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How Passionistas Have Helped Us Improve: Mind, Body and Soul

The Passionistas Project talks to inspiring women to get tips on how to live better — mentally, physically and emotionally.

Many of us live at breakneck speeds, constantly running from family obligations to work to weekly errands and so much more. Some of us suffer from a daunting monkey brain where our thoughts run amok like wild animals. Others let our exercise regimens lapse. And some of us find our enthusiasm and energy levels getting crushed from the pressure of trying to keep it all together.

We started The Passionistas Project Podcast as an answer to the groundswell of stories pouring out during the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Our goal has been to share the experiences of strong, empowered women who are following their passions to inspire other women to do the same thing. Along the way, we’ve learned some incredible tips on how to keep ourselves in check — mind, body and soul — and they’re just too good to keep to ourselves.

Mind — Ramona Harvey: The Key to Happiness
When it comes to matters of the mind, there is no more inspiring person to turn to than Happiness Expert Ramona Harvey. She left the field of consumer research to focus on helping people identify their unique path and their true purpose in life. She has recently designed a workshop to help people navigate the Path of Happiness.

She turns to a great thought leader for one of the core principals of her thinking. As she told us, “All the different angles that we have to look at can be found in a quote by Mahatma Gandhi who said, ‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what do you do are in harmony.'”

She noted that it’s a very simple concept but with immeasurable value. As Harvey explained it all revolves around the central question, “What do you think?”

“There’s a lot of negative chatter,” Harvey admitted. “We are basically designed to disrupt ourselves. Our mind is very busy and pays attention to every single thought that comes through. What we say is often conditioned by the way we’re supposed to talk. What do we actually say to ourselves? And what we do is often not necessarily defined by something that is fulfilling to us.”

Focusing on the thoughts we allow ourselves to think and that govern our actions truly informs who we are and our attitudes. “When you take those three things, then you realize the different areas that you have to really reflect on for you, as a person, to begin to get a lay of the land of what happiness is for you,” Harvey explained.

“It becomes almost a matter of respecting your own thinking and respecting your own ideas and desires,” she continued. “And then it’s the doing. So I start with that. It’s a really big thing but I think it’s kind of opening up the universe of what happiness really for each of us.”

While some might consider happiness an extravagance, Harvey said she sees it as a critical way of living life.

“Why is it important to do these things — putting harmony between the things that you feel, that you think, that you say and that you do?” she asked. “Well, it’s important because it’s a privilege and I also personally think that it’s actually also our responsibility to be who you are. When you do that, you are indeed happier. And I think it’s contagious. I think it allows other people then to be who they are.”

She’s reaped the benefits of this philosophy herself.

“For me it’s really opened me up personally, despite my own mindsets, to this possibility of connecting with who I am and my deeper and my bigger self,” Harvey admitted. “Having the optimism that I could actually change things and having this creativity of seeing bigger, better, that I’m doing my life’s work and I really simply defined that as being enthusiastic about what I do, just being happy, being excited about what I do in every moment. And that’s really honestly what I think is our life’s purpose.”

Body — Nan Kohler: Champions the Hashtag #WholeMeansWhole
Nan Kohler has focused her personal and professional energies on improving her body and the health of all of her customers. Kohler owns Grist + Toll, the only urban flour mill in the United States, which is located in Pasadena, California. She opened our eyes to the fact that grains are like wine or coffee, with different flavors, aromas, colors, characters and textures. Flour can actually enhance the flavors in your baking. And whole grains can be good for you — adding nutritional value that we actually need in our diet.

As the world turns more to gluten-free options, Kohler extolls the benefits of eating whole grains. “We really have lost a lot of fiber in our diets by walking away from whole grain,” she revealed.

But terminology and a lack of controls often cloud the discussion and keeps people from buying what is best for them. “One of the most frustrating things that I find in the marketplace right now is there’s a lot of excitement about heirloom wheat, stone milling, whole grains, artisan bread, baking, sourdough bread,” Kohler remarked. “But there’s not a lot of transparency with those names and terms. I remember hearing from the baking community that whole wheat, if you wanted to make a whole wheat bread, it had to be 51 percent whole wheat. The term whole grain is not really regulated and actually that expectation on whole wheat is not correct.”

