in my classroom or walking through the hall or in a shopping center. And I would immediately begin to feel like I really wasn't there, uh, feelings of unreality confusion. I feel like I'm going to lose consciousness. The walls feel like they're closing in. I can't, um, like my whole body would heat up and start to sweat.

Kim: I would tremble all over. And I mean, they were the scariest, most terror filled things that I had ever encountered. And what happened is they started to happen all of the time, which meant I never felt safe in my body or anywhere else. And the issue is that this was in the late eighties and we didn't know a lot about anxiety disorders. So at first I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, then that didn't seem to help the episodes were getting worse. They were happening all of the time. I wasn't comfortable going anywhere by myself. Um, and it was just a really terrible time, Nicole, because I, it was this like really kind of independent, fierce spirit. And then all of a sudden I had this debilitating thing going on where I thought I was either crazy or losing my mind, or, I mean, I just had all kinds of shame around it.

Kim: I mean, I'm, I'm 16 years old and my dad has to come sit in the bleachers during basketball practice because I'm scared. I might have whatever this is that's happening. And I need somebody safe there in case it happens. Right. And so from about age 16 until about age 23, my life just became one wall after another. I, um, did go to a neurologist who diagnosed me with complex partial seizures, which we now think that was also a misdiagnosis and long story short. I was 22 years old. I was married and it got so bad that I was having these attacks, um, multiple times a day. And so the best way that I can describe a panic attack to someone who's never encountered this is, if I were to put you, Nicole, on a train track and I tied your feet to it. And I said, there's a train.

Kim: That's coming at you at 300 miles per hour. And you're, you're not allowed to move you're tied to this track, but the train I promise is not going to hit you. It's going to stop one inch before it gets to your nose. So if you put yourself on that train track, you can imagine the amount of fear and terror that you would feel like it would be traumatic. Somebody like me feels like that multiple times a day, but there's no train. There's no, almost falling off a cliff. There's no one holding a gun to my head, which means that since my brain can't attach a reason for why I feel this way, I think I'm crazy.

Nicole: Gotcha. That's a very good explanation of what it's like. Very good explanation. So, um, I'm curious. I mean, I'm, we're going to talk about some of the things related to happiness and pregnancy, but did this affect your experience of pregnancy and motherhood or being a parent?

Kim: Oh, girl, it affected everything from choosing my first husband because he was someone who nobody knew this about me except for him. And so he was my safe person. He knew this about me and he accepted it. And, um, of course, you know, I had always had a calling with kids. I loved being around kids. I wanted nothing more than to become a mother, but I'm 22 years old and I can't be by myself at home. I can't drive my car to Walmart and go inside. And how can I ever have a child? I can't even take care of myself. And so I felt so ashamed and I felt so weak and I just didn't know what was wrong with me. Um, and so I started to grieve that I would never be able to become a mother because I can't even take care of myself. Um, so what happened was when I was about 23 or 24, my husband at the time, he always left for work about 30 minutes before I did, which would cause me extreme anxiety because it's almost as if like I began to fear the fear of having the fear.

Kim: And so it, as soon as he would go out to the, the door, these attacks would start coming on and I would usually run to the phone on the wall at that time and stand by it and call him at work. Because when you have one of these, you feel like you have three seconds before you're going to die. Like you have, you have no time, but for whatever reason. And I tell this story a lot on other podcasts, but that particular morning, my life had become so hard where I felt like I was experiencing these attacks eight or 10 times a day. And I went into my bathroom. And I don't know if you remember this or not, Nicole, depending on how old you are, but in the mid nineties, the decor in your home was the burgundy and forest green.

Kim: Everything in the house was decorated like that. And so still to this day, I can remember laying down on my forest green bath mat. And I even now, you know, I touch my cheek. I can feel the plushness of the bathmat. And I curled up in the fetal position. And I had just tried so hard to handle this basically on my own now for years still not knowing what was wrong with me. And I mean, I really, I asked God if he would just take my life.

Kim: I just, um, and the sad part of that, Nicole, is the inner part of me had so much fire for life. I had so many dreams and visions for how I wanted to show up. And then I had like these outside limitations that were just preventing me from being able to be who I really wanted to be on the inside. And I just couldn't do it anymore. And I just needed some kind of relief. And I just said, I don't have the courage to do this, but can you just somehow take me? And I always tell people that when I think back to that moment, I'm not sure if it's a voice that I heard or an intuition or the fire in my own belly that I didn't know was there, but I heard something that said, Kim, you are made for more. Now get up off that bath mat and let's get this figured out.

