Alone time — I am an empath and highly sensitive to other people’s energy and emotions. Making space and time to be completely alone, even away from my husband, is key to refuel. Before I figured this one out, I would have so much guilt about taking a day to be still and not do anything, and truthfully, I still feel this guilt sometimes, especially as a business owner. There is always something to be doing. But I really have to reframe my mindset and know that if I don’t do this, I will crash at some point, and my work will suffer because of it. This quiet time is one of the most productive things I can be doing for myself, my relationship, and my business.
As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Well-being”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dani Ferguson.
Dani started her wellness space journey after she broke out severely with cystic acne in her mid-twenties. Having clear skin most of her life, she couldn’t quite put her finger on what was causing her awful painful breakouts. After going to doctor after doctor and taking an array of birth control pills, antibiotics, and topical creams, she realized nothing was working. It wasn’t until she got engaged and the horror of walking down the aisle with acne on her face gave her the drive she needed to find what was going on with her body. She decided to try a naturopathic doctor who found that a yeast infection was triggering her acne’s root cause in her gut. After two weeks of intense treatment, Dani’s acne had disappeared. This motivated her to dive into functional medicine testing and healing and now after being a certified Nutritionists and Integrative Health Practitioners has the same goal to help women suffering from chronic acne.
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 in southern California with my mom, dad, and younger brother. I was a very active child, always doing some sport, whether it was soccer, horseback riding, or golf, in high school. I was always a very determined kid and pretty self-sufficient. I was also that kid that would always hang around the adults and talk to them instead of the kids. I was a thinker, so some would probably call me quiet or shy, but I always thought, gathered information, and processed it in my head. As far as my health goes, I always struggled with stomach aches as a kid, but when you’re young, you don’t really think much of it, so I would deal with them and move on. I was never one to let a sickness hold me back or keep me from doing anything, so I always powered through. I even remember one time having strep throat but needing to practice for a horse show that weekend so instead of staying home, I slathered Vicks vapor rub all over my neck, covered it in a bandana, and headed to the stables. It wasn’t until I went to college that my health issues really started to catch up with me, and that sort of where my whole wellness journey began.
What or who inspired you to pursue a career in helping others? We’d love to hear the story.
It was a combination of my personal experience being sick in college, having every doctor dismiss me and tell me I was fine, and take some Advil for my pain when there was something very wrong going on (I went 4 months with undiagnosed appendicitis in college as a freshman) and my mom’s battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (that also happened the same time I was sick in college). Watching her take her health into her own hands and advocate for her health, I think, gave me the courage to do the same. I watched her heal herself of this cancer that 8 doctors told her required intense chemo and radiation without a single ounce of chemo or radiation. As a freshman in college, I started experiencing some very intense stomach pains, so I went to the medical center on campus to see what was going on, and all they told me was that I most likely had an ovarian cyst that just needed to pass and that I should go home and rest and take Advil. Well, that pain continued to progress and worsen over the next 3–4 months, of which I probably was a patient at the medical center at least once a week for the pain. It wasn’t until I finally went home for spring break and got another doctor to look at me that they said I did have a cyst on my ovary. This needed to be removed surgically because it was too large and could tangle in my ovary, which would then leave me infertile. We scheduled surgery, and about 20 minutes after going in, the surgeon came out to my parents and told them my surgery had gone in a very different direction. That cyst that multiple doctors from school had told me to take Advil for and the cyst the doc now said needed to be removed surgically was actually my appendix that had gotten so inflamed it was now the size of a softball. For reference, your appendix is normally the size of your pinky finger. So they removed my appendix. I woke up from surgery and realized, “thank God I never stopped complaining about this” otherwise, I may not be alive today. Had that appendix burst while up at school, there is no doubt it would have awful. That experience is what catapulted me to start learning about wellness and wanting to help others who have always felt dismissed and overlooked by our medical system.
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?
