“Be a listener.” With Beau Henderson & Megan Junchaya

Instead of consciously thinking and feeling, you are consciously aware that you are thinking, aware that you are feeling, and aware of the emotions and sensations you are experiencing without resisting, controlling, or judging anything. I like to think of it as taking a back seat. You move from being the actor in the movie […]

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Instead of consciously thinking and feeling, you are consciously aware that you are thinking, aware that you are feeling, and aware of the emotions and sensations you are experiencing without resisting, controlling, or judging anything. I like to think of it as taking a back seat. You move from being the actor in the movie to sitting back and watching the movie play out on the screen.


As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Junchaya.

Megan is the creator and founder of Vibe n’ Thrive, a blog dedicated to helping women heal naturally from the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s herself, Megan was able to reverse her symptoms by taking a whole health approach. Her focus is on mind, body, spirit wellness.


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 backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I’ve always had an interest in health and wellness. I graduated with a degree in emergency medicine when I was 21 and immediately started working as a paramedic for my city’s ambulance service. But it wasn’t until my own health started failing that I became interested in all aspects of health, including mind-body-spirit wellness.

Shortly after starting my career as a paramedic, I became very ill. I developed terrible mood swings, joint pain, brain fog, fatigue, and chronic infections. After 2 long years of jumping from doctor to doctor looking for answers I was finally diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (a disease where your immune system attacks and destroys your thyroid).

By the time I was diagnosed my symptoms were so debilitating that I was no longer able to live life like a normal 23-year-old. My world was flipped upside down. So with the little energy, I had left, I set out to reverse my disease and regain my health. I saw different specialists, tried a plethora of diets and supplements, and worked through multiple protocols designed to reverse autoimmune disease. But I saw little to no improvements in my health.

It wasn’t until I took my whole self into consideration and started treating my mental, emotional, and spiritual health that I started to heal. Things like meditating, properly processing my emotions, and practicing living in the moment, improved my health so much more than any diet or pill ever has. I felt like I had uncovered a secret!

Today virtually all of my symptoms are gone and my thyroid is functioning at optimal levels without the help of medication. Having Hashimoto’s has been by far the most difficult and excruciating thing I’ve ever had to endure. And being able to regain my health and my life has left me wanting to help other women with Hashimoto’s do the same. So I started Vibe n’ Thrive to share my experience and the less conventional ways of healing that worked for me.

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

I’ve had so many women message me with stories so similar to mine it’s shocking!

When I first started researching ways to reverse my disease, the only information I could find was on making diet and basic lifestyle changes to heal. Which just did not work for me. I never came across anything on treating your mental or spiritual health to improve your physical health. So I felt like an outlier because no one was talking about the things that actually did help me heal.

Initially, when I started my blog, I was afraid that there wasn’t really anyone else out there like me who would benefit from my experience. But I was wrong. Shortly after launching Vibe n’ Thrive I started getting emails from women telling me how they too saw little improvement in their health even after cleaning up their diet, adding in supplements and getting great sleep and exercise. On paper, they were doing everything right but they still weren’t seeing results. But once they started treating their entire being as opposed to just their body they finally began to see improvements in their health.

So it’s been gratifying knowing that there are in fact a lot of other women out there like me and the work that I’m doing is actually helping others. But it’s also surprising that despite there being so many people who have really improved their health by taking a whole health approach it’s still nowhere near as mainstream as taking a purely physical approach to healing.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Drop the social mask of what you believe a good leader is supposed to be like and just be the most authentic version of yourself. Authenticity is contagious!

I think that working from the heart and making decisions that are in alignment with your core values in life sets the foundation for a very positive and sincere work culture. You can’t create anything genuine or build honest relationships while you are hiding your innermost truths.

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?

There have been so many wonderful books I’ve read over the last several years that have left lasting impressions on me. But if I had to choose just one it would be The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

When my health was at its lowest point I read this book and it was a huge catalyst for change and healing in my life. It taught me how to live fully in the present moment and escape the noise of the mind. It sounds so simple but living in the present moment eliminated nearly every stressor I had in life which allowed me to just relax and be at peace.

Practicing “living in the now” was one of the first interventions that produced noticeable improvements in my health. So it was this book that really kickstarted my journey towards exploring the mind-body-spirit connection because I realized that my thoughts were actually playing a large role in the health of my body. It’s such a wonderful book that teaches a simple yet powerful concept that affects every aspect of your life.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

Being mindful is being completely aware of everything that you are experiencing without judgment. When you are in a state of being mindful you view your internal and external world objectively through a deeper level of consciousness.

