I think the first habit is to take time to appreciate yourself for what you have accomplished during the day. That can be taking care of your physical health, connections with others, things you have made progress on, anything positive. You need to practice a positive mindset, but it becomes easier when you make this a habit. Even on days when you are feeling low, you can always find a few things that went well, even if that is “I got through the day and I am here, strong enough to be doing this positive thinking”. I think that as you make this a habit, it becomes easier to find and reflect on the positive.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingVictoria Mogilner.
Victoria Mogilner is a certified acupuncturist trained in Gestalt and Reichian therapy, Victoria specializes in treating the whole person emotionally and physically. As an author and speaker, Victoria has worked for over 45 years teaching acupressure and Tai Chi Chih, giving people tools to help themselves move forward in their lives. She is the author of Ancient Secrets of Facial Rejuvenation: A Holistic, Nonsurgical Approach to Youth and Well-Being.
She can be found at http://victoriamogilner.com
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up playing in the outdoors on Lake Superior, riding my bike around. I think it gave me an early connection to nature that I appreciate and use today. It also gave me a real sense of independence and exploration. I was always trying things out with my older sister, she taught me how to read and I had a lemonade stand. Of course this was the 1950s in Michigan, so acupuncture and the like were not even on my radar.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
As I got older, that spirit of exploration led me to travel. It was an amazing experience. There I was being exposed to so many new ideas. I was voracious in my explorations, and gradually I grew and realized I also had a mission to help others.
I met Dr. Worseley in England. He was my acupuncturist and I was so inspired that I went on to study with him and got certified as an acupuncturist. I lived in Europe for 10 years and studied with Gerde Boysen as a Reichian therapist and learned all of the emotions are stored in our bodies and I have used this theory for working with emotional and mental problems.
I was inspired by Fritz Pearls who ran the Gestalt institute which specialized in taking responsibility for your actions in life. I trained with the art therapist Jayne Ryan. We worked with with clay and spoke in the first person about how these objects represented aspects of my
Life. This was the foundation of teaching me that everything I do represents all aspects of my life and realizing how everything is connected mentally, spiritually and physically. I went to Dharamsala, India where I studied with the Dali Lama’s physician Dr. Dolma. I began integrating Chinese medicine into my life.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Of course! There are so many amazing people and sometimes the best experiences are from unexpected places. I went to San Francisco State where I studied Broadcasting. I was young and didn’t really know how to navigate the college bureaucracy. A secretary there really saw the situation I was in, and she helped me to get into the school and into my department. It completely changed my life trajectory. Her kindness was a real lesson for me. I learned from her to go out of my way and to help others so no one gets left behind.
Another particularly memorable experience was working with Gerde Boyesen at the Reichian Institute in London. Not only did she teach me that our emotions and our bodies are connected, she gave me opportunity. It was because of her that I began leading massage workshops and presenting all over Europe. I was young, but she trusted and mentored me. I appreciate what she passed on to me and I try to model that spirit, working with many younger people. I enjoy their energy!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I was younger I made a documentary about the apes at the San Francisco Zoo. I put a lot of passion into it, but when I developed the film all the apes were running backward! Film was more expensive than video is today. It was very funny, but it was a wake-up moment for me. I learned to pay attention to process, to make sure everything is done properly and to do test runs.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The best book is by Don Miguel Ruez, The Mastery of Love. It taught me about the importance of the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. More than that, it asks you to think about how societal expectations relate to yourself. Our experience of the world is filtered through our emotional perceptions. It’s a real skill to have confidence to decide your own path and to do it with love, especially if you are led to something new or different.
When I think of a time I felt I was alone and unworthy, I focus on that and I think of myself as a failure. When I tell myself that I am successful and loving, and focus on examples of that, my life works and I start attracting positive people in my life. Practicing and fostering positive stories helps you feel wonderful about yourself, and that in turn allows you to keep practicing and growing.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Never give up. This has been the foundation of my life. Many times when I have been down and depressed and continued reaching out and growing I have pushed my Boundaries.
There are thousands of life lesson quotes out there and so many of them boil down to ‘never give up’ it’s not even really a quote, it’s just a powerful piece of advice that has existed all over the world and in many time periods. Like everyone, things are not always easy for me, and it is so tempting to put whatever project or idea that has been frustrating you away. How many times have you made progress on something, but never really seen it through? If you can learn to never give up in the right way you will not only accomplish more, but you will create new opportunities for yourself and others. Sometimes you need a break, you need to find balance or rethink your direction, but you don’t want to throw your efforts away, you want them to push your boundaries in a positive direction.
