Sioux Falls Woman’s Popular Gratitude App Turns 10!
With a million downloads I was curious how this App got it's start and the motivation behind it's creator.
When I saw Carla White's App was turning 10 and that she was from South Dakota I wanted to learn more about her journey.
Tells us about your background and journey?
I grew up on a farm in Salem, South Dakota. The day after graduation, I packed up my Cordoba and headed to the big city (Sioux City). A couple years (and few barely-hanging-in-there college semesters) later, I found myself in living in Germany.
Coming back to America a year later to finish college, I decided to get my MBA so I could get paid to travel. But I was so burnt out on “stats” and “numbers” that I went straight to the SoCal beach to learn how to surf instead. Restless and bored, I quickly found myself in Washington DC working on a $3.5 billion Pentagon program that got rid of nuclear weapons in the FSU.
But I never learned how to negotiate salaries so I was paid peanuts and lived in an all black crack hood. As the only white person (but felt like I was neon green), I’ve never been safer. I cared for the kids in that hood and their families cared for me. In fact, they would stand on the front step as I walked to my car, making sure no one messed with me.
The Olympics called me next (not to compete, but rather to check passes, grab waters and sit in empty seats), then it was off to the tech races during the Dot-com boom where Microsoft sent me to London to launch a European consultancy practice.
When the first class lifestyle ended 7 years later, I found myself attempting to launch my own business. Without my fancy job title, no one returned my calls, expenses piled up fast, and when stress hit me hard, I hit back with gin & tonics, Ben & Jerry’s, and Fish & Chips. My health suffered, my relationships crumbled, and I was a fraction of myself with insomnia, migraine, and and ulcers.
Just when I didn’t think things could get worse, my brother called me in the middle of the night to tell me that our dad passed away unexpectedly. I curled up and cried for over 6 months.
My husband, wanting to help me, suggested we move back to South Dakota to be closer to my family. But this just made it worse because it was the cusp of winter, I had culture shock and a failed business behind me. A few months later, I’m lying in a hospital bed with double pneumonia.
This was my rock bottom. Not face down in my own pool of vomit, but rather up all night coughing uncontrollably until blood was in my mouth. Honestly, I thought the only way out was through dying. And I was ready to go.
But then I caught a podcast about keeping a Gratitude Journal...write 5 things that day that were pretty awesome. I started writing and I instantly felt the pressure leave my body, so I wrote every day. It wasn’t until two months later, out for a walk, that it hit me that my life did a complete 180 because of that journal. I was sleeping better, lost weight, had job prospects and hadn’t cried in public since I couldn’t remember when.
It was such an epic moment that I decided i needed to make an app for it. Which was crazy because apps were so new, no one could make them, especially in SoDak. But I got up early each morning, worked on my app before heading to my day job and slowly figured it out. I was praying that a few people would download it...one million downloads and 10 years later…
Why is it your mission to get everyone in a gratitude habit?
Stress is at an all time high and America is the most drugged up country in the world. Over 75% of Americans are on one prescription drug or more. And 8 of the top 10 prescribed drugs are for stress related illnesses. These are preventable illnesses!
Just behind arms, pharmaceuticals in the 2nd largest industry. They’re a multi-billion dollar industry growing at over 6% a year and benefit from your stress.
It’s impossible for your body to feel anxious and grateful at the same time. Yet, we live in a society that breads anxiety. So it’s up to you to make sure that you counteract that with gratitude, love and appreciation. Just like sugar is hidden in all sorts of products and can wreck your health, mind poison is everywhere too. Yet there are no warning labels saying “This stuff will kill you.”
It’s up to you to be picky about what you put in your mind. And to change the wiring in your mind so you’re not longer a pawn in “fear, destruction, stress and lack” market. Rather, you’re in control of your life, your confidence, your health, your future.
When did you first realize the importance of gratitude?
About two months after keeping a Gratitude Journal I knew it was the most important thing I ever done. But it wasn’t until I dove deep into neuroscience and the brain that I realized just how powerful gratitude, appreciation and love are. These emotions aren’t ones that we hope for, but ones we create at our own will all day every day.
How did the idea come about for you to turn your passion for gratitude into an App?
When it hit me that gratitude changed my life so quickly and easily, I wanted to tell the world about it. At first I thought about writing a book but then I looked down at my iPod Shuffle (remember those) and thought “What if I put that book in the palm of everybody’s hand instead?”
I called up a friend who created one of the first iPhone apps and he tried to talk me out of it saying “Apps are a fly-by-the-night trend..don’t waste your time.”
What are some of the most encouraging things you’ve seen as the result of this App?
The first people who come to mind is a mom who lost her 3 year old son. She was ready to give up and is now running her own business and has adopted two foster children. There’s a teen boy who was being bullied and got the confidence to come out loud and proud. Then there’s my friend, Roz Savage, who used Gratitude as she was rowing the Pacific ocean solo. Every day new stories come in...just today a man wrote saying he lost his wife, job, family and is living on a cold boat. “Then I thought of what you have taught me, I start noticing things around me I can be grateful for, this enabled me to get back in the positive state of mind.
Started to appreciate the beautiful things around me, the possibilities, this seed you’ve planted just can’t be cracked, I remain positive, whatever life has in store for me.”
Am I the a lucky lady or what????
What advice do you have for people who are feeling depressed or having a hard time focusing on gratitude because of their life circumstances?
You will feel the biggest and fastest effects of gratitude. Like a rubber band being pulled way back, once you let go of that grief (if only for a little bit) you will feel such a huge relief.
Also, “turning off” the negative thoughts is impossible. Like trying to unscrew a light bulb, you’ll get burnt. But you can “dim” them more and more through a gratitude practice. When you do this, you lessen the cortisol in your body and eventually break your body’s addiction to cortisol because you’re increasing other chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
It’s important to write down your gratitude rather than just recite it through your mind. The mind-body connection of writing is very powerful in rewiring your brain (that’s why we write down our shopping list because we remember it more, even if we forget the list). When you’re writing about a moment, your brain doesn’t know if what you’re writing about is happening now or in the past, so it’s reliving that moment again in the present, shooting those happy chemicals through your mind again, changing the wiring of your brain.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about gratitude?
Adapting a gratitude habit takes practice. Here’s some tips:
- If you get the app, place it on your home screen next to apps you use all the time (like Facebook) so you remember to use it
- Write in your Gratitude Journal just before going to sleep so your brain marinates in those happy chemicals. This will improve the quality of your sleep.
- Instead of grabbing your phone when you wake up, put your focus on your warm bed, comfy pillow, a favorite moment in your life. This starts your day with happy chemicals in your body rather than stress chemicals. This increases your energy, happiness and confidence.
You can start your new practice today and find Carla's App here.