Instead of consciously thinking and feeling, you are consciously aware that you are thinking, aware that you are feeling, and aware of the emotions and sensations you are experiencing without resisting, controlling, or judging anything. I like to think of it as taking a back seat. You move from being the actor in the movie to sitting back and watching the movie play out on the screen.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

When you are in a state of being mindful, because you are not caught up in a sea of troubling thoughts, nor are you trying to control or resist anything, your body enters a state of relaxation. Life stressors seem to melt away when you are being mindful. And getting your mind and body out of the fight or flight response and into the rest and digest response comes with so many powerful health benefits.

Your heart rate and blood pressure lower, your breathing slow, and your muscles relax. By being in this relaxed state you are allowing your body to repair, rebalance, and heal itself.

I’ve also noticed that the more you practice mindfulness, the easier it becomes and the more it happens naturally and spontaneously. After a while you’ll notice that when you start to stress or worry about something, instead of getting sucked into your thoughts and feelings, you automatically become mindful of how you’re feeling. Mindfulness can be a huge help in managing stress, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

Practicing mindfulness also allows you to process your emotions more effectively. When you are in a heightened state of awareness, you become conscious of a lot of feelings and emotions you may have not even realized were there. You might start to pick up on a pattern of responding with anger, jealousy, or other negative emotions. Going back to my previous example, because you are switching from being the actor in the movie to watching the movie play out on the screen, you have a greater view of what is going on with your mind, body, and emotions. Mindfulness gives you a chance to see the whole picture and can bring to light many areas of your mental and emotional health in need of your attention.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

I think with everything going on in the world and in the media lately, now it is more important than ever to find ways to develop mindfulness and cultivate peace in your life. There are many ways you can go about developing mindfulness in your everyday life but here are some of the ways I’ve found most helpful.

Start meditating

When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease I was incredibly stressed. My life had been completely turned upside down and was now filled with constant worry and uncertainty. It got to a point where my anxiety was so bad that I knew I had to do something.

So I started meditating every morning for just 10 minutes. The idea was to enjoy just 10 minutes of peace every day, but it turned out that the calming effects of meditation stuck with me for the entire day. I was amazed at how finding a few moments of stillness in the morning set the tone for the rest of my day.

You don’t have to sacrifice hours of your time meditating to get the calming benefits. In the time it takes to do the dishes or take a shower, you can achieve a calm state of mind that’ll stick with you for the rest of your day.

Set mindfulness reminders

Setting alarms on your phone or changing the wallpaper on your phone to a photo or message that reminds you to be mindful can be extremely helpful in turning mindfulness into a habit.

Whenever you are reminded to be mindful, take a few seconds to completely and totally absorb the present moment. Become aware of your surroundings, the sensations you’re feeling, your mood, your thoughts, everything. The more you have these mini mindfulness sessions, the more likely the habit will stick and being mindful will become second nature.

Journal

Journaling allows you to bring your invisible and intangible thoughts and emotions into concrete existence.

It’s a great way to become more attuned to how you are thinking and feeling on a regular basis. It’s also a great way to release pent up energy and emotions.

At the very least, take 10 minutes once a week to write about what’s on your mind.

Feel your emotions

It’s human nature to want to run and hide from painful emotions like grief, worry, and fear. But every emotion, positive or negative, deserves to be felt fully.

When we don’t fully feel and experience our emotions we run the risk of suppressing a lot of our feelings which can put a strain on our mental and physical health. I’ve noticed that the emotions we respond with most often are the same ones we have suppressed inside of us.

The next time you’re feeling any type of negative emotion like frustration or nervousness, try closing your eyes and placing all of your attention on that emotion. Move your awareness away from your thoughts and onto the feeling you’re experiencing in your body without judging, labeling, or resisting anything. You’ll notice that within a few seconds to minutes the emotion dissipates.

It may not be comfortable to feel your negative emotions, but by staying open and allowing that emotion to flow through you, the experience will pass much quicker than if you were to push it away or focus on the thoughts surrounding that emotion.

Doing this whenever you’re feeling stressed or uneasy is an extremely fast and effective way to help calm you down and put you in a state of being mindful.

Use a mantra

One of my favorite mantras to encourage mindfulness is “Today I will judge nothing that occurs”. I start my morning silently saying this mantra and I’ll repeat it to myself several times throughout the day.

Using this mantra reminds you to view life objectively. Refrain from labeling anything as good or bad, boring or fun, happy or sad. Just view it as it is.

Using mindfulness mantras like this one help you to stay mindful throughout the entire day, and they allow you to view life through a different lens. Things that may have normally stressed you out or angered you don’t have the same effect when you are not judging them

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Be a calming presence

Panic is highly contagious, but so is serenity.

