Dance like No One is Watching– Be grateful for every moment of joy you have- My wife is helping me with this one. She loves to dance and as I do, but I feel self-conscious sometimes. When I see her dance and just focus on her, I feel like I am all alone with her and my confidence rises. Even if you are alone, play your favorite music and just dance. It will bring a smile to your face and improve your health. Sometimes you have to take a moment and just feel joy. Music can help you get there.
As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.
What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?
One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Butch Phelps.
Butch Phelps helps people reduce and stop their chronic pains by finding the cause of the pain, creating a solution to their pain, and teaching his clients how to remain pain-free.
As a licensed massage therapist and owner of The Muscle Repair Shop in Sarasota, Fl, Butch has learned over the last 13 years how the muscles can cause damage to the joints, disc, nerves, and create inflammation in the body. He teaches people how the way they walk, stand, sit, and their daily activities can contribute to the pain they are suffering. Butch is a massage therapist who created the Stretch n’ Release Technique that combines Neuro-muscular massage, Active Isolated Stretching, and allowing the brain to release the emotional side of the muscles to relieve the pain many people suffer.
Butch has a B.S. in Aging Sciences, studying how the body ages throughout life, both mentally and physically. By combining his education with his knowledge of muscles, he teaches older people how to prevent and/or the typical aches and pains of older ages and younger people how to avoid many injuries that can lead to a lifetime of pain. Seeing a smile on people’s faces after years of pain is very rewarding.
Outside of his practice, Butch enjoys gardening and self-improvement techniques to improve his mind and body. You can reach Butch at MuscleRepairShop.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?
It was by accident. I was a corporate person from age 20–40 and thought I would make my fortune in business. I had no interest in science and little in health other than some sports like golf or biking. Being overweight in my mid-thirties led to back pain set me on my path. As I look back on my life, there were clues to where I would be heading but like most people, I paid no attention. Over the last 20 years of education and experience, I have found my passion and love working every day. I get up most days by 6 am and now I am waking up at 5 am writing a future book. The mornings are my favorite time to settle my mind to start my day. I feel so much better.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Like I said, life leaves us little clues. For me, life hit me over the head at 37 before I noticed. At 18 I was in a head-on collision, broke my pelvis in 7 places and my left upper arm. I was in a wheelchair for 6 months and spent a year inrehab. At 36, Iweighed 315lbs and my doctor said if I did not change my lifestyle and diet that I would probably have a stroke or heart attack by 40. That was a wake-up call for me. I lost 105lbs in 18 months. My doctor how to change my mindset about eating rather than another diet, which many had failed. I began working out from routines I used to prescribe for my clients when I was a part-time trainer. I looked great, but I was in severe pain. My low back would lock up and drop me to my knees. I tried everything from massage, stretching classes, pain killers, braces, you name it. Nothing worked. My doctor told me if it got worse, she could give me an injection. On January 1, 2000 I left my corporate job to find something better to do with life. I took a class at a local church called, “The Keys to the Kingdom.” It was about clearing out the clutter in my life. During the class, the minister talked about living in gratitude and being happy with where you are and what you have. All that coming into my head as I closed my eyes was me going into massage therapy. I did not know why as I never thought about it, so I looked at several schools and chose the one I wanted. The person signing me up said it usually took 30 days for everything to be approved and he would let me know. This was a Thursday. He called me on Friday to say I was approved and could start Monday. When I walked into my first class, it was like someone placed a CD in my head of the muscle anatomy. From there, Aaron Mattes, Founder of Active Isolated Stretching, allowed me to study with him for 6 months to fully understand how to stretch correctly. The third piece came by surprise as a neurosurgeon from the University of Washington was giving a class on brain health, focusing on dementia. In that class he talked about the brain and the emotional responses created in the muscles. At that moment, the light bulb went off and I could see clearly that how we think can affect us physically through the reaction of our muscles.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“How you do anything is how you do everything!” I have seen this in my life, over and over again. When I wake up, I always make my bed as my first accomplishment of the day. I have me time from 5am-7am each day to set my mind on the right path. My wife says I am a little OCD about picking things up, but I believe that a cluttered life reveals a cluttered mind. I want to live my life with purpose and intent.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
Think and Grow Rich. It is an old book, but it still demonstrates how you can achieve what your mind can see. Going through my education journey, I would see in my mind where I wanted to go and it felt like, once I pictured the place, the doors just opened for me. I use doors as a metaphor for decisions. Anytime I want to do something, if the doors to my journey do not automatically open as soon as I stand in front of them, I know I am at the wrong door. If I need to jiggle the handle, I am probably standing at the wrong door. I went back to school in 2015 to be a doctor but soon realized that was not the path for me. I ended up with a degree in Aging Sciences studying how we age, mentally and physically. Guy Finley once said, most people sit in front of a mountain waiting for it to move, instead walking between 2 mountains on a clear path to get where they want to go.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on a book helping people understand the basics of the brain/muscle connection focusing on stretching. Too many times when people hear me talk about stretching, they think about their stretching class, yoga class, or what they did in high school. The mindset of traditional stretching fails many times because the brain is not included. My hope is, once they read the book, they can better understand why their body works the way it does and why so many treatment plans fail long term. Too many times age gets blamed for aches and pains when it is really diet and lifestyle that contribute. People do not realize how much power is in their hands. If we change how we think about our health, the system will change to accommodate us.
