Dr. Glen Hong: “I try to be in nature at least 20 minutes every day”

I believe that being in nature is vital for everyone, especially now as we live in this advanced technological age. We all need to unplug from our phones and laptops, get in touch with the very essence of who we are and just be with the natural essence of life. When I am in nature, […]

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I believe that being in nature is vital for everyone, especially now as we live in this advanced technological age. We all need to unplug from our phones and laptops, get in touch with the very essence of who we are and just be with the natural essence of life. When I am in nature, I can feel a natural vitality for life, because I believe my spirit is connecting with all living things around me. I try to be in nature at least 20 minutes every day.


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 Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Glen Hong.

Dr. Glen Hong is a Relationship Wellbeing Coach who is a Best-Selling Author, Clinical Psychologist and Professor. He is a clinical expert in treating depression and anxiety which he has done for over 20 years and has taught numerous future clinicians in university settings, as well as having published a national clinical textbook that is used in both the undergraduate and graduate schools throughout the United States. His life work is to help others to use their emotions as their own guide to healing, and to start living the life that they truly want to live.


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 a Korean American family where there was a lot of love, but it was also a very complicated dynamic. My parents and my sisters immigrated from South Korea while I was born in the United States. It was a challenge balancing two different cultures while growing up, as well as incurring the mental and emotional struggles that took place within those dynamics. At a very young age, it forced me to see life from a more mentally and emotionally expanded view, and that has carried with me throughout my life and career. I am very thankful because the challenges of balancing and living two cultures simultaneously, as well as personally making the decision to find my own individuality beyond the cultural walls, have set the foundation for the person that I have become.

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

What inspired me to pursue my career in psychology was my own family. I was always curious at a very young age about why my parents acted the way they did, why my sisters were doing what they were doing and why I would make the decisions that I was making. Throughout my childhood and adulthood, I was always fascinated by our family dynamics because it was so different from other kids who I knew at school. More specifically, living in a multi-cultural family dynamic that was blended with love and abuse, it was often inspiring and dysfunctional all at the same time. That polarity often brought a lot of hurt and confusion to me, and that gave me the desire to find answers to address those pains. And through this 20 plus year journey in the field of psychology, relationship counseling, and through deep introspection and self-reflection, all my answers that I was seeking my whole life became answered. That is why I am so passionate about giving back to others by providing the tools to overcome any mental and emotional challenges.

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?

One person who was an inspiration to me was my high school biology teacher Mr. Valencia. He was a man who was passionate about his work, was dedicated to the students that he was teaching and always went the extra mile for anyone who needed help. He would always say that “There is no greater joy than having a student truly understand the material and seeing them grow.” As I entered my chosen profession, that passion and desire to be of service has never left me. in both treating clients and teaching students in a university setting, I have taken that same passion that I learned from him every day with me.

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?

When I began my practice and I had my very first client who was paying in cash, I started to feel really guilty, and I was having thoughts like “Am I really worth this?” and “I think the price might not be fair.” She was a very successful executive and as she was signing the contract agreement, I could tell that she was aware of my discomfort. It was at this point that she looked me directly in the face and said, “Are you going to be my doc, or are you going to play small and be another man that I crush and step on?” We both laughed and after the session was over, she kindly told me, “You did great and just remember that money is just energy, and how you treat money is about how you respect and value what you do.” In all honesty, I should have paid her for the lesson that she taught me that day. And from that point forward, I decided to work through my guilt issues with money, to see my work and what I do as valuable and to see money as energy that is constantly being circulated.

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 book “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom is a book that has had a significant impact on me because of its three core messages of “Love always wins,” “Money is not a substitute for tenderness,” and “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” Life at its core is about the polarity that exists between life and death, and what we do with that in-between is what determines the value of our lives. The book also helped me to redefine success beyond achievement, and to see that true abundance is having quality relationships in your life, experiencing every aspect of who you are as a person and living with a purpose that is beyond yourself.

