Darcie Brown: “Expose your mind with new ideas, thoughts, and beliefs”

The first habit is to identify your values and then align your actions with your values. Values are deeply held beliefs about how you want to live your life. They are not goals, but a lighthouse that guides how you behave. When you know and understand our values, you are able to make decisions, even […]

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The first habit is to identify your values and then align your actions with your values. Values are deeply held beliefs about how you want to live your life. They are not goals, but a lighthouse that guides how you behave. When you know and understand our values, you are able to make decisions, even hard ones, with greater ease which paves the way for more joy, peace, and contentment in your life. For example, perhaps you value connection, so in order to live in line with this value, you would be sure to prioritize spending time with others and cultivating deep, meaningful relationships.

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 interviewingDarcie Brown.

Darcie Brown, JD, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, wellness coach, and creator of Rooted, a virtual holistic wellness space (launching in February 2021). Darcie is passionate about living a holistic lifestyle and supporting others in understanding themselves on a deeper level and creating a life that makes them feel content and fulfilled. Darcie has been quoted as a wellness expert in Women’s Health, Bustle, Better by Today, and Best Life and has contributed articles to media outlets including Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. She lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and their rescue dog, Piper.

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?

Growing up, I was a free spirited and curious child. I often followed my mom around the house, peppering her with questions and wanting to know “why” to almost everything. I made up games, played pretend, and loved to draw and create. As I became a teenager, I was drawn to writing and often wrote moody poetry that sometimes scared my teachers with its intensity. My most fond memories as a child were spend at my grandparents’ lake house, riding on my grandpa’s motorcycle, swimming in the lake with my cousins, and cruising around on the jetski. To this day, I attribute my creativity, curiosity, and passion for learning about others to the freedom my parents fostered for me in a safe and comfortable home environment. It was truly the foundation that paved the way for me to thrive as an adult.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

The year I was born, my parents launched their own financial planning business. Previously they had been teachers, but my mom stopped teaching when I was born, and my dad was having health problems from the stress of the job. This prompted by my dad to change careers to become a Certified Financial Planner, and, together with my mom, started their own business to help others achieve financial freedom and create the lifestyle they desire. Their drive and passion have been my fuel throughout my life to go after what I want and take risks. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their example, influence, and support.

As a result of growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I knew that I wanted to someday own my own business. I wasn’t sure what kind of business that would be, but I knew that freedom and autonomy were important to me. Before I became a therapist and writer, I practiced law for several years. In doing so, I realized that I would never fulfill my goal of being an business owner as an attorney. My heart just wasn’t in it. It wasn’t until I got out of a long-term relationship and moved to Bali that I started on a new path that led me to where I am now.

In Bali, I reconnected with that free-spirited, curious girl inside of me and let the wonder in me soar. I felt so at home in Bali, connected with myself and nature, and to the local people, their love of life, and their passion for community and culture. During my time in Bali, I started freelance writing, and, when I returned to California, I applied to graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy and began the following fall.

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?

Without a doubt, my mom. I remember calling her when I got the first tuition bill for graduate school and said, “Mom, I don’t know if I can do it. It’s so much money.” She said, “Okay, Darcie, what else are you going to do?” As I worked through this decision, my mom was there every step of the way, encouraging me to consider both practical and whole self wellness aspects of a career as a therapist. It was through her belief that passion and practicality can merge, and that I could find what I was looking for, that I summoned the courage to pay that tuition bill and start graduate school. From birth, she’s encouraged me to be my authentic self and allowed me to explore my interests fully, never expecting me to be anyone I wasn’t. I recognize how special it is to have that in a parent, and I’m so grateful to have had (and still have) her support, love, and encouragement.

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?

In retrospect, choosing law as my first career is humorous as it was made from a place of competition with my sister. My sister wanted to be a neonatologist since she was four years old (at which time she called this career a “baby doctor”). She followed through on that childhood goal and is now a practicing neonatologist and medical director of the hospital. Three years of law school, three-plus years of practicing law unhappily, I came to the difficult conclusion that I needed to change careers if I wanted to be true to myself. This taught me three very important lessons that I hold close to me to this day: 1) I am capable of doing hard things even in the face of fear, 2) Most decisions aren’t permanent, so I shouldn’t shy away from making big decisions simply out of fear that I won’t like where I end up, 3) I am capable of so much more than I think. The best decision might not be easy, but it’s possible to push through the resistance in order to create the life I desire.