I’m 75 now, and I am still growing and having new experiences. Right now, I’m doing remote work with people online and learning about new communication technologies. It’s wonderful that I get to connect with new people even during the pandemic, and it would never have happened if I had said ‘I’m too old for that sort of thing’. Now I have a Youtube channel, do seminars over Zoom, update my webpage, this sort of thing, but the administration side of that was a bit overwhelming at first, I had to set aside small amounts of time where I knew I would be frustrated but I worked on it anyway. Committing to small amounts of time and breaking things down step by step quickly added up to something larger.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
One of the most exciting projects I am doing now is working on an affirmation booklet. It shows the mountains of Sedona and gives an affirmation for entering the 5th dimension, by which I mean a state of perception that is at a higher vibration. One where you are present and aware of your whole being. I have incorporated reiki which is energy work in each affirmation to help people manifest their dreams for this year. I usually work with clients one on one, but I am excited about this because I am very interested in helping people to work on themselves, to help provide tools for people to help themselves that might not have access to practitioners. In the same vein, I am making some demonstration videos and blogging, all related to education and helping people with problems they may have.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In our work, we talk a lot about cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each
In Traditional Chinese Medicine your mind, body, and spirit are deeply connected, so yes take care of your mental wellness absolutely, but as part of that you have to support your body and connect to your spirituality as well.
So I think the first habit is to take time to appreciate yourself for what you have accomplished during the day. That can be taking care of your physical health, connections with others, things you have made progress on, anything positive. You need to practice a positive mindset, but it becomes easier when you make this a habit. Even on days when you are feeling low, you can always find a few things that went well, even if that is “I got through the day and I am here, strong enough to be doing this positive thinking”. I think that as you make this a habit, it becomes easier to find and reflect on the positive.
Just last night I found out a friend had a stroke and I reached out to her daughter to say I am there to help her and to stay with her. Of course that was a negative event, but I thanked myself for reaching out to her daughter as a friend. I was able to reflect on the strength of my friendships and to value all of the interactions we have together.
A second habit is to write that gratitude list down. Be present and appreciate who you are and to love yourself as you are going through your day. It is a separate step, but it allows you to do a few things that are useful over time. You can see your growth over time, and you can go back into your writing and give yourself a boost whenever you need it. You can review your writing and you see all the good. When we are stressed it is harder for the positive things to come to mind. If you write it down that is less of a problem, you can always go back and see the good.
My days can get pretty long, so I make sure to congratulate myself for being well prepared for the work I do when I take on extra work and outside projects. It goes into that writing. It helps me to step back from feeling rushed. It’s no good to cram if you want to really hold onto knowledge. Taking a moment to think about the positive aspects lets me slow down and appreciate my work. Since I am keeping a record I can reaffirm for myself the positive outcomes my work has. It is motivating! It can help redirect negative thoughts I might be having into more positive ones, and that lets me have confidence that it is all worth it.
In general I make this into a bedtime habit, but I think any personal ritual that lets you slow down before you go to bed is good. You need a transition period that is comforting before you go to sleep. For me, if I have been in a hurry all day and then go directly to bed I will take that tension with me and then I can’t sleep. You need to find a way to release the day’s difficulties and clear your mind. Then you can relax and get good rest. You might need to experiment about what works for you. Put away the electronics, take a bath, different things work for different people, so use your intuition and self knowledge to find a habit that works for you, and then actually do it. Sleep is very important for mental and physical health, so I’m pretty adamant about getting good rest!
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it
One type of meditation I teach is T’ai Chi Chih, which is a type of moving meditation. I love it because it is gentle and adaptable for anyone, Older people and people with physical limitations are able to adjust the T’ai Chi Chih movements and still receive the benefits of an energetic mindfulness meditation. It’s also great because it is based on movement, so you get the energy flowing, and it is easier to stick with for some people because you are moving. If someone has trouble setting aside time or feels strange doing a sitting meditation they can schedule T’ai Chi Chih as part of their exercise. It doesn’t take any special tools, just a willingness to spend some time with your body.
Once when I had the flu I did a movement called Push Pull and when I breathed out I felt myself releasing the cold and flu and by the next day the flu was gone. T’ai Chi Chih opens circulation, gives peace of mind and restores balance .