Kim: And I feel like that was a pivotal moment for whatever reason. I mean, it's so hard to think that you wouldn't have like, gotten answers like this for, you know, eight years. But I went to my general practitioner, Dr. Jean Recce, who happened to be studying anxiety disorders. And he looked me straight in the eyes and said, Kim, what you're describing is something called panic disorder. And I felt relief, right? This is not just in my head. I, it doesn't work when I tell myself I'm safe. I'm at home. I'm not in danger. It doesn't help to try to talk myself out of these feelings. And he put me on Zoloft, Nicole, and also I got into cognitive behavioral therapy with a psychologist, um, which helped greatly, I mean, I had to do a lot of exposure therapy. I mean, I remember my homework for 14 days was you're going to get in the car and drive to Walmart, which is five minutes away every day.

Kim: And you're going to walk in the store, walk to the back wall, touch it, and then you can leave. And I thought, really, I would just rather, you cut both my arms off because that would be less painful. But I think Zoloft saved my life and, um, believe it or not, I, I did those things and I started to get into the self-help world and I did homeopathy and long story short. I actually was free from panic attacks for about six years. Like I went from having eight or so a day or ten to not having any. And so I'm back in school, I'm getting my teaching degree. I am on fire with life. Um, I am trying to get out of my marriage because, um, that was definitely not serving me at all anymore. Um, unfortunately for both of us, you know, I always feel like the woman he married was someone different. And then I always feel bad that I chose a trajectory that was not aligned maybe to who I really was on the inside. Um, and so then after about six years, I started like I started it and I also had a baby in that time.

Kim: Well, honestly, I think the baby chose me say this, Nicole, just because of your podcast, here's the deal. My husband and I at the time were headed for divorce. We had sex once in nine months and I got pregnant with Spencer Bradley. Yes, it happens. So, yeah. Yeah. So when, when, um, I'd say when Spencer was seven or eight, I started to feel some panic stuff come back on again, but it was nothing like what I had before. I mean, definitely a struggle, but I was still doing everything right. I was mothering. I was driving with my son. Um, but from about 29 or 30 to 47, which I am now, it's always been like two steps forward and a half step back, two steps forward and a half step back. So I, I have a vulnerability to this still to this day. Um, and I had the biggest relapse in 25 years in the fall of 2018, um, and had to, you know, relearn a lot of my skills and go back to counseling.

Kim: And so I'm really on a journey to figure out how to heal this. I don't know if you've heard of Dr. Daniel Amen. With the Amen Clinic. Okay. Well, um, he treats a lot of these type of emotional and mental disorders from depression, ADD, anxiety, panic attacks, and he does spec scans of your brain to see exactly which parts of your brain are lighting up or overactive or underactive. And then there's a treatment plan that is specifically based on how your brain is functioning. And so for me, I feel like my counselors and my psychologist, you know, they, they definitely helped me, but it's also like, Oh, you have an anxiety disorder. Here's the meds that we give for anxiety disorders. And here's a tool set to use to overcome them. When in fact we know that eight people with an anxiety disorder, it's all happening in different parts of their brain, right? So I'm headed to Atlanta at the end of this month for four days. And I'm going to go undergo this whole like brain scan and really try to figure out, cause it still limits me sometimes Nicole. And, um, I can accept that I have a vulnerability to this. I mean, you know, I knock it out of the ballpark most days, but I still have a vulnerability to it and I'm just really ready to completely heal.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. So you found that during, so you said that it's an ongoing, uh, struggle, but during your pregnancy you were able to manage things, it sounds like fairly well with your tools.

Kim: Yes. So here's, what's crazy is I was headed for divorce. I got pregnant. I went to all, but one doctor appointment by myself during my pregnancy. I slept on the couch during my entire pregnancy. And, um, you would have thought I was just an emotional wreck considering that I was with a man that I didn't want to be with any longer. I was having a baby. I was raised in a Catholic family where you don't get divorced. I mean, I had so much stress on me, but, um, Nicole, I was like the best pregnancy person ever. I was running every day, exercising, um, loved the fact that I was pregnant, scared to death because I knew I wasn't going to be with his dad. But, um, as far as pregnancy, I was like the picture of health mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Nicole: And sometimes that can be the case where pregnancy can help sort of be kind of a reset for folks. So that's good that you didn't have any have any issues, but as you mentioned, things can kind of creep creep back up and definitely in the span of motherhood and those kinds of things like that.