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 Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. It is one of my most recommended books to clients. Most of us are really hard on ourselves, which often stems from a place of feeling “not good enough.” We adopt a belief that we have to be perfect in order to be seen by ourselves and others as “good enough” or worthy of love. Brené identifies three gifts of imperfection — courage, compassion, and connection. When we allow ourselves to be seen as imperfect, we are able to do hard things (which takes courage), rebound from failure (through compassion), and feel less alone in our experiences (thanks to connection).

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

The healer you have been looking for is your own courage to know and love yourself completely. — Yung Pueblo

As a therapist and wellness coach, I’ve had clients who come to me with the expectation that it’s my role to heal them. Unfortunately, I don’t have that superpower. My goal as a therapist is to empower my clients to do the work to heal themselves, and my role becomes an ally, teammate, and guide. I believe that we are all so much more capable than we think, and my hope is that, more and more, we take our own happiness and wellness into our own hands and learn how to best meet our individual needs.

This quote by Yung Pueblo is the mantra behind the creation of my virtual holistic wellness space, Rooted. So often we look outside of ourselves for answers, or look to others to solve our problems or figure out our lives. But we truly know ourselves best, even when we feel lost, and I believe that the more we do the work to know ourselves better, the more we will be healed individually, and thus collectively as a society.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

At the end of 2020, I finished beta testing for my new virtual holistic wellness space, Rooted, and am now putting the finishing touches on it to officially launch Rooted in February.

Rooted is a video library where I’ll share a weekly video on holistic wellness — mind, body, spirit, and relationships (I add this because humans are wired for connection). Each month, members will get access to four new videos plus the entire video library of 25-plus videos. There will also be guest features from a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher to enhance members’ wellness practice.

I was inspired to created Rooted because the past year, especially with COVID, has shown us just how desperately we all need to care for our whole self — body, mind, spirit, and relationships. I am a firm believer that we know ourselves best, but sometime we lack the information, a person to ask the right question to spark an idea or a realization, or even the resources and tools to facilitate change. While humans are meant to grow and change, and we alone can change ourselves, we need other humans along the way for support, encouragement, and even to provide guidance at times. My goal with Rooted is to create a safe place for people to connect deeper with who they are, understand how to listen to themselves, and cultivate a whole self wellness practice that will increase peace, joy, and contentment in all aspects of their lives.

I believe that everyone deserves to have support in creating a life of meaning, so it felt really important to make this resource affordable to all (membership is under $10 per month). Mental health and holistic wellness resources need to be more accessible for everyone, so I hope that this price point allows everyone the opportunity to invest in themselves.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss 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.

Yes, of course!

The first habit is to identify your values and then align your actions with your values. Values are deeply held beliefs about how you want to live your life. They are not goals, but a lighthouse that guides how you behave. When you know and understand our values, you are able to make decisions, even hard ones, with greater ease which paves the way for more joy, peace, and contentment in your life. For example, perhaps you value connection, so in order to live in line with this value, you would be sure to prioritize spending time with others and cultivating deep, meaningful relationships.

The second habit is to pay attention to your thoughts. Our thoughts are linked to our emotions and our behaviors, so in order to optimize total wellness, which includes mental wellness, we are to step into the role of observer of our thoughts. It’s tempting to believe that our thoughts are facts, but they are not. The brain is wired to create thoughts, and creates between 60 and 80,000 thoughts per day! That’s a lot of thoughts. But far from all of these thoughts are actually based in fact. Optimizing mental wellness involves understanding that our thoughts might be misleading us at times and becoming more comfortable with challenging them and choosing which thoughts to accept as fact. Without this presence of mind, it’s all too easy to get caught up in a particular (usually negative) way of thinking which can lead to “spiraling.” Many people identify with spiraling thoughts, which is a product of assuming that all thoughts are the truth. Mindfulness can help to support increasing presence of mind, as it trains the mind not to attach to every thought that arises. When you are mindful, you allow thoughts to come and go, and witness them as a neutral, non-judgmental observer. Cultivating a regular mindfulness practice is an important strategy in increasing presence of mind.