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?
Yes I have 2 people. My wife, Susan, has been my biggest supporter for the 20 years I have known her. She took a chance on a man that changing careers at 40 and with a young daughter. She must have seen the value in me and supported me every step of the way through school. I would be the man I am today without her. Aaron Mattes, the founder of Active Isolated Stretching was a tremendous help in my life. He took a chance on me and did not even know me. He had heard of me and when I called him, he invited me to come work as an intern with him and study his craft for 6 months. He couldhave just invited me to go to one ofhis paid seminars, instead, he asked me to study with him. That is what I mean by doors just opening for me. I was so fortunate.
Can you imagine meeting a man changing careers and then he tells you he is interning for free to learn a new craft? I still cannot believe she believed in me that much. Most people are lucky if they meet one person and I had 2 people that cared that much.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
Gratitude is being happy with who you are, the people you love and love you, and the things around you. For me, I love my wife, my daughters, grandkids, parents, and friends. I love hearing my neighbors and friends about how good things are happening to them. There is no place for envy and jealousy. If we see someone on social media having an awesome dinner, vacation, or new car, be happy for them. You never know if that person lost a loved one, suffered from a terrible disease, or crisis. It may appear their life is better than yours, but they have far more hardships than you ever imagined. Be happy for them and you can be happy for you.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
I think people have been led to feel they are not enough. We see it in ads and social media. Even our schools are a pass or fail system which means if you fail you are a loser. The truth is, many of the most successful people have failed many more times than they succeeded. Yet they learned from their failures to succeed in their next encounter. This is what is missing in our society. Thomas Edison famously said, ”I didn’t fail 5000 times, I found 5000 ways not to do it.” All failure is a sign you need to do something different if you want to succeed. If you fail a class maybe the teacher was teaching in a way you do not learn best. Neither the teacher nor the student is bad, they just don’t match up in teaching/learning styles.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
My focus is more physical in stopping people’s physical pain, but there is an emotional side to it. Noticed how you feel when you are happy vs sad. A happy person is bouncy, energetic, and full of life. Their body stands tall, pain seems to evaporate, and it is like they do not have a care in the world. Now think of a sad person, shoulders are usually slumped, shorter strids as they walk with their head hanging forward. This can place a lot of tension in the spine and joints which can cause pain. It is easy to just say, smile and the world smiles back at you, but we all know that is not necessarily true. Begin by looking at your life. What do you enjoy doing? What gives you the most pleasure? Too many times we are too worried about what other people think. If you did not have to worry about what family and friends thought and you could anything you want, what would you do. You may already be doing but somehow feel bad about because you are not making as much as you like or it is not as impressive. The question to ask is, does it make me feel good. If it does, you will make other people happy while making yourself happy as well. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with life, my grandfather once said to me it does not matter as long as you are happy. If you love digging ditches then do it because if you love it, you will be the best ditch digger in the county, and everyone will pay you to dig their ditches.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Many times, our parents and teachers want the best for us. Unfortunately, their pursuit of our greatness puts them in a position to criticize us too often. This can scar a child for life into thinking they are not good enough. The truth is, they too have failed in life and they were criticized by their parents and teachers. I would suggest, do something whether you fail or not. Do not worry about how good you are, but if you did it. Do not compare yourself with others, but how you felt by doing it. The first few times it may feel awful and bring back some old memories but the more you do it, the better it will get. I have been working on a new product. Cannot say what it is yet, but when I started, my plan was to fail many times. You see, to find if a new idea works you must put it into play. You, nor I, will think of something and it will perfect the first time. I have working on this little product for over 2 years. We are about 90% finished but I have learned to have fun at failing and the product looks nothing like I had in my head. I would say do something and plan to fail so you notsurprised when you do. You can chose to do something that you knowyou will fail and just do it for heck of it and laugh about it. It can be fun to fail and once you learn that you do not have to perfect, life becomes much easier.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
1.) Get Comfortable with You– Be grateful for you- My wife and I meditate every morning for 20 minutes. For most people sitting quietly that long, is difficult. Start slow and build up. Allow thought to run through your mind like a movie, however, look at them with no judgment. Let them play through and then let them go. Focus on what you like about you and not what you do not like.