It also has some good evidence behind it, for example there are several studies coming out of UCLA showing that T’ai Chi Chih can help with stress reduction, quality of sleep, and inflammation, things that can really impact quality of life and health.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
In general, I find it is easier and more effective to integrate movement throughout the day, and to do it with intent. Schedules can become hectic, but I know that even if I have to skip more formal exercise times I can still help take care of myself by taking smaller moments of opportunity to do something for physical health. There are three things I personally do everyday.
I take time every morning to meditate and visualize what I want to create for the day and visualize my body as healthy and well. I put my hands on my heart center, an acupressure point called Shanzhong or within the breast, and visualize self love coming into my life. As I connect with my higher self I let go and feel my body is strong. The other day I felt tension about a relationship and as I put my hands on my heart I felt the tension release and healed any pain. It is much easier to manage stress and create a positive physical reality for yourself when you can work from a place of strength and confidence.
It’s something we all know is good to do, but taking time each day to walk allows for a strong healthy body. You can really feel yourself become limber. I like to do this in the morning as part of my wake up routine, it helps set me up for a good day.
Stretching just before bed is good to do also. You don’t want to exert too much just before you sleep because exercise can make it harder to sleep for some people if they do it late at night. You want to create a habit that is something to help you feel good, but isn’t going to keep you up. Before I go to sleep I stretch and do some breathing exercises, breathing in and out deeply while consciously releasing tension and problems from the day. Sometimes I have tension and stress from work, and doing breathing exercises helps me let that go, so I can put the problems away for the night and get good rest. It helps you feel more alive and centered.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
I think so many people have a hard time listening to their bodies. This can happen for many reasons, but it is something you can learn to overcome. Try to be present when you eat. It is important to take your time when eating and enjoying your food. If you try not to hurry you can be more in tune and know when you have had enough, and understand how your food is making you feel.
It’s not realistic for everyone to be perfect in our nutrition every time. For example, sometimes I am forced to when I eat on the run, but when I do I feel like my whole system is upset. It happens, but don’t make an incident a catastrophe. Just acknowledge that it wasn’t perfect and move on.
It has been said you are what you eat and how you eat. So I think balance is critical. Of course fresh food that is natural and grows in your area helps you keep balance in your life. If you are able to slow down, no matter what you are eating, it’s going to help with digestion and to prevent overeating if you have an issue with that.
It also helps you integrate the right information about food. If you are in a hurry it is harder to check in with yourself about what your body needs. That can mean nutritionally, but also many people are emotional eaters and this causes havoc with our bodies. Sometimes people get cravings and it is a learning process, it takes time and patience to connect to ourselves and really understand, emotionally understand, what nourishes us.
I used to be an emotional eater myself. I would get upset and eat whatever was in sight. Taking time to stop and ask ourselves ‘is this good for me’ takes an awareness and commitment to your personal health and wellbeing, but it is very worth it.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I mentioned it before, but I am really enthusiastic about taking time each morning to meditate. This starts my day by getting me out of myself and into my heart. I do have some techniques for doing this that work for specific difficult situations. I practice emotional yoga where it is like I am boxing and saying out loud what I am upset about. Sometimes yoga is presented as achieving a state of bliss, and of course that sounds appealing, negative emotions can be painful, but you don’t want to ignore or neglect how we really feel.
You have to be willing to acknowledge your feelings, but not get swept away with them and only emotionally react to the world. Try to feel where you hold emotions in your body, a tight jaw, butterflies in your stomach, whatever it is for you, and then be open with yourself and others.
This practice allows me to let go of any anger and not hold it in, but also not to bring negative emotions around with me all day. Once I was upset with my neighbor and before I went to go speak with them I bent my knees and said out loud “I am so upset with you”. It can feel strange to do at first, but it allowed me to get it out of my body and deal with the situation in a constructive way.
As another habit, which flows out of that first habit, Is to practice forgiveness, but also to not take everything personally. You are in a system with those you interact with, but you can’t control others’ choices. My neighbor at work was angry with me, and of course I cared about that. I did my emotional yoga, and I was able to let go a little. Then I was able to realize the problem was on her side and I sent her love. If I had not done that I think I would have either harbored resentment, or I would have seen the issue less clearly. Even conflicts with others require some self-insight if you want to deal with it well.