The third habit is to expose your mind with new ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. Remember how time used to go by so slowly as children? Summer, in particular, seemed to stretch on forever; it was amazing! As adults, many people feel that time flies by. Why is that? As children, we consistently had new experiences, which has the effect of slowing down time. As adults, we have experienced a lot through our lives, and, once we get jobs, we tend to get on autopilot with our jobs and routines, which contributes to the days blending together, and thus speeding up time. In order to keep the mind active, it’s necessary to adopt a curious, or learner’s, mindset to keep growing. Opening yourself up to considering new ideas, thoughts, and beliefs is a way to ensure that your mind says active and functioning at an optimal level.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

Yes, I have two. My favorite meditation practice is a mindful walk where I engage with my senses — sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Meditation is often hyped up to be something more than it is. Mindfulness, at its core, is the awareness and non-judgment observation of the here and now. Incorporating mindfulness into my walks is a way to integrate physical wellness through movement and mental wellness by training the mind that it doesn’t have to hold on to every thought that arises.

Second, for over a year now, I’ve been a member of Melissa Wood Health, a virtual platform for yoga and Pilates. I was drawn to Melissa’s style of teaching as she focuses on presence, carving out time for yourself, and building a better you from the inside out. Her workouts are not just for the body but the mind and spirit as well, which I find really appealing. Other workouts I’ve tried in the past were mainly body-focused, and, while I still found pleasure from the dopamine release, I sought more presence and grounding in my workouts, which I’ve found with Melissa Wood.

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.

First, move your body every day. Exercise has been shown in studies to be as effective as medication at reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It also can reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and increase present-moment living (just to name a few benefits). Movement is essential for optimal physical wellness. But how do we achieve it consistency, as so many find it difficult to stay committed? I believe that showing up with the time you have each day is better than not showing up at all. When we frame “a good enough workout” by the number of minutes or reps, it’s too easy to come up with excuses not to make the time. When we create a practice of showing up for whatever number of minutes we have, even if only ten minutes, we are more easily able to make movement a priority and achieve consistency.

Second, understand what proper nutrition looks like for you. While it’s easy to want to adopt a diet that works for one person, what fuels one person might not fuel another. The more that you tune in and understand your own body, the better you’ll be able to give your body what it needs in the moment. So many of us are out of touch with physical cues which tells us when we are hungry, when we aren’t digesting a particular food very well, and when we are satiated. The more that we are able to tune in and understand what the body is telling us, the better we will be understand what works for us and make changes to optimize how the body feels and functions.

Third, take care of your mind. I know the question was about physical wellness, but because the mind and body are highly interconnected, if you neglect caring for you mind, your body will suffer as well. Experiences are held within the body, and emotions are rooted in physical sensations, so taking care of our body with proper nutrition and movement are just the start of what it looks like to care for our physical wellness. The more that you are aware of the thoughts and behaviors that are serving you and the ones that aren’t serving you, the more easily you’ll be able to make behavioral adjustments to align with your own optimal wellness.

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?

Ask ten nutritionists about what’s healthy and you’ll probably get ten different answers. While certainly there are some consistent tenants of healthy eating, like eating vegetables and less sugar as you mentioned, there’s a lot of room for the influence of our own personal DNA, specific sensitivities, and autoimmune disorders. As a result, diet culture often leads us to believe that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to being eating “healthy.” And that’s just not the case. That’s the first main blockage that you may encounter when you try to make a dietary change and fail. You adopt a “standard” diet and believe that it will work for you without considering your specific body and circumstances.

The second main blockage that prevents change is not knowing your “why” or not being deeply connected to your “why.” For example, if your doctor tells you that you need to cut back on sugar because you are pre-diabetic, you might hear your doctor and understand their point, but it might be too removed from you to effect real behavioral change. Instead, identify your “why” for changing for YOU. Maybe have children and you want to want to live longer to be around to see them grow up. Or, maybe your “why” for eating less sugar is that you notice that you have more energy to engage in pleasurable activities when you aren’t experiencing blood sugar drops. When making a change, it’s essential to define your why and ensure that it’s closely aligned with your life vision, not someone else’s. That will fuel you when change becomes hard.

The third main blockage is builds off my last point — change is hard. It might sound silly, but often times we expect that change will be easier than we think, so when it gets really hard to effect long-standing change, we give up. But long-lasting change is typically very hard, and expecting this can help you to consider likely barriers beforehand and come up with solutions to mitigate struggle down the road.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

The first good habit for optimum emotional wellness is to allow yourself to feel your emotions. Many of us were socialized to believe that emotions are bad and that they should be ignored or dismissed. But, emotions are data or information about what’s happening internally. If we want to be able to care for ourselves, we have to first start by understanding ourselves. And that starts with listening and understanding the messages that emotions are sending. For example, if you are feeling frustrated about an interaction with your spouse, when you see this as information, you can gain further understanding about what’s happening for you. Maybe then you realize that you feel frustrated because you’re being ignored or because you spouse doesn’t seem to understand what you’re saying. This awareness can then help you communicate, ideally with an “I feel statement.” Here’s an example: “I feel really frustrated right now because you’re looking at your phone while I’m talking which makes me feel ignored.” Understanding how you feel allows you to process those feelings and also communicate them to your partner, both of which are crucial to fostering emotional wellness.

