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Dr. Margaret Cochran: “CUT YOURSELF A BIG OLD, JUICY, PIECE OF SLACK!”

Being able to think critically is one of THE most powerful skills available to us and there are many, many individuals, institutions and governments, including parts of our own from time to time, who do not want us to do so. Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. […]

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Being able to think critically is one of THE most powerful skills available to us and there are many, many individuals, institutions and governments, including parts of our own from time to time, who do not want us to do so.


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 interviewing Dr. Margaret Cochran.

Dr. Cochran is a transpersonal psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, educator, and author with more than 30 years of clinical experience. A seasoned professional dedicated to the health and well-being of all her patients, Dr. Cochran takes a whole person approach to mental health and wellness.

A respected resource and passionate advocate for mental wellness, Dr. Cochran has been featured in a range of media outlets throughout the country including BBC, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX affiliates, Yahoo Life, Total Beauty, Ask Men, Media News Group, Mercury News, and many additional outlets. In addition to the Huffington Post, she has also been featured regularly on NBC Sacramento’s morning show and hosted radio programs such as, “Wisdom, Love and Magic” and “A Mental Health Moment.” Dr. Cochran is also author of number of books including “What Are You Afraid Of?

For additional information, please visit drcochran.com or follow on twitter @drmcochran, Facebook at Dr. Margaret Cochran or Linked In.


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 exposed to all kinds of unhappiness and mental illness and it taught me a TREMENDOUS amount. Most importantly that you can’t necessarily control external circumstances but you have absolute control over how you react to them. Difficulties can either inspire or define your life, and you and only you, get to choose which one it will be.

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

My childhood nickname name was “doc”. I wasn’t so much inspired I think, as born to do the work I do.

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?

I have been privileged to work with many educators, physicians, judges, attorneys, and other colleagues who have in one way or another taught, inspired and encouraged me. However, the two who stand out the most are, a now retired author and professor at Indiana University, Dr. Barry Cournoyer, and my late practice partner and gifted family physician, Dr. David Waggoner. I would not be where I am today without either of them.

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?

There are no mistakes, only lessons.

And the Universe is very generous on this score. If you don’t learn a given lesson the first time it is presented to you, it is offered again and again and again….

So, that’s where insight and awareness come in to play. Two extremely important practices I encourage everyone to engage in on a daily basis.

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 Tibetan Book of the Dead”.

It is a wonderful metaphor for life.

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

I have three:

  • “Life is a process of becoming but it’s not always a becoming process.”
  • “Shit happens and manure makes things grow.”
  • “Where your attention goes, your reality grows.”

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

I am currently working on a global outreach plan; finding ways to connect with those that I cannot see in the confines of my office practice.

I want to help EVERYONE understand that whatever situations they find themselves in, they have created in one way or another, either consciously or unconsciously. And what we create, we have the POWER to “un-create”.

Constructive change and “rebirth” are possible for all of us, no matter the issue or the phase of life in which we find ourselves. Understanding this, this ONE thing, has the power to change the world in the most incredible ways. That’s as interesting and exciting as it gets in my book. I am filled with joy at the thought of it.

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.

HABIT ONE

THE most important thing you can do for your mental health is START AND MAINTAIN A “GRATITUDE PRACTICE”. And no, I did not just make that up, it is really “a thing” and we have data that demonstrates its efficacy in improving mood, overall outlook and emotional resiliency.

It is not difficult and is just what it sounds like, listing out the things you are grateful for. It will cost you nothing in terms of money, it takes very little time to do each day and the benefits to your life and the living of it will be astronomical!

All you have to do, as was mentioned previously, is say or write down the things in your life that you are grateful for. Depending on your circumstances and your level of stress that may feel impossible. But it’s not. Deep in your core, no matter what, there are things you appreciate and treasure. It may be something as basic as a favorite pair of socks, or perhaps having enough money to send your kids to college or having a roof over your head. Say those things and then let yourself genuinely feel the happiness they bring. There, you just started to rewire your brain. Seriously, you did. Keep at it for 21 days and watch what happens.

HABIT TWO

Put yourself FIRST. Sounds like heresy, right? Wrong! Putting yourself first, or being SELFISH actually allows you to be SELFLESS. If you make sure that your needs are met before you take care of your family, run your company or manage any of the other important things in your life, you will do so patiently and with joy in your heart. And if you don’t, well you know what comes of attempting to carry out important life projects of any kind while feeling tired, burned out and resentful? That’s right, nothing good.

The above by the way, is something the airlines got right, “In the unlikely event of a sudden change in cabin pressure…….put your own mask on first before attempting to help another passenger”.

Amen.

