It’s so beautiful to sit in in on any type of ceremony that brings you back to yourself.
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 Elise Gross.
Elise Gross is a creative artist, who expresses herself in the form of writing, dancing, and music. A published poem and short story author at the age of 10, she continues her passion for words in the book called How To Be Happy. At the young age of 16, she is an inspirational voice and visionary to help others connect back to themselves.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the 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 was born in and grew up mostly in California. My dad’s work as an author and speaker led me and my family to many parts of the world. I knew from an early age that my family seemed to do things differently. For example, letting us kids pursue our creative talents over traditional school. I started dancing when I was young, so I spent a lot of my childhood in the dance studio. My brother was an actor, so I spent time on set and at casting calls with him and my mom. Last year my family expanded and I evolved more into who I am after moving and restoring a retreat center.
What or who inspired you to pursue your passions? We’d love to hear the story.
I lived at a mindfulness retreat center with my family and some other soul friends. Every weekend we would have retreats, so I was definitely inspired by my family, friends, and all the retreaters that came into our space. Seeing them all take a deep dive into themselves inspired me to find my authentic self too! I would watch people leave so enlightened and filled with bliss it got me questioning why I didn’t always feel like that.
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?
A human who has definitely encouraged and reflected to me so much is my wise friend named Tree. She lived with us at the retreat center, so everyday we would drop in together and have higher vibration conversations. We would talk about things like life, love, and the conditioning of society. She taught me how to go inward and be present to the now. Not the future or present, just to sit in the home of myself. She just released a single, and I got to choreograph, direct, and dance in the visual for her new song. It was so much fun working on a project with her!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you during your journey? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
During my journey when I was frequently moving to different locations, my mind was really confused. I felt a lack of trust that I had in the universe. Instead of listening and staying in flow with divine timing, I was fighting against the universe. I felt sad because I would make close connections with friends in whatever spot we where in, and then I would have to say goodbye. It was hard for me, I felt unhappy. Understanding that everything happens for a reason, it all makes sense now. The lesson I learned was to let things happen, instead of resisting, and it will all be okay in the end. We still travel and move around a lot, and I see that I can pull out a tool and breathe into it and repeating to myself myself “let go, let go, let go.”
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?
Be Here Now by Ram Dass had a huge impact on my life. We had the book laying in our living room, and the front cover captivated me, so I opened it. I was so shocked because everything that was in there definitely guided me on a personal journey for sure. I love how you can flip to any page and learn something new. His type of language resonates with me so much because instead of speaking in one range of religion, his teaching is open and pulls truths from every religion.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Everything you feel is okay.” I love this quote because sometimes I put on a mask, and present myself as really happy, but underneath I still have emotions I need to look at, let pass through me, and then let go. When I’m having a really crazy emotion that doesn’t feel good…I sometimes take a deep breath and repeat that quote.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I wrote a book/journal called How To Be Happy. My book is filled with colorful pages, journal entries, and examples for reflection. It will help people go inward into looking at the depths of their pain and overcoming that by finding their authentic truth. How To Be Happy also comes with a cool deck of affirmation pulling cards. I pulled everything into seven sections of what I have found that works for me on my way to happiness. From understanding duality to understanding patterns, and how to get out of a depressive state. I believe you will expand your mind! It comes out November 6th, and I’m so excited because this project came full circle. I wrote the book in November of 2020 and now its gonna release in November 2021!
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.
I got into meditation because my family and I lived at a retreat center and held a weekly guided meditation for whatever guests were there. At first I was reluctant, but then I saw people leave different than they came. I soon joined in and realized the power of meditation. From my experience, meditating even as little as 10 minutes a day can help shift you out of your mind and into your heart. I feel that society has conditioned us into staying in a head space. Meditation teaches us that we don’t have to stay stuck in our minds if you open the heart. You can simply BE, and from being, it clears the mind with crystalline clarity and drops you into a deep state of nothingness.
