As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Jaya Jaya Myra, an internationally acclaimed author, motivational speaker, and creator of The WELL Method. Myra developed The WELL Method to teach others how to live a healthy, fulfilled and successful life based on each person’s unique elemental composition after healing herself naturally from debilitating fibromyalgia. Her approach to wellness and purpose shows why one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work for everyone, and how to find what will work for you.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I began my career as a scientist, but it wasn’t until I faced a problem that Western medicine couldn’t address that I started on the career path I’m currently on. After being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression, and seeing no improvement from conventional medical treatments (in fact, they made me worse), I decided to pursue my own answers because staying sick was not an option for me. I found lots of answers around mental, emotional and physical health, and have gone on to build a career and personal brand around wellness and lifestyle that supports purpose, passion and overall wellbeing.
According to Mental Health America’s report,over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
Absolutely. There are four main factors. Being mentally unwell is a common and natural response to stress and problems in life, but when people try to do anything to solve those problems like seek counseling, they are labeled with a mental illness, and they are not the same thing. Our current health system doesn’t distinguish sadness, sorrow or dealing with trauma as a normal and healthy way of coping with a negative situation and that poses a major problem.
People are assigned a label of being mentally ill, and that is a problem because of factor #2: There is no real spectrum of severity of mental illness in this country, at least when it comes to people’s perceptions: if you’re diagnosed with a mental health problem like depression, people don’t perceive you any different than someone with a major mental health issue. That’s a huge problem! The 3rd problem is that you can be excluded from employment if you state you’ve suffered from depression or mental illness, so why would anyone admit to it when it could cause major problems in someone’s career? And the 4th factor is a lack of deeper medical understanding of mental health. It was only recently discovered that depression can be due to inflammation, and not always due to a chemical imbalance. