“5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, with Dr. William Seeds & Dr. Tricia Wolanin

Exercise helps build serotonin levels which are linked with improved mood, and overall well being. Exercise is an excellent form of stress release. We all have the potential to build up stress throughout the day, why not exert it in a healthy manner? In addition, exercise can have the potential to be a mindful form […]

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Exercise helps build serotonin levels which are linked with improved mood, and overall well being. Exercise is an excellent form of stress release. We all have the potential to build up stress throughout the day, why not exert it in a healthy manner? In addition, exercise can have the potential to be a mindful form of meditation. While we are going for a run, going for a swim, or doing yoga we zone out of our exterior world and zone into the activity. Exercise has the potential to effectively bring us to the present moment again and again with each breath.

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tricia Wolanin, Psy.D.. Dr. Tricia Wolanin is a clinical psychologist, author, and yoga instructor currently working overseas with USAF Special Operations. Dr. Wolanin facilitates workshops, retreats, and leads weekly yoga classes for the past six years with this community, but will be branching out as a consultant to other individuals and organizations. Her love for building developing daily discipline is shared with her clientele through exploring various mindfulness and coaching techniques.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

My grandmother is a psychiatrist, and therefore serving others in the therapeutic sense, has been in my family. But what deepened my interest in wellness (particularly yoga), was when I worked as a psychologist in Hawaii with Marines, coming back from deployment. These were young men, who had PTSD, TBIs and numerous physical injuries who would be getting out of the military at such an early age. They had experienced so many traumatic events, and I noticed talk therapy alone was ineffective. It could not be used in a vacuum. They needed a holistic approach, and luckily some of them began engaging in trauma sensitive yoga classes. In addition, I had such a large caseload of intensive clients, I noticed I needed a form of release in my life. This was the year I began having literal dreams of teaching yoga, and I took a yoga philosophy course. Shortly after, I signed up for yoga teacher training.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

This past year I published a book The Fragrance of Wanderlust: How to capture the essence of travel in our everyday lives. This book is a 40 day staycation book, that tries to teach mindfulness in a way that is palpable to others. We are mindful when we travel, let’s practice at home. This past year, my parents have both been my strongest support, and were my first avid fans. It’s been such an honor to have been able to share mindfulness principles with them, and see them begin to engage in developing a daily discipline practice through my writing. If I tried to teach them, as I would in various workshops, they may not have listened. But through my writing, they were able to follow at their own pace. To have been able to share my parents wellness principles has been a blessing.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

When I first started teaching yoga classes to the special operations community, particularly the men, I felt as if I had to make the classes strenuous for them. I wanted to sell yoga to them as a form of legit fitness, and not this “woo woo” thing they would make fun of. But what I found is the people that were coming to my yoga classes were not coming to prove their masculinity. They actually were coming for relief. By nature, I speak in a more tranquil manner. I was trying to toughen up and live up to what I perceived their rigid standards were, but they appreciated what I had to share with them. They sought out the soothing, restorative, yin postures, not the overtop competitive arm balances or headstands.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I’ve devoted much of my life in exploring ways to continue to have a more enriched, fulfilled, and purpose driven life. I’ve been avid learner, attaining certificates and training in psychology, coaching, yoga, and mindfulness. My ongoing curiosity has helped me remain motivated to explore, implement, and share these principles with not myself, friends, family, colleagues, and clientele. My holistic perspective in serving others has been instrumental to assisting others on their paths of creating lives that are authentic, healthy, and full of hope. I’ve been shifting over the years to not view myself as a psychologist who helps people free themselves from problems and illnesses. I am a coach and consultant to encourage people to live lives of wellness.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of my previous mentors I have been most appreciative towards is a psychologist who hired me for my first job as a licensed psychologist in New York City. His name was Dr. Tom Hameline, and he was VP of Help USA. This was an organization with numerous homeless shelters throughout the five boroughs, but they were starting their first grant driven program that provided therapy for one particular shelter in the Bronx. I was 27 years old, fresh to NYC, and was given a mental health program to create. I wasn’t given much structure, but loads of ongoing support and guidance. Having creative freedom and being pushed on my own to create a program was scary initially, but freeing. It took time, love, and commitment to create a sense of trust and community for those I served. The skills I learned there built the confidence to continue to assist in creating the POTFF program in the UK.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep 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 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

We need to see the results of the limitations we make in our diet and lifestyle. If we do not see that, we may not feel they are attainable in our lives. We not only need to see them, but we want others to notice the changes in us and verbalize it to us. Is it making a difference?

Another reason we haven’t integrated these yet is we think when we need to make changes they need to happen simultaneously. We get inspired and tried to do too much at one time and fail. It’s been recommended we opt to make one of these changes at a time, have them become part of our being, and then begin on the next shift. Jay Shetty had a recent podcast on this phenomena and spoke to many of the above noted lifestyle hacks as MEDS (Meditation Exercise Diet Sleep). Focus on one aspect at a time, build the confidence, then add the next piece into your life.

Finally a blockage we have from integrating lifestyle improvements is there has not been enough pain in ourselves created to begin the necessary changes. If our life is overall going well, we will not shift to make improvements if we do not feel it’s necessary. If you function well on 6 hours of sleep, this becomes your industry standard and there’s no reason to make that change. But suppose one day, you get five hours and you note how irritable you are, how much coffee you need to drink, limited concentration, and feeling as if you are in a daze. Perhaps all this will shift you to ensure you get at minimum six hours to not have a day like that again. Or imagine you began an experiment of sleeping now 7 hours and felt more rested, centered, and alert this may make those 6 hours feel inefficient.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

One of the strongest recommendations I offer people is developing a morning discipline, primarily with one’s intention. Author Louise Hay notes “how you start your day is how you live your day. How you live your day is how you live your life.” I like to think of what the day has in store and shift my focus in what I plan to meet for the day. For example, if I will be facilitating a workshop I may have the intention to be “present and wise.” Keep it simple, focused, and reflect at the end of the day if you accomplished what you intended to.

An additional lifestyle tweak I recommend is having a daily gratitude practice, ideally in the morning. Write down 3–5 things you are grateful for each day. This seems overly simple, but research has proven by making this part of your daily practice shifts one’s perspective to a more positive framework over time. You start to search for things you are grateful for versus scanning the environment for what is wrong.

Third, I recommend opting to keep your phone on vibrate as often as possible. When we hear our phone make a sound for every notification from email, text, to phone call, we feel as if we are always on and reachable. Allow yourself to be free from the adrenaline boosts of technology. In addition to this, keep your phone away from you in the evening. It’s been proven looking at the screen will keep us up at least an additional 20 minutes. Allow the mind to rest.

Fourth builds on the previous principle above, take a weekly technological sabbatical. Successful people from Ariana Huffington to Tim Ferriss take these weekly tech breaks. Having this creates a reset button. We can explore the act of wondering about answers to random questions with friends, versus googling them. This allows us the opportunity to be present with those in our atmosphere versus responding to what text is in front of us.

Last, I would encourage people to add some moments of silence into everyday. This could be in the form of meditation, but it doesn’t have to be. We could have quiet moments in drinking a cup of coffee, petting our dog, or on our daily commute. We are so used to adding noise whether through podcasts, tv shows, social media. There’s so much noise we distract ourselves with. I challenge people to allow space for silence to arise.

All of these aspects I implement in my daily life, and encourage my clients and workshop attendees to practice. These practices set a framework for our day and have the capacity to enrich our lives by making them more sacred and valuable. They are minute changes, but can shift our worlds.

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

Exercise helps build serotonin levels which are linked with improved mood, and overall well being. Exercise is an excellent form of stress release. We all have the potential to build up stress throughout the day, why not exert it in a healthy manner? In addition, exercise can have the potential to be a mindful form of meditation. While we are going for a run, going for a swim, or doing yoga we zone out of our exterior world and zone into the activity. Exercise has the potential to effectively bring us to the present moment again and again with each breath.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

As I am a yoga instructor, I would have to say several rounds of a simple sun salutation, can begin to build up heat within the body, stretch the muscles, and activate the entire body and mind. Sun salutations are generally done in most yoga classes, and to practice them at home is a good way to build daily discipline and incorporate yoga into your life.

I will add two additional yoga poses. One is cow facing pose (Gomukhasana). This is one of the best poses to open the armpits, shoulders, triceps, and hips. Many people have developed injuries to forearms and wrists due to non-stop computer time. I feel this is one of the best poses to open numerous areas at once.

Lying spinal twist held for an extended amount of time is a wonderful way to release tension in the low back and shoulders. This is an amazing pose to do either in the beginning of the day or before bed time, it’s quite soothing and relaxing.

Iyengar said, “we are only as old as our back is flexible.”

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?

Stretch before and afterwards. Begin implementing changes to your workout routine in a gradual manner.

There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?

I have tried various diets over the years, and recognize diets only work temporarily. It must be a lifestyle change. I try to limit my carb intake, red meat, and pork. One method I have begun to implement is to eat when I am 80% full. Eat in moderation and because it takes longer to digest, this is a tip given from the Blue Zones book and movement. I try to encourage my clients to eat in a mindful manner, slowing down the process of eating, taking in the colors of the foods, how the flavors hit your palette, the aromas that exude from the meals.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Over a decade ago I was pulled into the book and film The Secret. Although there are numerous ways we can find critique with it for the emphasis on material gains, I found the emphasis on the Law of Attraction simple and easy to implement. Throughout the years I have led numerous vision board workshops with family members, friends, and at places of employment from a homeless shelter in the Bronx to working with active duty and family members of the Special Ops community. It’s always refreshing and validating to remind yourself that your life can be changed with intention, focus, support, and accountability.

Currently the book I am reading Blue Zones has been dramatically impacting me. It’s fascinating and encouraging to hear the research of 5 cultures in the world that live the longest, and the 9 different aspects they collectively have as part of their lives to ensure longevity and wellness.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Currently I am in the process of writing my second book, The Subtraction Method. The book is around the principle by this quote that states, “When things aren’t adding up in life, start subtracting.” The book centers around how we can continue to subtract excess in our lives (things, negative beliefs, negative people, technology) to reveal what we truly value. I would encourage people to stop adding and start subtracting. Hopefully there is more to follow soon, with an accompanying retreat.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
― Joseph Campbell

When I was in graduate school in LA, I assumed I would work for my grandmother who owned a massive practice in Philadelphia. I didn’t explore opportunities for work or try to network. My path was laid out for me, but when I moved to Philadelphia, it wasn’t what I expected. I was deeply unsatisfied and uncomfortable in having to approach my grandmother about quitting the family business. It was only after I left this job, that I allowed myself to wander a bit to other states and jobs, exploring the possibilities. I have been lucky to be in my dream job for the past six years, but I know it’s inevitable to branch out and serve the larger community. Who knows what is in store? But it is waiting.

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 if we tag them 🙂

I know I am not alone when I mention Oprah for this answer, but over the years I have truly respected her influence and leverage with widening people’s lenses to various forms of spirituality. We’ve been exposed to a variety of spiritual teachers and authors through her Super Soul show and podcasts. Additionally, over the years I would add Tim Ferriss to the list. I’ve led a daily discipline retreat based on his Tools of the Titans book, and find his podcasts and self-experiments fascinating.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I can be found on Facebook or Linked In as Dr. Tricia Wolanin or on my website www.drtricia.co

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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