Kim: Yes. For sure. For sure. Yeah.

Nicole: So how do you define happiness?

Kim: This is such a good question. I actually glanced at your questions cause you sent me some possible questions and then glanced at them for like three seconds. And I thought I'm way better at this, just off the cuff. So I define happiness as it doesn't mean that you go around and you're like sunshine and butterflies and sprinkles all of the time. Does that make sense?

Nicole: Absolutely. Sure.

Kim: And so I think that happiness is, it can be that this journey that we're all on that really deeply has to come from the inner parts of ourselves. It's kidding. It can never come from your spouse or your children or your, your income or your home. And I can give you the research around that in a little bit, you know, these things are wonderful. I mean, I feel a lot of joy because I'm a mother. I get great. Um, you know, I have a great relationship with my husband now, and that brings me lots of happiness, but I really feel like happiness is just this sense of overall fulfillment inside of you like fulfillment, meaning and purpose. And so it's just like something that you feel inside of your soul that, you know, you're responsible for.

Nicole: So not necessarily dependent on external factors.

Kim: No. And I can't wait to give you the happiness research on this.

Nicole: So do you think happiness, what happiness means? Do you think that that definition changes at all during pregnancy or even as a parent?

Kim: Yes. Yes. Yes. I feel like, well, I think if I could go into the happiness research search, it might be a good way for me to explain the research in relation to even becoming a parent and what that can do

Nicole: Okay, sure. Go for it. And

Kim: What we know is that all of us have, what's called a default level of happiness, or sometimes it's called a baseline happiness level. And so maybe my baseline happiness level is in the middle and maybe your baseline happiness level, Nicole is a little bit higher than mine. So what this means is that Nicole and I, we go out and we go shopping. We get a new Kate Spade purse, or we go, you know, we get a promotion or we get a new job or we find a new mate or whatever it is. And our happiness level does go up for a short period of time. But it always goes back to default. It's going to always go back to default might be two days when it goes back to the default or it might be two years. You know, now what's really interesting about the brain research and it's a little hard to wrap our head around, but it's so very strong.

Kim: And so credible when validated is the same is true for when we endure really hard things in our life, we know that a person can endure loss, trauma, divorce, illness, all of these things, adversities, challenges, and that your happiness level will drop for a period of time. But for most human beings, it will come. It will always go back to baseline. Now, when I think about that, Nicole, I think, I just think that there are certain things that could happen to me that I would never be able to get back to my baseline happiness level. But when we talk about that research, I really challenge people to look around them because do you know someone who's endured severe loss or severe illness or a traumatic childhood because we all know people who have endured. Absolutely. And do you know some of the people who have endured that, who go on to live happy, fulfilling lives 100%.

Kim: Yeah. And so you just can look around and see the evidence of it yourself. And so when we're saying like, I know your audience is like, okay, Kim, but how do I know what my baseline is? And why are some people's different? So if you think of your happiness as a pie chart, what we know is that 50% of your long-term happiness is genetic. It comes from your mom or your dad, or a mixture of both. Interesting. Yeah. And sometimes when I tell this on the stage, literally 80% of the people hang their heads and they're like,

Nicole: Well then I'm screwed, yeah.

Kim: There's this, this component, right? Like some of us are born into this world with a brain that scans for more right than wrong. And some of us are born into this world with a brain that seems to scan for negativity. It's just a genetic tendency.

Kim: It's the same reason some of us can look at a McDonald's french fry and gain five pounds and others of us can eat french fries every day. Now here's where I think it gets really interesting. Only about 10% of your long-term happiness comes from your external circumstances. So what do I mean by an external circumstance? Here's what I mean: married, single, divorced or widowed, has kids, don't have kids, makes 50,000 a year, makes 500,000 a year lives, in an $80,000 home, lives in an $8 million home, needs to lose 50 pounds, needs to lose five pounds. These are all external circumstances. But what happens is, is we've been led to think that these kinds of things are more than 10% of our happiness. Like if I could just get a better job, I'd be happy. If I could lose 20 pound,. I'd be happy. Just find the right partner, I'd be happy.