There are other ways to explore your emotions without taking them out in destructive ways. Scribbling with a pencil or pen can allow you to express anger or insecurity and not hurt yourself. You can find ways that let you experience your emotions and acknowledge them without negatively impacting yourself or those around you.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Smiling is important to connect with your godself and it can actually help you feel a sense of calm and joy. There is a fair amount of psychology research out there about this, but in the traditions I work in all I need to know is that our body and our emotional wellbeing are interconnected. Smiling creates positive emotional energy and spreads it through your whole body. This has been known for a long time. Did you know that in Taoist practice there is a meditation where you focus on smiling energy and direct that positivity to your organs? You should give yourself the genuine smile you would share with those you care about.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Being in gratitude allows me to calm down and be appreciative for everything in my life. I think there are so many ways we are asked to compare ourselves to others. Just look at social media. People are, understandably, pushed to present only the best and most polished versions and events in their lives. You rarely see the failures and frustrations we all face. When you look at others’ success, try not to compare yourself in a negative way. Comparison will not make you smarter or happier. It can be a toxic way to reflect on yourself. You may notice when we compare ourselves to people, it’s rarely to those we perceive as being less successful than ourselves.
It’s natural to find yourself doing this, it’s part of how we gauge how we are doing, but ideally your self-definition shouldn’t rely completely on others. Take the time to articulate the good things you are doing and the good things that are happening. I mean literally. You can say it out loud or journal, whatever works for you. When you can be in the moment and be reflective in that way you take the time to be thankful and appreciate how wonderful the world can be. For me right now that is being able to talk with you, beginning my blog, and going out to Sedona to take beautiful pictures.
It’s great to be in a state of gratitude, but it’s also great to share the positivity! So I think a second habit is to express your thanks to people that open up and share with you in life. If that is difficult for you, you can start with more concrete and action oriented work, such as volunteering for a cause you care about. That, by the way, is a great way to meet others who share values, and it might be easier for some people to open up to others by sharing a task and goals.
It can definitely have an amplifying effect both for others and for yourself. We are all connected, and it takes wisdom to see several steps out and understand that others experiences will ultimately affect yourself. One aspect of spirituality is having a sense of purpose in life, and growing your connections to others can definitely help with that.
I have a friend who currently has cancer, and just doing simple things for her and telling her how much she is loved really connects me to the joy of our friendship, and makes me appreciate how much we have given one another. I process and reflect on my emotions through that expression of my feelings, and it is a wonderful tool for growth. Healthy expression of your emotions can help us to understand ourselves better, as well as lifting up those we love. It also helps those that are around you to understand you as a whole person and to support you.
Spiritual wellness is about enjoying each moment. I don’t mean that you should be happy all the time, or that nothing will ever go wrong, but to appreciate your time and try to be in the moment. If you are doing something that makes you nervous or that feels like a chore, stop just for a moment and think about how it connects to your values or something greater than yourself. If your task is worth doing you will find a way to connect, you will find the meaning. You should use your values to guide your actions, so keep checking in with yourself. Like right now, honestly I have a tendency to think too far ahead, to worry about timing, or worry about details.
But then, I just know how valuable it can be to share our wisdom with one another. It’s something I love to do, then I allow myself to breathe, slow down and connect with my core.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Being in nature provides an opportunity to heal and connect with life, breath clean air, and to revive yourself. Paying attention to nature can be deeply spiritual. During this Covid -19 pandemic I have been going out to Sedona, visiting the desert, and that connection has made my troubles seem insignificant. I become one with nature and become revived. Even in the desert, there is life. Sometimes strange looking, lopsided plants and hiding animals, but it is perfect. I try to take that acceptance to heart. You can’t help but wonder at creation when you are in nature.
For the majority of humankind’s history we have been closer to nature than many of us are now, and I think we need some connection to nature for our wellbeing. I’m not calling for us all to go live in a forest, but it is well established that we need some time with the living, natural world. Cities incorporate green spaces in their planning because it is important. We know visiting nature can boost your immune system and help you relieve stress. Bringing plants into your home or gardening can help cognition and mood. Even putting out a bird feeder to attract singing birds can have a measurable positive impact. Even in cities, you can find some way to connect back to the natural world.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have started a monthly group to give people space to share what is happening and connect at a core level with self love. I pass around a crystal and let people talk of what is important in their life and to receive emotional support. I would love to see that kind of mutual co-care spread. Connecting with people and constructively giving people a voice allows for the world to be a better place and allows love to govern ourselves. One smile can change a person’s life.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would like to meet with President Obama to thank him for his dignity, values and love. When I think of him I am proud of what he has given the world.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.