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

My favorite life lesson quote is from Bruce Lee who stated that “To Find safety, you must enter the heart of danger.” When it comes to our emotional world, I believe that we all must enter our own heart of danger, meaning actively seeking out our stored wounds and pains that are still unresolved. It is scary to do but when we make the decision to do so, we become empowered by taking away the danger of continuously repeating the same mistakes of the past through self-sabotage, becoming empowered and accountable for our lives in present time, as well as being mentally and emotionally available for all the great opportunities that lie ahead in the future.

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

I have currently started a 3-month relationship coaching program that helps couples find happiness and fulfillment in their relationships. Most relationship therapy takes a problem-solving approach, and this will often lead to each partner blaming each other and trying to convince the therapist to take a side. This program instead teaches you how to build a successful and lasting relationship from the ground up. I have taken the modalities that have truly worked in over 20 years of practice as a clinical psychologist, have pulled the most up to date research as my work as a professor and have taken from world renowned experts all over the world to create this comprehensive program. The results have been amazing and through this work, it has not only transformed relationships, but it has also made each partner a better person as well. I am excited to grow out this program even further.

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.

When it comes to mental wellness, it is understanding 3 things:

Everything involves everything!

Understanding the locus of control

Know that the mind is naturally negative by design

Everything involves everything means that your mental wellness is linked to your emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. They are all circular and one of the same. And by understanding that you can improve your mental wellbeing beyond just changing your thoughts, it gives you a greater avenue to improve your overall mental health. For example, if you cannot change a negative thought that is in your head, exercise instead and through this circular process, you will automatically improve your mental processes.

Understanding the locus of control means that what you decide to focus on will dictate the types of thoughts you have. If you are deciding to focus completely on all the possible negative outcomes that could take place before doing something, your mind will race of all the worst-case scenarios that could happen. Similarly, when the mind is fixated on what the best possible outcomes could be before performing something, the mind will then race to all the best-case scenarios. It is really important to train your mind and to set your intentions towards success daily, so that your mental wellness is functioning at its optimum level.

Our minds are biologically built for survival more than for happiness. Knowing this, you do not have to stress out when the brain starts sliding into a negative space. People often become fearful of their thoughts and will do their best to try and control and avoid negative thinking. This then leads into a negative cycle of anxiety, depression and avoidance of people and circumstances. Instead, when your brain starts to slide, ask yourself this simple question to stop the racing negative thoughts, “Am I in real danger right now?” If you can genuinely and sincerely answer “No” you can then watch your brain begin to calm down and stop racing.

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

In my new book “Upside Down” I teach what is known as Paradoxical Intention Yoga. This type of yoga combines the practices of neuroscience, basic yoga moves and the intense breathwork of Kundalini by using our own nervous system to take control of our mental activity. By doing this yoga, I literally have become an emotional hunter in my world by actively seeking out any stored pains that I may have. I also purposefully and intentionally invite any anxiety and depressive feelings within me, and I give my brain full permission to embrace all negative thoughts. In doing so for a 30-minute period, the mind and body will then paradoxically shift into a positive mindset, become more mentally and emotionally expanded and be fully prepared to take on the challenges of the day. This has been life changing for myself and the clients I have had the pleasure of working with.

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.

When it comes to physical wellness, I believe that it is important to have 3 components:

A physical activity that is challenging

A physical activity that is social

A physical activity that is leisurely

A challenging physical activity is something that pushes you beyond your normal limits and that lifts your heartrate through aerobic activity. These can be activities like lifting weights, running, or taking a dance class. As long as it is a challenging to you, it will keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger.

An activity that is social is something that you do because there is engagement with others. Personally, I like to play basketball with my friends and my wife likes to take yoga classes because of the ability to connect and interact with others. Exercise isn’t just about physically getting into shape, but it is also the emotional exercise of socializing, building friendships and being a part of your community.

A leisurely activity would be something that you do just because it is just pleasurable to you. For me I like to hike because it gives me time to destress and to be one with nature. For others it may be yoga or a tai chi class, but it is important to do a physical activity that you enjoy.

And in closing, it is also important to point out that you can do a physical activity that has all 3 components in one. If that is the case, congratulations to you!

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?