HABIT THREE

CUT YOURSELF A BIG OLD, JUICY, PIECE OF SLACK! Especially now in the wake of COVID 19 and the fatigue, or Pandemic Poop Out as I call it, that it engenders in all of us to one degree or another. Whatever the “It” or most important problem or project du jour might be, I promise you the earth will not stop spinning on its axis if you make time to take care of yourself and those around you. In fact, things will go more smoothly and you will feel happier and more relaxed for doing so. Think about who and what REALLY matters, take a breath and take a break.

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

People often get their knickers in a twist when the subjects of meditation, Yoga and other kinds of mind/ body/ spirit practices come up. The rallying cry is usually something like, “I don’t have time!” or “I’m too tired at the end of the day.”

So let me be quite honest. No, you don’t have the time. None of us HAS the time, we MAKE time to do things that are really important. It’s just that we can get sucked into a “vortex of crazy” about what important is actually is.

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.

HABIT ONE

Move your body.

HABIT TWO

Move your body.

HABIT THREE

Move your body.

How you choose to do the above is entirely up to you however, I would suggest something you consider joyful to achieve maximum benefit from it. But bottom line, human bodies were not meant to be sedentary and they sicken and die prematurely when they are.

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?

Don’t “diet”.

Listen to your body and eat when you are hungry.

The fewer added chemicals in your food the better.

Eat sustainably.

Many of us are actually eating in a “disordered” way because of our upbringing and societal pressure.

The reason we struggle is because of all the negativity and prejorative judgements we have stored in the biological “attic” that is our unconscious mind. And until you do some “Marie Kondo” work in there, things won’t change for you. Sometimes the clean out and re — ordering can be done on your own, and sometimes depending on the nature of the issues and how deep seeded they are, the process might require some professional help. One way or another, there is an answer to every problem, and you absolutely DESERVE to be healthy and happy.

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

HABIT ONE

Eat well.

Your gut is your second brain.

If it’s not happy, no (part of the) body is happy.

HABIT TWO

As discussed previously find a joyful way to move your body. There are a plethora of options, dancing walking, Yoga, Tai Chi and many more. Exercise in any form makes your body produce Dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes “ happy” happen.

HABIT THREE

Engage in healthy and consensual touch with those you love. Normally that would include anyone in your emotional circle however, during Covid it must, for everyone’s safety, be restricted to those in your quarantine group.

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

DO IT!

Smiling even when you don’t feel like smiling makes things feel better. Which makes you feel more like smiling, which makes you feel better. Which makes you feel more like, you see where I’m going here…..

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

I actually have two…

HABIT ONE

Recognizing in any way that is comfortable for you that you are part of something bigger than your own ego, is powerful and life changing.

HABIT TWO

Finding your own particular way to celebrate HABIT ONE without being concerned about what other people might think is key. Your relationship with the divine, the great mystery, source energy, whatever you want to call it, is a very personal and individual thing. If you choose to celebrate this with a community that’s great, but be careful of those who insist that they, and only they, know the mind of “God” and collect money for it.

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

Go be in it.

Take care of it.

We often artificially separate ourselves from our environment but in reality we are an integral part of it and it is an integral part of us.

Nature is one of the most healing and life affirming things that this world has to offer.

Go be in it.

Take care of it.

Wash, rinse, repeat…..

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.

Teaching critical thinking in schools.

I would love to see curriculum developed to integrate this skill into every field of study.

Being able to think critically is one of THE most powerful skills available to us and there are many, many individuals, institutions and governments, including parts of our own from time to time, who do not want us to do so.

We are all constantly inundated by the 24-hour news cycle and social media, and EVERYBODY with an agenda wants to get control of your Limbic System (the part of the brain that regulates your emotions) and make and keep you afraid. Because once you are frightened, you are easy to control and sell things to, so malignant lies, conspiracy theories, and misdirection can take hold of your mind, emotions and decision making.

And here is how it’s done. When the Limbic System has been sufficiently overstimulated for some period of time, thoughts and feelings are no longer filtered through the executive or critical thinking part of the brain known as your prefrontal cortex. When this happens you are constantly angry and afraid which is fertile ground for cruelty and stupidity to abound in the form of defensiveness, bigotry, misogyny and the objectification of other people and species.

The lack of critical thinking skills more than ANYTHING ELSE has the potential to destructively define our behavioral choices, and threaten our willingness to engage in compassionate decision making, our personal well-being, and nurturing our planet.

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 reach out to media decision makers of all sorts, network, streaming what have you. National morning show executive producers such as @libbyleist and @michaelcorn, for example, are in a unique and very powerful position to help spread the message throughout the world that love, compassion, happiness, health and personal empowerment are learned skills that ANYONE, ANYWHERE, and at ANY TIME in their life can learn and master.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my work through my website: www.drcochran.com or on twitter @drmcochran, Facebook at Dr. Margaret Cochran and Linked In.

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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