My mom and dad always encouraged me to go after this dream of mine to help others and one day open up a wellness center of my own. I know that sounds cliche because they truly were and still are my biggest fans who, to this day, still keep encouraging me to reach for the stars. I have also been blessed to be mentored by my own functional medicine doctor, Dr. Kaisa, a friend and mentor to me in the wellness space. I remember going in for an appointment with her. As she’s muscle testing me, I blurted out, “I think I am going to become a nutritionist,” and her response was, “absolutely, you would be amazing at it”. Since then, she has helped me and supported me in honing my skills as a nutritionist and business owner.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in pursuing your passion? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?–
As someone specializing in gut health, there will always be bathroom talk, but I will keep this PG. One day I finally convinced myself it was time to learn how to administer a coffee enema to teach my clients how to do it for themselves at home. Well, if you’ve never done one, a lot is going on that you have to think about before you start. So I poured the coffee solution into the bucket and got the tube ready, and I forgot to clamp the end. There I am in the bathroom with this tube flying all over the bathroom and coffee spraying all over my cabinets. Needless to say, I learned to make sure the clamp was closed tight first before pouring the solution in.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“God never gives you more than you can handle.” — There have been multiple health journeys I have been on from being sick in college to cystic acne all over my body in my late twenties, to most recently and continuing today my stint with Bell’s Palsy. All of which I would never have asked for, but as I have moved through these tough times, I have realized that God never gives me more than I can handle and that these tough times are simply part of my journey that I now have the privilege of helping others.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Currently, I just launched my new brand called, “The Acne Wellness Center,” which is an online community currently for those feeling frustrated, insecure, and disheartened about their skin, to come and feel hopeful, confident, and certain about their path to clearing their skin and achieving truly sustainable wellness.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In my writing, I talk about cultivating well-being habits in our lives, in order to be strong, vibrant and powerful co-creators of a better society. What we create is a reflection of how we think and feel. When we get back to a state of well-being and begin to create from that place, the outside world will reflect this state of well-being. Let’s dive deeper into this together. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental well-being? Please share a story or example for each.
Yes, I believe in what we think reflects what we experience in our outside realm. Always starting my morning with a period of quiet stillness is what really has helped me center myself and lean into what I am feeling that day and at that moment I process them so that I can truly shift into a state of high mental vibration that I can take into my workday or personal relationships. That time of stillness and quiet, without any music on or distractions, was difficult at first because A LOT would come up. Still, I think that is because I didn’t allow that quiet time for myself for so many years, and I have found our bodies never yell at us. They always whisper what they need. And so really having that time of quiet allowed my body to communicate to me what it truly needed. The second habit is feeling gratitude for what I currently and what I WILL have in the future. Being thankful for what we want but don’t yet have in our present, I have found that to be incredibly helpful in bringing in what I want out of life. You could also call it visualization, but have a sense of gratitude around visualizing and truly feeling it. Those emotions and feelings I get when I visualize my highest self and future are the true secret sauce. People can visualize all day long, but it’s that emotional connection and true feeling in the body that I believe brings it to life. And the third habit is journaling, pretty typical, I know, but using this time to write and allowing my subconscious to take over in a way while I am writing has allowed for certain feelings and emotions, and even ideas to flow out onto paper that consciously I had no idea were inside of me. Just start writing with no judgment. It doesn’t matter what you write. Just start, and I promise things will start to flow.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Personally, I love to just put on some 528 Hz music, close my eyes while holding my carnelian crystal, and meditate on whatever I want to bring into my existence. Lately, it has focused more on my divine feminine and calling in that femininity where all creativity flows. Releasing and receiving. Letting go and allowing myself to accept abundance and success and love and joy instead of strong-arming it through my masculine, which has tended to be my stronger tendency in life.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical well-being? Please share a story or example for each.
- Walking — Long walks out in nature have been some of the most healing and profound times for me. Breathing in the fresh air, getting grounded, and taking in the beauty that nature has while walking has been incredibly healing for my physical body. After being diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy in August of 2019, ultimately due to exhaustion and overworking my body, I had to take a step back from the typical weight lifting, spin classes, and even hot yoga I was used to and get back to basics with my exercise. And walking was my go-to. Taking an hour to go on a long walk got my blood pumping but was also incredibly restorative at the same time.
- Get in those greens — I try to drink at least 1 green juice per day to keep my micronutrient levels up. Micronutrients I find give me that vitality that glows from within and the energy I am looking for. When I don’t, I notice a huge dip in my physical well-being.
- Being consistent with my supplements — as someone who naturally has a lowered immune system and has had a history of gut issues, staying on top of my nutrition is paramount for my physical well-being. It’s one of those things that you may not notice a huge improvement right away but when you stop taking them is when you really notice a difference.
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 some great ways to begin to integrate it into our lives?
If It’s not easy to take care of yourself through food, there is something much deeper internally going on. One thing I have learned both personally and with my clients is that it’s never about the food, it’s about what the food means and what is going on below the surface. While I have no problem with indulging in your fav food or glass of wine or spicy marg here and there, taking care of your body through food is easy when everything else is in alignment because it’s ultimately a choice and do you feel empowered enough in your body to make the right choices for yourself when it comes to your food choices.If you really want to change and integrate a healthy eating style into your life, start at the root of your food issues. Why are you not choosing to take care of your body? Why is it so hard for you to make those healthy food choices? Ask yourself, WHY until you find the root cause. If it’s truly a scenario where you don’t know where to begin, my best advice is to make sure there are at least 2 vegetables on your plate at every meal.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional well-being? Please share a story or example for each.