My book How To Be Happy is part journal because I believe it was one of the top things that helped me gain mental wellness. Physically seeing my own thoughts written out is very trippy for me. I understand myself more in the ways my mimd thinks. Sometimes I journal with an intention, and other times I just let my mind transmute everything its processing, and write it all out. After I journal I tend to feel so much lighter and clearer. Like this one time, I was on an airplane feeling very overwhelmed, so I got out my journal. I transmuted everything I was feeling and released it all!
For breath work, I usually go with the Wim Hof technique. It fully activates your whole vessel, and for me it is actually very very hard. I guess that’s why it’s called breath work haha. Also, during the day I remember to take deep breaths because breathing calms the nervous system. When you breathe, you actually reset your system while clearing the mind, and that can help lead to optimum mental wellness. It’s funny because I actually have a tattoo on my wrist that says breathe. I have it there to remind me of how powerful breath is. At the retreat center every Sunday someone would lead a breath work session, the first time I tried it, it was so hard for me. But after learning and practicing every week, overtime, it got so much easier for me.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Personally, my favorite type of practice is hot yoga. It challenges my ability to breathe at the same time as having intense focus on the postures while sweat is dripping off of me. It is such a deep practice (like any type of yoga), but it definitely helps me center and align my body, mind, spirit, and emotions. Right now, I got to hot yoga about 3 times a week, but I’ve found such a love for it, I am definitely going to practice more! I am also going to go to yoga teacher training and get certified here in the next few months!
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.
An ice bath is such a beautiful and magical experience. When I lived at the retreat center, I would do an ice bath almost every week. It was such a challenging fear of mine at first to be honest. I would watch some people get really scared and not be able to sit in it, and I saw others stay in there for 15 minutes! So, I finally got the courage to try it for myself. And I loved it! Yes it is very hard, but it is all a mindset shift, so I would hop in the ice most weeks! We would all breathe before hoping into the freezing ice, and then try to stay in for 1–2 minutes. As a dancer, my muscles are sometimes sore, so ice baths definitely helped my physical wellness. Ice baths send blood to all of your muscles, so its very rejuvenating. Ice baths have also been known to balance hormones, which could play a big part in optimizing your physical wellness.
Food is definitely a big part in physical wellness, I think it’s all about finding what works best for your body. As we all know, everyones body is built very different, so what works for me, might not be the vibe for you. I ate meat and dairy most of my life until I watched a few different documentaries and tried eating vegan. I realized that my body had a strong aversion to dairy and that’s why my stomach hurt a lot as a child. I became fully plant based in the beginning of January 2021. Being plant based for me is so cool! I don’t feel guilt in eating an animal without its consent, and choosing which brands I support is important to me as well. I don’t want to support a brand that is ruining the environment, and or hurting animals.
Finding what type of physical movement works for you is key. I prefer yoga and dancing. But some people love lifting weights or bike riding. Any type of movement for the body is activating physical wellness and you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. I recently lived in an apartment, which had a really cool gym, I would work out almost every day on top of dance, just because it was fun. So any type of workout you chose to do, make sure you love what you’re doing, that way you can stay motivated and inspired.
Do you have any 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?
I would say the top two blockages to eating healthy (if there is healthy food available) is: emotional and ignoring the cues of our body. If someone is having a bad day, they may find themselves being drawn to unhealthy, heavy comfort foods. And I would say a majority of our lives are spent ignoring the signals our body is giving us. My body did not like dairy and I finally started listening to my body and made healthier food choices by choosing to not consume that anymore.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
-Talking with someone
My friends definitely help me if I am ever going through something tough. Speaking my emotions in words to identify what I am feeling is so powerful. Sometimes talking to another human can give you another lens or perspective about what you are going through. But ultimately you are the only one who controls your emotions, so by speaking them, you might figure yourself out. You are just the experiencer of your emotions, you aren’t your emotions. I am a very sensitive person, and I usually keep things inside instead of outwardly expressing them, I’ve had to learn to release my emotions, so they don’t get stuck inside of me.