2.) Stretch Every Day– Be grateful for movement- Our muscles are very emotional. I stretch every day but that does not mean I stretch every muscle in my body. I feel my body and the areas that feel tight. Typically, the cause of muscle pain is usually on the opposite side of the pain. If my low back hurts, it is probably my thighs or inner thighs. At 18, I was in a head-on collision that left me with a broken pelvis in seven places and a broken left arm. For six weeks I could not use my left side to do anything. I was a three-sport athlete in great shape and I found myself in a wheelchair unable to do basic things without help. Imagine having your mom or dad dressing and bathing you when you were 18. It was a very humbling experience, but it taught e to grateful for just being able to walk anywhere I want. I have never taken it for granted again. The stretching I teach is about releasing emotions to release the muscle tightness. Don’t worry about how well you stretch. There is no competition in stretching
3.) Eat Better Food– Be grateful for every bite you take and how it helps your body. When you eat food that you know is bad for you, you feel bad. When you eat food that is good for you focus on how good it will feel to your body. In 1996 when I weighed 315lbs. I knew I was overweight and was eating badly. I felt guilty, shamed, and bad that I could not lose the weight even though It was the diet that many people had lost weight. Educating myself about food and how it converted gave me a different perspective about food. I learned that food is just fuel, not happiness or comfort.
4.) Love Like You Have Never Been Hurt– Be grateful for the people who love you and you love- I love telling my wife how beautiful she is and how much I love her. The sparkle in her eyes after 20 years brings me such joy. When you have been hurt in the past, and we all have, remember it is not the fault of the current person. Ask yourself, how long will I make them pay? If you have a person you love, bathe yourself in that love as if it will last forever. If you do not have someone in your life, forgive yourself and learn to love you so you can love another. When you find that person, tell them every day how much you love them and beautiful they, whether they tell you or not. You will feel the joy within you every time you say.
5.) Dance like No One is Watching– Be grateful for every moment of joy you have- My wife is helping me with this one. She loves to dance and as I do, but I feel self-conscious sometimes. When I see her dance and just focus on her, I feel like I am all alone with her and my confidence rises. Even if you are alone, play your favorite music and just dance. It will bring a smile to your face and improve your health. Sometimes you have to take a moment and just feel joy. Music can help you get there.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
On the days that I feel less good and feel like everything is going wrong, I think about my why. Why do I do what I do? Why do I have this talent that can help people? Although it may feel like the world is out to get me, I will go to someplace where there are people. Sometimes I walk around or is I can, I will sit and just watch people. I watch their interactions with others, the expressions on their faces, the pace of their movements, and the detail to their mode of dress. As I watch them, I imagine myself in their body. Their gender does not matter. It is about getting a sense of where they are and how it would feel to be their body and situation. By doing this, I see love, happiness, anxiety, frustration, impatience, and anger. At that moment, I see they have all the emotions as I and that no matter how bad my day is, it happens to every else too. It allows to feel not so alone and feel that I am in a shared experience, even though I do not know any of these people. By seeing people feeling different emotions, I see the human in them and no feel they are there to annoy me.
I remember one day at the grocery store when a woman in front of me left without paying for a case of water because it was on the bottom of her cart and no one saw it. She came back in, embarrassed, then paid for the water. The cashier remarked that she was one in a million people that was a good person. The cashier believed most people were bad. I said to her that I believe 8 out of every 10 people you meet are good people, good enough to trust your life with them. She looked at me like I was crazy. I asked her if she thought she was good, she said yes. I asked the bagger if she thought she was a good person, she said yes. I said, well I am a good person, and we all know that lady is, so we are halfway there. My point is to look for the good in everything and everyone around you, no matter how small. As humans, we tend to focus too much on the few bad things we see and not the good.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
I am reading the “5AM Club” by Robin Sharma which speaks to a lot of what I am saying. I have read “Living from a Place of Surrender” by Michael Singer, “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakhiani, and “Breaking the Habit f Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza. Each of these books will help center and focus your mind on what is right and change what you feel is not in your life.
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. 🙂
If I could start a movement, it would be based on the 5 ways I mentioned earlier. To be in gratitude, we must start with our mind. People feel left out because we do not teach them how to eat, live, and love. It is about getting as much as you can as if life is a competition. There is more than enough abundance provided for us on this earth. We need to learn howto unlock it. Learninghow food converts into your body, how to be physically fit without injuries, how to have a great relationship with another person, and how to be free to be who you are. We are too busy looking for quick fixes and companies are happy to supply us. The problem is, we are only solving the symptom and not the cause. We are one. Until we learn that, life will always be a struggle
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
I am on social media on Facebook at The Muscle Repair Shop; LinkedIn at Butch Phelps, Instagram at musclerepair1, and my YouTube channel at The Muscle Repair Shop. Finally, they can join my weekly newsletter and blog on my website at MuscleRepairShop.com. Each week I break down one of my stretches on Tuesday Afternoon Tips and include a video of that stretch.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!