Honestly, I struggle with this too because food that is usually not good for you tastes so good! However, as I get older, I can truly feel the effects of not eating enough vegetables and taking in too much sugar. When I do this, I usually end up feeling exhausted, I become bloated, and I honestly feel more pain throughout my body. I have learned through time to really listen to my body, to see food as medicine and to take my relationship with food more seriously. Don’t get me wrong though, I still enjoy my burger!

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

The 3 habits that I believe lead to optimum emotional wellness are honoring your 3 basic emotions of:

Fear

Anger

Indecision

If you really want to honor your fear, see it beyond just being afraid of something, and see it as a guide that is leading you to greater independence. For example, if you are afraid of social situations, the fear is inviting you to develop the skill sets of socializing and connecting with others so that you can grow. Or if you are afraid of taking the lead, the fear is giving you permission to develop the skill set of becoming the true leader that you are. Remember when it comes to fear, “What you resist will persist and what you embrace will erase.” Embrace your fears and watch your independence grow!

When it comes to anger, use it beyond just being mad at something and see it as a guide towards breaking away from limiting beliefs. For example, I had a client who really hated her supervisor because according to her “she thought she was all that.” During session, she revealed that she was jealous of the fact that she went to school and had the position that she wanted. After using her anger by being introspective, she had shared that none of her family members ever went to college, and she always believed that she could not go as well. When she was able to acknowledge that her anger towards her supervisor was just jealousy coming from her limited beliefs about not being able to go to school and to become a supervisor, she was able to let go of her anger. The very next day, she ended up talking to her supervisor and getting advice about her future.

When it comes to being indecisive, see it beyond being weak and afraid of deciding and see it as a guide towards letting go of things in your life that no longer serve you. One of my clients was so indecisive of quitting drinking because that was the common bond that he had with his best friends. He would share how he cared about his friends very much, but at the same time, he wanted a healthier lifestyle and to be healthy enough to see his kids grow up. Once he embraced his indecision by letting go of his friends rejecting his new lifestyle and by also letting go of his old identity to alcohol, his whole life changed. From that point on, he naturally decided on a healthier lifestyle. And over the course of that year, he ended up losing 20 pounds, became healthier and his friend group eventually joined him in working out.

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

Behavior psychology states that if you engage in positive actions, your emotions and your mind will follow. And so, with that, I am all about the power of smiling. Smiling conveys confidence, joy, happiness, buoyancy, and it also releases feel good chemicals in our brain such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. So hopefully you are smiling while reading this ☺.

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

Three habits that I engage in that helps with my spiritual practice is doing a daily morning meditation routine, practicing gratitude and engaging in deep contemplation at the end of each day. My morning routine consists of a 30-minute yoga practice to prepare myself for the whole day. Throughout my day, I commit to being grateful for at least 20 things about my life. Even if I am having a very challenging day and all I can muster up is begrudgingly being thankful for being able to breathe, I do so. This simple act helps me to shift my mindset and to put my life into proper perspective. The final habit is deep contemplation at night. It is during this nighttime activity that my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual life structures are all integrated together. I take about 15 minutes and explore all the occurrences that took place throughout my day. I really use this time to reflect and build upon the lessons that I have learned that day.

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

I believe that being in nature is vital for everyone, especially now as we live in this advanced technological age. We all need to unplug from our phones and laptops, get in touch with the very essence of who we are and just be with the natural essence of life. When I am in nature, I can feel a natural vitality for life, because I believe my spirit is connecting with all living things around me. I try to be in nature at least 20 minutes every day.

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.

A movement that I would love to start is the “Emotional Validation Movement.” This cause will validate any emotions that people feel and teach them to honor their own emotional processes. It does not matter who has rejected your feelings in the past, we will support, validate, and honor what your emotions are guiding you to do. Everyone is welcome and the only two requirements are that you are honest with your feelings when you are sharing, and that you hold space for others that seek to be validated.

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 would love to have a private breakfast with Marianne Williamson. She is a best-selling author, spiritualist and is seeking to change politics in America. I would love to hear her perspective and views on the world and how they intersect with her own spiritual journey. Let’s set it up!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I can be found on my site www.drhongcoaching.com and people can order my new book Upside Down by going to https://www.thatguyshouse.com/glenhong

Thank you!

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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