Sleep is so important. Especially if you are going through an emotional time. Giving your body, mind, spirit, and emotions time to relax and not have to work is so good. One time it was 2 AM and I was a part of a very hard discussion. We all decided to call it a night, and in the morning I felt so alive and clear. I felt like I could talk from such a different mindset because I took time for my emotions to process while I was sleeping.
I like to transmute my feelings into creation. This way when I am feeling a very deep pain or a blissful emotion, I can release it by creating something with that feeling. I try to let it pass through my vessel in any way I can. Art is such a great gift we have. I love transmuting pain into something really cool, and by the end of it, my pain had been released. I learned from yoga that pain is only created in the mind. In my book How To Be Happy, I talk a lot about shifting from the head space, to the heart space. In the heart, I’ve found more love and less pain, because I understand now that I am the creator of my pain. It is up to me to be happy or stay in a hurt place.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
I think smiling releases different happy chemicals in your brain, so yes, smiling can help you and trick your mind into being happy, but there is so many layers to human emotions. You might need to go deeper to work on emotional health than just smiling.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Meditation can aligns your overall health, but it has taken my spiritual wellness to a whole other level. I have learned about chakra meditations, and every time I meditate with the intention of aligning my chakras, I receive just that. Sometimes my intention is to let the universe tell me anything I need to hear and receive. Just sitting with yourself can be the most spiritual experience to ever exist. One time, I was in a guided meditation and the guider started doing reiki on my heart, probably about 30 minutes into the meditation. So I was deep in it and it felt like my chest exploded and then I started seeing colorful visuals and my body felt like it was vibrating with energy. It was a very spiritual experience, as is everything in life.
I would say attending a spiritual ceremony of any kind. Any type of spiritual awakening retreat would benefit your spiritual wellness for sure. Coming from my experience of living at a retreat center, I saw so many people walk away different. The left healed, more aware, having more love, lighter, happier, and with less baggage. Seeing so many peoples lives changed, I think it’s so beautiful to sit in in on any type of ceremony that brings you back to yourself.
-Take me to the light
The Ajna Light is a special device I am lucky enough to use. takemtothelight.com A monk made this device to help people meditate. It has LED lights flickering at different frequencies as you lay under it with your eyes closed. It stimulates your third eye releasing natural DMT, allowing for you to have a beautiful healing experience and meditation. The light has done so much for me and has definitely improved my physical, spiritual, and mental health. I’ve been able to tap into my past lives and relax my mind. To be honest, it is one of the coolest, most relaxing experiences ever. We have light parties sometimes, so we gather all the cozy furniture and lay down. The light is propped up on a stand and we all mediate while the light is going, it is so beautiful. I feel like it connects me with myself and everyone who is there as well!
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
I think being in nature definitely cultivates spiritual wellness because everything is nature. I’ve been in houses my whole life, until we moved to the retreat center, with a six days notice. I was living in an airstream on dirt and was walking around barefoot. I go everywhere barefoot now, I even get kicked out of stores because “no shoes, no service…” hahaha. Going quickly from fancy to outside, I learned to love nature and take being grounded as a gift! If you look at evolution, we all came from the elements, plants, and animals. Now we have evolved into humans. For me sitting in nature teaches me so much. It’s crazy how you can have all your humanly problems figured out by just listening to the trees. You really can understand the spiritual realm by watching everything in the material world.
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.
I would create a a vulnerability movement. Everyone would upload or post a video, photo, written blog (any form of art) on what they are actually going through. Sharing the depths of pain and or happiness. It would allow everyone to tap back in to authentic human emotions. No one has it all figured out, we are all working on ourselves. Once a few people are vulnerable, that just makes everyone want to share. I think it would be a very beautiful and powerful movement.
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 meet Clairo. She inspired me to start playing guitar. I picked up the guitar and within 35 days, I was playing stage on my brothers tour. Clairo is the one who really inspired me to start playing music, just because I resonate with her art so much.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website is howtobehappy.co and IG is @elisegross and @howtobehappyco.
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.