- Breathwork: The breath is so healing, and we as a society don’t breathe enough. And it truly is a life force for us and can help us clear our negative emotions. The first time I did an intense 30 minute breathwork session, I felt like this inner block of emotions could escape me. My hands went numb and started to hover over my body. I had no control over my body. It’s like my breath and those emotions took over. In the end, it felt like this weight was lifted completely.
- Address the hard stuff — the more we push down our true emotions, hide who we truly are, and put on these masks, the more harm we are doing to ourselves. I can remember this one instance of when I was really struggling with my skin and acne, but it was all centered under my jaw and down my throat area. Nowhere else on my body had acne. I was working with a coach who mentioned that it was all centered around my throat chakra and how this is where we use our voice and if there was a time where I felt like I couldn’t speak up or voice how I was feeling. I was instantly taken back to a time in middle school when some of the “cool girls” weren’t so nice to me. Going back to that time and replaying everything that happened and what occurred, I felt this instant release in my throat, and within a few days, my acne was completely gone.
- Alone time — I am an empath and highly sensitive to other people’s energy and emotions. Making space and time to be completely alone, even away from my husband, is key to refuel. Before I figured this one out, I would have so much guilt about taking a day to be still and not do anything, and truthfully, I still feel this guilt sometimes, especially as a business owner. There is always something to be doing. But I really have to reframe my mindset and know that if I don’t do this, I will crash at some point, and my work will suffer because of it. This quiet time is one of the most productive things I can be doing for myself, my relationship, and my business.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional well-being? We’d love to hear it.
I do believe that a simple smile can absolutely help us transform our emotional well-being in an instant. It’s kind of like those moments you’re in this heated fight with your significant other, and they do something funny, and you both burst into laughter and forget about what you were fighting about. We get into these emotional loops, and we need something to stop the loop forcibly. Smiling is one simple way to stop the loop or continuous cycle from taking over our emotions. Every emotion we have begins with a thought, and that thought triggers the emotion, which then triggers an action or inaction. We need to recognize our patterns and stop them before the loop takes over.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual well-being? Please share a story or example for each.
What I have found to help personally with my own spiritual well-being is creating a ritual around it. I do this in the morning through prayer, reading a devotional or bible verse, and then meditating on what was just revealed to me during that quiet time. When I woke up on that Sunday morning with half my face paralyzed, I had so many people tell me how scary that must have been. And looking back, I actually never felt afraid, and I attribute that to my spiritual connection with God and source. That verse that talks about peace transcends all understanding. That is what I experienced. And throughout my entire healing process, I kept that appointment every morning because I knew if I didn’t, that fear and doubt could easily creep back in. Another habit that has helped is always have a quote or verse on hand to fall back on. For me, it’s always been “Be still and know that I am God” and “For I know the plans I have for you” are my go-to verses. For you, they could be quotes or parables, or phrases. This helps keep both my spiritual and mental well-being in check and helps me not fall into those emotional loops I mentioned above.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate overall well-being?
I mentioned this earlier about my walks in nature, and yes, I believe Nature is incredibly healing when you allow it to be. I think everything begins in our mind, so if you have a closed-off cynical mind, then nature probably can’t help you. Still, if you are open, even just 1% open to it, I think nature has an incredible healing ability and can oftentimes show us what it is we are missing in our own life through the seasons it goes through, to the changes it’s experienced, to how it interacts with the animals and insects. Everything is connected.
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. –
You have everything you need to heal. I want to create a movement that empowers people to take back power regarding their health. Listening to their intuition and not stopping when one doctor tells you your labs come back normal, but you still feel like shit. Or they tell you this is just something you have to deal with. Or they throw a new prescription at you and send you on your way when you’ve voiced that you don’t want just another prescription. We need to start addressing the root cause instead of putting band-aids on bullet wounds with another pill or procedure. I say NO, you don’t have to deal with it. You have the God-given right to feel your absolute best if you are willing to work for it. Don’t let anyone or any doctor tell you it’s your fate to feel crappy for the rest of your life. We live in one of the most affluent countries in the world with one of the sickest populations. How does that make any sense? Clearly, what we are doing isn’t working. We must advocate for ourselves and our health and help those who can’t advocate for themselves.
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 🙂
Bethenny Frankel — Because she never gave up on her dream. I started watching her on the real housewives when she was trying to get Skinny Girl off the ground. To see her succeed and do some good with her success from her non-profit of “Be-Strong”, which helps other business owners improve their business, and helps them succeed, is truly so inspiring. She is someone I look up to in the hopes of one day being able to impact the world as she has.
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.