Kim: And so what we do is we let our external circumstances eat up way more than 10% of the pie. Now here's the deal I'm talking about. Long-term happiness. So if someone's spouse unexpectedly leaves them, of course, it's going to steal more than 10% of the pie for a while. Of course it is. But if three years down the road, you're still in the gutter, that's on you, my friend. And that's kind of my hard coaching, but you know, things can happen to us and we can give ourselves the time and the space to feel the heavy feelings, because I also don't believe in toxic positivity. I don't believe that we just tell people like, just shake it off. That to me is harming. Right, right, right. You're allowed to feel your feelings, but there comes a point in time where you're letting it eat up more than 10% of the pie. And that has to be your responsibility.

Nicole: Yeah. And I think you'll also find that when you get those external things, then you're confused. If you, if you put a lot of stock in those things, being the source of your happiness, when they actually happen, and then your happiness hasn't changed, then you're wondering what's wrong.

Kim: Well, here's what it's called. It's called hedonic adaptation. So, you know, if it's really cold outside and you're freezing and you walk in and you sit next to the fireplace and you say, Oh, it's just feels so good. And then like two minutes later, you're like, okay, I'm done with that. It's the same thing. When Nicole, when we say, well, if I made a hundred K I'd be happy. So you make a hundred K you're happy for a little while. And now all of a sudden you're like, Oh, now I need to make 150 to be happy. But we changed the goalpost, which is why we can't let it eat up more than ten percent. Like I love abundance. I will tell you my goal is to create a million dollar business this year. My goal is to have a Lake home that I'm looking at right now on my vision board. There's nothing wrong with having these desires. But when you're counting on those desires to bring you total fulfillment, that's where you get stuck.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. So you mentioned 50% is kind of genetic baseline. 10% is external. What's the rest?

Kim: Yeah. Well, here we go. Are your mothers ready for this? Because I want to talk about that 10% a minute. The happiness research says, Oh, I'm kind of nervous to tell you this, Nicole. The happiness research says that when you become a parent, you have a little less happiness for the rest of your life seriously. And here's why, so it's not a lot. It's not a lot. But what we know is happiness levels of parents are a little bit less than those who don't have kids. And here's why Nicole, you are stressed out for the rest of your life. And that stress takes away a little of your happiness. Now, let me give you an example of this. This doesn't mean that maybe we don't have more joy in our lives. Like, you know, becoming a mother has hands down, been the biggest gift of my life.

Kim: There's nothing that's given me more joy or more meaning, but let me just tell you the stress that comes with that. I am 47 years old and my mother, Mary Jo will still text me when I'm out of town and say, honey, let me know as soon as your flight lands, honey, I don't care what time you get home, text me and let me know you're home safe. So you think about the added stress that comes with being a parent. It does take away a little bit of that, you know? And so sometimes when I hear parents say that, they're like, Oh my gosh, there you go. That's why I feel the way that I do.

Nicole: Right. Right, right, right.

Kim: Um, and so, and I, I'm happy to talk a little bit too about what I think that, you know, moms, um, they don't always give themselves permission to honor themselves along the way of motherhood. And I'm happy to talk about that in a minute, but I want to talk about the 40% that's left with the pie chart. So regardless of our genetics, regardless of our external circumstances, we all have the ability to increase our happiness levels by up to 40%. Isn't that encouraging, that is encouraging. So that 40% is made up of three things. It's made up of your thoughts, your actions and your behaviors. And I'm happy if we have time, I can give you one or two happiness tips along the way.

Nicole: Oh, of course we have to give tips

Kim: I'm like there's so much information here I feel. Um, but yeah, that's so I tell people that, you know, last week I threw myself across my desk, laid on the floor and cried for 30 minutes because it was a hard week, but I have a set of happiness habits that get me out of the gutter quicker than before. And they're just a part of my everyday practice. I tell people I'm not a happiness guru. I'm just a practitioner of it. I know that if I can incorporate these things into my life, that I have been altered my baseline, so to speak.

Nicole: Gotcha. So this is important, not just for pregnancy, but for your life really. And trying to maximize happiness in a way that's authentic and not, um, I don't know, like not waving your hands and like, I'm just going to be happy. It's, it's really like a science and a way that you can approach it that, um, has lasting results.