Kohler is on a mission to make the terminology clearer so that consumers can be better informed and make smarter choices. “It took me almost two years to be connected with the right people at the whole grains council to actually look at the FDA rules and regulations. So whole wheat means whole, whole wheat. There can’t be any refined white flour in a product that wants to carry the label whole wheat.”

To prove her point, the healthy grain advocate, took her knowledge to the grocery store aisles.

“For us in the real world, it just is obvious that they don’t have the ability to enforce that on the street at all levels. They do with Sara Lee and Eggo waffles. I did the experiment,” she said. “I said, ‘Okay, whole wheat means whole 100 percent whole wheat.’ And I just started flipping over loaves of bread and boxes in the freezer section. And sure enough, they say whole wheat. If it says wheat flour that’s sifted white flour. So there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors out there and now whole grain is kind of being corrupted because it doesn’t have that written policy attached to it. Consumers who are definitely interested in health now and transparency in the food system can find it very frustrating out there.”

With Grist + Toll, Kohler is part of a regional movement that is working hard to educate individuals and companies about the benefit of whole grains. And she offered a key tip to anyone interested in working with these healthier choices.

“There are definitely grains like spelt that I just mentioned that make it easier to do a one-to-one sub for all-purpose flour but they don’t behave exactly the same. So you can either look at that as an immovable obstacle for you as a baker or you can look at it as I do, which is that this is what makes it incredibly inspiring and fun. And at the end of the day, it’s a chocolate chip cookie. If I need to take out a little bit of flour in the next round because I felt it was a little thicker, heavy, it’s not the end of the world.”

Spirit: Erika De La Cruz — The Will to Keep Going and Thrive
To use your nurturing your spirit can sometimes be the hardest of disciplines. While there are lots of support systems for mental and physical health, people often have to muster up their own inner strength to find the will to move forward in difficult times. Erika de la Cruz is a shining example of a woman who took a seemingly devastating situation and used it as a catalyst to change her life.

When de la Cruz was 19 years old, her middle-class family was hit by the economic crash in the 2000s. As she told us in her interview for The Passionistas Project Podcast, “I lost everything that I knew to be normal — our business that we owned for 26 years, everything collapsed. I went back to my first year of college with nothing physically. All of our items got sold to the state of California. They were being sold in various swap meets and I had my 1993 Honda Accord and a will to go back to college.”

Worse yet, she also lost her support system. “The people I loved disbursed into depression or my mom into voluntary homelessness. It’s the sort of thing you read about and then you’re stuck. As a 19-year-old going, ‘What’s happening?'”

So de la Cruz decided to turn the problem on its head and used it as an inspiration to change her life. “It fueled me to know there’s nothing else to lose,” she acknowledged. “So I just started going for it. I knew I wanted to be in entertainment so I started going out for all those internships. I applied for scholarships at the time that would allow me to do all of the free stuff and work in entertainment because it didn’t pay very well. So I put all my marbles into a scholarship that I got and it allowed me to pursue anything that I wanted.”

de la Cruz’s hard work and determination paid off. “I ended up getting an internship in radio,” she recalled. “I was on a morning show for a while and then two weeks after I graduated college, what seemed like this dream job position opened up within the radio sphere. Twitter was hot. I knew Twitter. I was the millennial and they were moving in that direction and I happen to have a business mindset, as well. So I got the job. So I was the youngest ever marketing director at Entercom broadcasting.”

Using that job as a springboard, with a smartphone full of contacts, de la Cruz went on to getting gigs hosting events like fashion week and a late-night talk show. She turned her day job into a dream job and now helps other women follow their passions as a coach and through her Passion to Paycheck conferences.

Listen to the full interviews with Ramona Harvey, Nan Kohler and Erika de la Cruz here.

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