Thanks a Billion project points out good in life.
If you’ve ever sat down with a financial planner, chances are you’ve heard, “Would you rather have a million dollars or a penny today and double it for 30 days?” If you haven’t, here’s a spoiler: It’s a sucker who takes the million when, through the power of compounding, the penny grows to $5.4 million over 30 days.
Ken Clark uses that analogy to describe Thanks a Billion, a new social media movement, detailed at thanksabillion.us. Clark, founder of Chenal Family Therapy in Little Rock, launched the project April 20 with the help of Natalie Ghidotti, head of Little Rock marketing firm Ghidotti Communications. The goal? To increase exponentially the number of thank-yous going around.
“When we thank people, it ripples,” Clark said. “Today, I get you to thank somebody in your life and I do the same and we tell those people we thanked we need them to do that tomorrow. So tomorrow, it’s four people, then eight, then 16, then 32, right? At 30 days out, it’s literally a billion thank-yous”
As catchy as the tally may be, there’s a bigger purpose behind the effort, Clark said. Feelings of gratitude are good for overall mental health as they crowd out anxiety and fear. And nothing helps foster gratitude as does the intentional act of thanking someone, he said.
“That’s the whole thing,” he said. “If I write it down in a journal, it’s not nearly the same as the connection that’s created when I say it to somebody.”
Ghidotti, who has known Clark for years, said while she is still working on incorporating gratitude into daily routine, the days when she practices what Thanks a Billion preaches are noticeably different from the days she doesn’t.
“Ken told me about his personal journey on recognizing gratitude in his life and making a consistent effort to think about it daily,” she says. “He’s so right about it; if you start your day out this way, you’re not going to dwell on and worry about things that are out of your control, like a pandemic.”
Clark was inspired to create Thanks a Billion out of his own fear over the coronavirus. On a recent business trip, he found himself increasingly anxious watching wall-to-wall news reports about the pandemic. Unable to sleep and not knowing what else to do, he started writing down things he was grateful for and found it pushed the anxiety out of his mind.
The next day, he was moved to send a mentor a thank-you text, which was answered in-kind. Clark said the effect — sustained peace of mind despite ongoing media coverage of the virus — planted the seeds for Thanks a Billion.
“We sit here and watch the news and it’s all just fear, fear, fear, fear,” he said. “Realizing how fear grabs the wheel and hijacks our thinking, we learn how to rescue ourselves through gratitude in moments of panic. An attitude of gratitude, acquired through daily deliberate exercises, can actually vaccinate us against excessive fear and anxiety.”
The science behind the power of gratitude lies within brain mechanics, Clark said, namely the interplay between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
“Our brain has a pilot and a co-pilot,” he said. “The pilot is the front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. That’s where we create and dream and imagine and advance problem-solving. And then there’s the co-pilot that takes over in emergencies and that’s the amygdala and the limbic system. That’s the fight, flight or freeze mechanism.
“You get one of two drivers, but you don’t get both. When gratitude operates in the front part of the brain, it takes that back part of the brain’s fear offline. It’s one of the easiest, most deliberate things you can do, the gratitude process.”
Ghidotti’s team put together the project’s social media presence, a website with blog and multiple video messages featuring Clark on a variety of gratitude-related subject matters. The concept is set up on a 30day cycle but can be begun at any point and completed at the user’s pace, guided by messages pushed directly to participants’ email.
“Most important is the subscription,” Ghidotti said. “People send us their email and they’ll get a blog post sent to them each morning, giving them a daily prompt. It’s pretty awesome.”
Neither Ghiotti Communications, Chenal Family Therapy nor its individual principals profit from the endeavor which was built entirely as a labor of love and is available free of charge. Clark said monetization wasn’t the point; he just wants the most people possible to achieve maximum benefit.
“We just feel like it matters and it’s needed,” he said. “That’s the whole thing.”