Kim: Yeah, it is. And that's why I think like my story, even of panic attacks, it's like, I have struggles in my life. I have a lot of challenges that I'm still trying to overcome, and this is not negating that, but I will also tell you, Nicole, that I wake up almost every morning, really excited to live my life.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And I think it's fair to say, like we all have these things and, and, and setbacks, it's, uh, it's sort of a constant process, so to speak, but it, to, to, to, to, to stay happy, be in that space, but it's okay that you kind of slip in and out and that constant process doesn't have to be painful. So to speak, it doesn't have to be like backbreaking or like, I don't know, difficult necessarily. I, it D it sounds like you're not saying that this is something that has to be exceptionally, it requires effort, but it doesn't have to be complicated.

Kim: No, they're very, yeah. It's very, very simple. And, you know, just hearing you talk it, I feel like there's so much, I could say when it comes to pregnancy, because, you know, when I'm thinking about those external circumstances, this is a really good example, but I always wanted, so when I married my second husband, my son was two years old. And, um, he's been, he has a father who's in his life, but my husband has been the primary father and I always wanted to have another child and a child with him, you know? And, um, we had three stepchildren and there were just a lot of external circumstances there that were in conflict. And so we, um, whenever I was like, look, I have decided for sure, I want another child, my husband, who usually just goes along with every single thing I want. That's just his personality, put his foot down and said, I'm 46 years old and I'm not doing that.

Kim: Okay. And I will tell you, Nicole, it was one of the biggest griefs of my life. And I almost lost my marriage over it, you know? Um, and to go a little bit just deeper with that story. Once he went to counseling to see if he could bring himself to do it. And he couldn't, um, and he has some trauma that's associated with, you know, things he's gone through, I think with his children in that divorced situation that maybe did this, but once it was decided ,I was having problems with my period. And so I was going to get an ablation. He was going to get a vasectomy. And I just have to tell this story to your audience, Nicole, I was laying on the table the day before the ablation, because they have to do an ultrasound and just double-check that there's just no baby in there.

Kim: There's nothing. Right. And so the lady I'm laying on the table, and this is a death for me, right? Like I'm getting this ablation and there's no hope that I will ever become pregnant. And she's doing the little ultrasound on my stomach and there's a big screen in front of me. And she says, not knowing my back story and the trauma and grief I've been through for five years. When I tried to convince my husband, we needed to do this. She says, Oh my goodness, Kim, there is the most beautiful egg that's dropping in the next 12 hours.

Nicole: Kim girl, I know you were like, I know she didn't, no, she didn't.

Kim: I started to cry. I just cried. And she goes, Oh my gosh, what's the, you know, she didn't know. She wasn't trying to like, you know, she couldn't have known still, like, to me, that was divine intervention. Okay. Goodness. I was like, this is God intervening. So I'm like, I'm texting my husband, you know? And I'm like, Hey, can, you know, can you just leave it in one time and see, yeah.

Kim: I'm like, there's this egg. And I just think God sending us a sign and long story short, he didn't go for it. And I grieved for, I'm still grieving that child somewhat. Um, but you know, I I've done my own work. And so here's the deal not having that child does not steal more than 10% of my happiness, because it's an external circumstance that I've grieved properly and done the internal work in order to process it. Right. But I could still 10 years later be resentful as hell with my husband and let it beat up way more than 10% of the pie.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So why don't we get into some tips? Let's talk about at least like three happiness habits, tips, secrets, what you got.

Kim: Yes. So from the research, we know that there are five things, five top research based strategies that you can do in order to increase your baseline. There's more than that, but I'm going to give you the top five. Perfect. All right. So the first one is gratitude. Now I'm going to go deeply with just this one, because I really want your, your audience to walk away and be able to actually implement. I'll just tell you the others after that. But I do explain this because I'm somebody who has don't, don't just tell me, I need to write down three different things every day for the next 21 days. I'm not going to do it. You gotta show me.

Nicole: Yeah, because I have tried to do, like, I go back and forth in my gratitude and I've tried to give myself some grace. So I'm excited to hear what you have to say.

Kim: Yes. Okay. So here's what we know about human beings. So on average, the human being has around 70,000 thoughts a day. Now we also know that if you're an average human being, that 80% of those thoughts, Nicole are negative in a day's time. Which means that when you and I put our head on the pillow at night, if we're an average human being, we've probably had 56,000 negative thoughts that day. Now we are biologically wired to and psychologically wired to have negative thoughts. It actually goes all the way back to caveman times. Back in ancient times, we have this thing in the back of our brain called the amygdala, which we still have today. But the amygdala's number one job was to constantly scan for danger in order to keep you safe. So the amygdala had to fire really fast because it literally was like, is there a storm coming in?