We are great at picking up the energy and moods of others whether or not we realize it. So simply being the mindful and present one in the room, or even over the phone, can have a calming effect on people. Practicing mindfulness is not just good for you, it’s good for everyone around you!

Know what to offer

When someone comes to you to with a problem, they are usually looking for one of two things: empathy or advice.

While you may feel like you are being helpful and supportive, offering up a practical solution when someone is really just wanting you to listen and sympathize can be hurtful and give the impression that you don’t care or weren’t really listening. And vice versa.

If you offer up sympathy and a shoulder to cry on when someone is coming to you for solutions and advice, they may feel disconnected and frustrated with you.

If you can’t tell what the other person really needs from you, just ask. Asking prevents any miscommunication and allows you to be supportive in exactly the way your friend or family member needs you to be.

Give a gift

Gift-giving is a great way to brighten someone’s mood. When we receive something nice from someone else it puts us in a state of gratitude and fills us with positive emotions.

Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive. It actually doesn’t have to cost you anything at all.

Give a compliment or home-cooked meal. Give a genuine hug or a handwritten note. Give a sweet text message or a pretty flower you picked outside.

Giving away something kind and sincere is a wonderful way to not only lift someone’s spirits but to remind them that they are loved and cared about.

Be a good listener

We all know what it’s like to talk to someone who isn’t giving us their full attention. Things like the following can be extremely hurtful:

  • Checking your phone while someone is talking to you
  • Changing the subject without even acknowledging what they just said
  • Continuously interrupting to throw in your 2 cents or to talk about yourself

Talking to a trusted friend or family member, even if it’s not about anything of particular importance, can be just as therapeutic as journaling. So doing something as simple as giving someone your full attention when they choose to talk to you, is a great way to be there for that person.

Being a good listener allows that person to feel heard and can help ease their mind.

Check-in

Sending an unexpected text message or phone call can help remind our loved ones that we are thinking about them and want to connect with them.

Stress and anxiety can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation. So regularly checking in with your friends and family can make them feel less alone and strengthen their sense of community. By starting up a conversation or checking in on a problem you knew your loved has recently been going through, you are basically saying “Hi I’m still here! I still love you and care about you and want to know how you are doing”.

Others are more likely to trust and reach out to you for support when they feel you genuinely care about them and their wellbeing. It can take away that feeling of being a burden that oftentimes prevents others from reaching out for help.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

We are lucky that we live in a time where we have a whole world of knowledge at our fingertips.

When I first started meditating I would look up guided meditation videos on Youtube. You can find a variety of guided meditations lasting anywhere from 3 minutes to 2 hours!

You can also use apps like Headspace or Calm that are designed specifically to help you meditate and practice mindfulness. I personally use the Calm app every day. They have 10 minute daily mediations and they even have sleep stories you can listen to at night to help you calm your mind and fall asleep faster.

Books are another great resource for developing mindfulness. I like to read positive and uplifting books before bed so that I’m filling my mind with inspiring messages right before I go to sleep. Try books from authors like Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, David Hawkins, and Joe Dispenza.

I also suggest incorporating mind-body exercises like yoga, pilates, or tai chi into your workout schedule. These types of exercises are based on mindful body movements and breathwork, so they’re great at reducing stress, releasing pent up energy, and calming your mind all while giving you a full-body workout.

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

“What you resist, will persist”. This was a little life motto I adopted several years ago when I was in the thick of my disease. I would say this to myself whenever I noticed any inner resistance beginning to creep up inside of me. If I found myself getting mad or thinking about how unfair my current situation was, I would use this quote as a way to remind myself to just let go and go with the flow.

I believe it’s true that what we mentally and emotionally resist in life will always persist. Resisting something requires our attention and what we place our attention on grows stronger.

I found this quote to be so helpful in managing my disease that now I use it in all other aspects of my life as well.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

This may be the environmentalist and animal lover in me talking, but I wish the world would go vegan. I think just about everyone values life over sensory pleasure (taste). And being vegan allows you to align your behaviors and actions with that value, which is extremely liberating.

Going vegan is better for our planet Earth, it’s healthier, and it’s an incredibly compassionate way to live. When you stop contributing to animal slavery, exploitation, and suffering, it awakens a deeper sense of empathy and compassion towards all living beings.

I truly believe that our world would be a much happier, healthier, and more peaceful place if we all went vegan.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

I’m pretty active on Instagram. You can follow me @viben.thrive. Or you can connect with me through my website at www.vibenthrive.com. I would love to hear from your readers! I always enjoy connecting with others and hearing their stories.

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

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. It’s been such a pleasure!

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