The second good habit is to be mindful of the relationships you cultivate and choose wisely. Humans need connection; we’re wired for it. So it makes sense that the relationships you foster have the power to enrich your life or make it miserable. Ask anyone who has gone through a difficult time in a relationship, and they’ll likely tell you that it was emotionally draining. It’s essential to emotional wellness that you invest in relationships that are adding value to your life, and that you dispense with the relationships that are negatively impacting your well-being, which often shows up as emotionally draining you, and in some cases, even making you question your reality.

The final good habit is to nurture a compassionate relationship with yourself. We are often hardest on ourselves, but we are just as deserving of grace and compassion as anyone else. While some fear that if they are compassionate with themselves, they will be excuse harmful behavior, but it’s not about ignoring our mistakes; rather, it’s about understanding that messing up is part of being human, and allowing ourselves to be human and to learn from our mistakes is essential for growth, development, and yes, optimum emotional wellness. Without compassion, we get stuck in cycles of shame, and in that place, we are unable to use our experiences to shift, grow, and transform as we are meant to do.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

Smiling is amazing because it activates that vagus nerve which taps into the parasympathetic nervous system. What’s great about this? We feel calm and at rest when the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. While there are many ways to activate the vagus nerve, smiling is one way that it’s easy to remember, and it makes sense since smiling is one way to show others that we see them and are positively experiencing our interactions with them.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

The first habit is to connect with your aliveness. This is one of my favorite questions to ask clients — when have you felt the most alive in your life? Spirituality isn’t just about connecting with a higher power or something greater than us like the universe. Spirituality is when we connect with wonder, curiosity, and creativity. The more you cultivate a practice of connecting with specific things that bring about wonder, curiosity, and creativity within you, the more you will optimize your own spiritual wellness practice.

The second habit is to cultivate more presence in your life through a daily ritual. It’s easy for the day to fly by, but how you start our day really sets the tone for how you go about the rest of your day. Whether it’s drinking coffee in the morning without scrolling the news or your social media feeds, or taking a walk without music — these things ground you in the present moment, foster mental clarity, and breed peace and ease within you, which you can then carry with you for the rest of your day.

The third habit is to inventory your energy. We all have things in our lives that give us energy and drain us of energy. Consider doing what I call an energy inventory — literally inventory your daily behaviors and divide them into two categories — the ones that give you energy and the ones that drain you. Many people find that they have a huge imbalance — they are giving a considerably greater amount of their energy to things that drain them. Of course we all have things that we have to do each day that probably drain us, but it’s on us to make a conscious effort to cultivate a wellness practice that includes things that give us energy. Otherwise, all too often, we’ll find ourselves running on empty.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

Absolutely. Being in nature is one of my favorite ways to connect with the spiritual self. Often, time has a way of slowing down when we are in nature, which supports us in connecting with wonder, curiosity, and presence. Nature is also where we are deeply attuned to our sense of being a living breathing human (our “aliveness”). All of these things are rooted in nurturing a spiritual wellness within ourselves.

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.

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’d love to have a sit down with Melissa Wood Tepperberg (of @melissawoodhealth). As I mentioned earlier, I started doing her workouts and meditations in the past year, and I respect and admire her commitment to consistently showing up for herself. She’s also got two kids, and wow, I admire a women who runs her own business and is a mother of two children. Talk about impressive! Her passion for what she does is evident, and I hope that in my own wellness space, Rooted, I’m perceived the same way. I love her mantra: “How bad do you want to feel good?” This really speaks to me, as I firmly believe that while it’s so worthwhile to do the work to show up for ourselves, it is work and can be really hard to push through resistance at times. If given the opportunity, I would love to chat with her about all the things that fuel her drive for what she does and her commitment to showing up for herself both on and off the yoga mat.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Three ways: 1) Connect with me on Instagram @darciemft. 2) Visit my website, Darcie Brown Wellness. 3) Sign up to join the waitlist to be the first to get access to my virtual holistic wellness space, Rooted, launching in February 2021, to join me on your own self-discovery and wellness journey.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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