Kim: That's going to completely wipe our clan out. Is there a saber tooth tiger in the area that I'm going to need to act and get away from? Will we have shelter? Will we have running water? So the brain was taught to, or wired to always be on the lookout for any kind of danger so that it could respond quickly. And that's what kept us safe thousands of years ago. The issue is, is this 2021. And you and I still have an amygdala. And the amygdala it's job is still to scan its environment for anything negative. And that's why we have so many negative thoughts. It's, it's biologically a part of our brain. Gotcha.

Nicole: Gotcha. And then gratitude helps to counteract that. Yeah,

Kim: Here's what we know that if you will write down three different things every day for the next 21 days, we actually create a new neural feedback loop in your brain. So in your brain, there's like thousands and thousands of roads and whatever roads you travel down the most are the most deeply ingrained. So let's say as a woman, we are really good at body shaming ourselves. And we would probably be surprised at how many, 1500 negative thoughts a day are about our bodies. And so that's the road that we most easily go down, which means tomorrow it's even easier to go down that road because it's become habitual in your brain. Right. And so when we can write down and then the research says, you do need to put pen to paper, okay. Because your subconscious mind filters it better that way. But the research says, if you simply write down three different things every day, that you're thankful for, for 21 days, you create a new neural feedback loop or a new road in your brain. And we can actually shift you from pessimism into optimism in that short of time.

Nicole: Okay. And can it be simple things?

Kim: Yes. Yes. So that's what I, people are like. I mean, I'm sitting in my office and I'll just tell you, I have a gratitude journal. I do ten every day. I don't know why, because the research says, I just need to do three. I'm sitting in my office, Nicole and I am thankful for the sunshine. I'm thankful for the Easter flowers that are popping up. I'm thankful for the incense that's on my desk. I'm thankful for the candle that I have lit. I'm thankful for the McDonald's diet Coke I'm getting ready to drink. We don't have to, it's not picking out all the big stuff, but what actually happens is when you create this habitual practice, your brain starts to scan even throughout the day. And it starts to notice things that you weren't noticing before.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. So it doesn't have to be complicated, three things. It can be very simple. I can say, you know, I'm thankful for this technology that allows us to have this conversation or thankful for, you know, having the work that I'm able to do or like this lovely planner that I have, anything it could just be three things

Kim: Yeah. Thankful for sticky notes right now that are on my table. And so what we know though is, and I really want to encourage your listeners because it's such a simple practice and, and we encourage people to do it with their children too. Like, can you imagine teaching this habit with your kids from early on, you know, as a school teacher, I did it with my students every day. We started the day with 90 seconds of gratitude where every student said something they were thankful for. And then we closed the day with their gratitude journals, where they wrote down three different things they were thankful for. So for any parents who are listening, this, this is a social and emotional wellness skill that I think, you know, should be taught from early on. And it can be part of the family's practice, even at the dinner table, if we're just even saying it with our kids. Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. We try to do that. We have, we're not consistent about it, but we, and now you're going to like, that's my gentle nudge to be more consistent about at dinner. We try to each say something that we're grateful for during the day.

Kim: Well, I wouldn't say this to Nicole. It's not about like, I don't do it every day. I do it Monday through Friday because I have a routine. I get up, I do my gratitude journal. I write my affirmations, I do my exercise. I do my meditation and I get to work. So it's a routine on Saturdays and Sundays. I get out of routine and the journal normally doesn't get done, but I just know I'll pick it up again on Monday. So this is not about doing it perfectly or not missing a few days, but just getting right back to it. Gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. Now I actually have, if your audience would like, I can give you a, we created a gratitude prompt and habit tracker. And so it's like a prompt that explains a little bit of the research realm gratitude, but it also gives you five different areas to begin looking for gratitude in your life. And then there's 21 spots for you to write your gratitude. And if you feel like your audience would like that, I'll send you the link over and you can include it in the show notes.

Nicole: Sure. Perfect. Perfect. Absolutely. We can do that. Absolutely. So why don't we hit the other four things as we're getting close to the end of the conversation here, what, what are the other four things?

Kim: So exercise, move your body in your body. 30 minutes a day, move your body. I don't care what it is. Walk, dance, yoga. I don't care what it is, but move your body 30 minutes a day. Um, meditation and meditation practice. And I will tell you that as the happiness habit that I threw out last year, I do not know why you don't when you need it. The most, like I just felt so stressed and I was pivoting my business with COVID and I was like, I don't have time for this. In all reality of like the number one thing I should have been doing. So I just simply was horrible at it last year. In the last six weeks or so I am now up to about four days of doing meditation and sometimes it's just like three minutes long. Oh, sure, sure. Yeah. So gratitude, move your body, meditation.

