You see what you look for: Meet Gratitude speaker Toni Powell
Ashleigh Hopping | On 15, Feb 2016
“I was waiting for something to make me feel happy so I’d be grateful, but it’s sort of the reverse: when you become grateful, you get happy.”
Toni Powell is not the kind of person you would expect to be preaching about wellbeing. She’s edgy, hilarious and endlessly curious, and has experienced exhilarating highs and devastating lows. After years of excessive worrying and depression, Toni set out to find a cure for her unhappiness and now she wants you to know about it too: gratitude.
In a society where depression is prevalent, Toni’s message is important and potentially life-changing.
When we sit down to chat, she has just spent the morning with her mother at Bingo and tells me sincerely how unexpectedly exciting it was. “Exhausting! So much concentration, I don’t know how these old people do it…a lot of focus, great brain stuff.”
Toni happens to be an expert on ‘brain stuff’. An author, filmmaker and established speaker, she has presented at events alongside The Dalai Lama and Brene Brown and has also been the subject of ABC’s Australian Story. These days, she runs two separate day long Lifeclasses: one on gratitude, and one on relationships.
What prompted Toni to craft these events was heavy research into the science behind happiness. She was creating a documentary which required her to read “loads and loads of books on gratitude and rewiring your brain” and interviewed many of the world’s leading researchers. “The brain science was what really altered how I approached life.”
At the heart of her Gratitude Lifeclass, Toni speaks about the six words that change everything: you find what you look for. She presents evidence on how gratitude effectively combats depression, and her words are backed up by the best in the business.
“There is research now saying, ‘oh hang on, we think we got it wrong — depression may not actually be a chemical imbalance, it might be a neural pathway thing.”
She acknowledges that gratitude is not the effortless way out. “With anti-depressants, you have to keep taking them. Gratitude is similar. You have to keep going, but it’s free, and it doesn’t have bad side effects. It has amazing side effects…grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality and optimism, and lower levels of depression and stress.”
As someone who has attended a couple of the Gratitude Lifeclasses over the years, I can tell you that not only do they make a difference, they’re also ridiculously fun. “I always imagine myself as an audience member [when putting together content], I want to make it super engaging because I get bored to tears really quickly.”
When I asked Toni why she decided to spread the word publicly instead of just adopting these habits into her own life, she told me that she’s always had a desire to do “something that changed the world.”
At just nine years old, she put together her first event: a fete in her parent’s backyard with pony rides. She raised $21 for charity that day. Toni will never be able to passively watch a need go by unaddressed where she feels she can make a difference.
“I’ve always been the sort of person that if I know or find out something that works, I want to tell everybody…I would see people on the street looking really miserable and want to run up to them and say, ‘Listen! There are some really simple things you can do to change your life, if you want to.’”
WHEN: Saturday, 20 February 2016 from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
WHERE: Hear and Say Centre — 29 Nathan Avenue Ashgrove, Qld 4066 AU
HOW MUCH: $109 (Concession), $149 (General)
TICKETS: Click here to register.
Click here to go to Toni’s website.