Kim: Um, random acts of kindness. Yeah. So like when you're at the checkout line and you tell the target person, Hey, you are awesome at checking out. Like I do not like coming here and you got me out of here so fast. Thanks for being so good at your job. Or complimenting someone or smiling at them or writing a little note or sending an email or like I would challenge you right now, Nicole. Like when we get done with this episode, I would challenge you to get your phone out and send a text to a friend and just say, Hey, I'm thinking about you today. This is something I really love about you. And you will be amazed at what a happiness booster that will be for you. Nice, nice, nice. And then the fifth one is social connections. So we need to have relationships. We need to take time for friends and for family and, you know, to foster a sense of connection. That is a really big piece of happiness.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And can those connections be, um, electronic?

Kim: Absolutely. Of course. We're all missing human touch and physical. So I would love to know the research on that. I think maybe it will come out, but certainly, you know, have I have a friend who meets virtually with her retired teacher, friends once a week for like, uh, a little wine and chit-chat in, it's really helped her get through this, you know,

Nicole: Love it, love it. And I loved that. You were saying like, you're not perfect about this. And it's like, none of us are probably going to be perfect about this, but it's like the continued effort and you just keep at it and eventually you get better and better and it becomes easier and easier and you fall off and you get back on and it's okay.

Kim: It is okay. It's like, I think that, and a lot of the people are that are listening to your podcasts. They're they're not just in pregnancy, they're their mothers, right, Nicole?

Nicole: Or they're thinking about getting pregnant.

Kim: And I think like one of the most important messages that I talk to mothers about is that you are more than a mother. You are more than a partner. You are more than a spouse and you get to keep some of the things that were true about you before you stepped into these roles. But I think that as mothers, we sometimes lose our minds when we become mothers, because we love these human beings with everything that we have, but they also can suck the life out of us. And a lot of women that I work with will come to me, you know, I encountered Madeline and she was 30 years old and she crossed the street in the city I live in and she said, Kim, I just need a second of your time. And she said, I'm a mother of two amazing girls. They're two and three.

Kim: They're perfectly healthy. My, my husband's really good to me. We have a great little house and we both have these jobs. And then like, she just started to sob and she said, I know I should be happy, but I'm just not. And I don't know why I, so she went through like her daily routine, right? She gets up at five, she gets the girl's lunches packed. She grabs them breakfast. She throws them in the van. She takes him to the sitter. She goes to work. She gets off work at noon and has a 45 minute lunch to where she's like grocery shopping and she's paying bills and she's doing all this stuff. And she basically went through her whole day and it was all wrapped up in like all of the things that she had to be for everybody else. And I said, Madeline, when's the last time you took time for yourself.

Kim: And she looked at me and said, I didn't know I was allowed to Kim. I thought I was just supposed to suck this up. And I said, the reason you think you're not allowed to Madeline is because generations of women before us, were not allowed to. Right. Right. And they taught us a social script inadvertently that says, you give everything you have to everyone else, especially when you become a mother. And if there's anything left over, it's yours and guess what? There's never going to be anything left over. And I really did say to her Madeline, I really want your girls to be raised with a mom who has demonstrated to them that mommy loves herself enough to know that she matters. Yeah. So I, that's another topic I'm really, really passionate about. I really want mothers to start giving themselves some grace.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's, it's actually not selfish to put yourself first

Kim: Girl. It is the best thing you can do for yourself, your partner and your kids.

Nicole: A hundred percent. Yes, yes, yes, yes, absolutely. So then as we wrap up, what would you say is your favorite piece of advice that you would give to expectant moms?

Kim: So do you know, here's what I think the piece of advice I would give is don't overwhelm yourself with the expectations of who you're supposed to be when this child comes into the world, find, you know, we, there's a million different ways to mother out there. So find a way that feels right with who you are, you know, and it's not about comparing yourself to the mother who does all the arts and crafts or the mother who likes to take her kid to the park or the mother who prefers board games and music. Like you are going to be your best. If you align your role as a mother with who you are at the core of your being and let it show up naturally,

Nicole: Love it. Love it, love it. That is excellent. Excellent advice. Well, thank you so much, Kim. This was a really helpful conversation, not just in the context of pregnancy or birth and motherhood, just being a, uh, like as a person and a human being. So I appreciate you being here.

Kim: No, yeah. It's my honor. Thanks for having me.

Nicole: So where can people find you? Where can they connect with you?

Kim: I have a free Facebook group. That's for women who are wanting to honor all the hard stuff, but also find the good stuff in their life. And so the name of the Facebook book is called She Finds Joy and that's the name of my podcast as well. And, um, Kimstroble.com is my website.

Nicole: Okay. And we will link all that in the show notes. And of course we'll also link the gratitude tool as well. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you again, Kim, for being here. I so, so appreciate your time.

Speaker 3: You're very welcome. Thank you.

Nicole: All right.

Nicole: That a lovely discussion. Kim has a very high energy and passion for her work. I'm grateful that she came onto the episode. Now, after every episode where I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes, which are my top three or four takeaways from the discussion with the guest. And here are my Nicole's Notes from my discussion with Kim, number one, I want to bring up postpartum anxiety. This is something that is under recognized. I believe we've gotten better about talking about postpartum depression. And I think a lot of people, or most people even are on the lookout for that. But actually for many mamas, things will show up as postpartum anxiety. That's what showed up for me after my first daughter, she was born eight weeks early and was in the NICU for a month, which can often trigger anxiety or depression. And what it is is it's continually worrying about things and worrying that something's going to happen, despite evidence that everything is okay. So be on the lookout for that potential postpartum anxiety, in addition to postpartum depression, number two, and I really want you to hear this, everyone, including you deserves happiness.

Nicole: This is not something that everyone knows or believes for themselves. This is also something that I believe, or I see that sometimes women or people from marginalized communities struggle with that concept that they really can and deserve to own their own happiness. You deserve to be happy.

Nicole: So if you take away nothing else from this discussion today, please take that away that everyone deserves happiness, including you. Okay.

Nicole: And then the final thing I want to say is a gentle kind of funny reminder is that, you know, Kim talked about how she and her ex-husband got together once and that resulted in the birth of her son. Listen, let me tell you, if you ain't actively doing something to prevent pregnancy, you can get pregnant. And I'm chuckling because I have seen this time and time and time again, where people think that somehow it won't happen or is it just, you know, the stars aren't aligned or whatever, but, and I'm going to say, you have to be on hormones. There are other ways to prevent pregnancy other than hormonal birth control. And I actually have an upcoming podcast episode on contraception, but just in general, don't be surprised if you aren't actively doing something to prevent pregnancy, you can get pregnant. All right. And then just to end, I am going to practice something that Kim taught and that is a bit of gratitude.

Nicole: So here at think three things that I'm grateful for. Number one, I'm grateful to be able to serve you through this platform. This has been one of the biggest joys of my life and I am so, so grateful for that. Number two, I am grateful for my wonderful husband, Falcon of 15 years and our two beautiful daughters who I get to mother. So grateful for my family. And then the third thing and I'm grateful for is I'm just grateful to be alive and here and healthy. My older sister Patrice died the day before her 46 birthday from a rare type of ovarian cancer. And it is not lost upon me that I have now lived longer than she did. So I am genuinely genuinely grateful just to be here and to be alive and to be healthy. All right. So there you have it, be sure to subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcast or wherever you are listening to me right now.

Nicole: And if you feel so inclined, I really would love it. If you leave that honest review on Apple Podcast, first off, I love to see the things that you say about the podcast. You write just the most touching and loving comments about the show. And I appreciate that, but it also helps the show to grow helps other women to find the show. We crossed half a million downloads, not too long ago, and with your help, we can get to a million before you know it. So leave that review on Apple Podcast. I appreciate it. Also, don't forget to check out the free online class, How to Make a Birth Plan That Works. You can register for that class, drnicolerankins.com/register. That will get you all the way, right. And learning how to make a birth plan that works to help you have the birth that you want. So that is it for this episode to come on back next week. And until then, I wish you a beautiful pregnancy

Nicole: And birth. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast, head to my website, drnicolerankins.com to get even more great information, including free downloadable resources on how to manage pain and labor and warning signs to look out for after birth. You'll also find information on my free online class, on How to Make a Birth Plan That Works as well as everything you need to know about my signature online childbirth education class, the Birth Preparation Course. Again, that's drnicolerankins.com and I will see you next week.

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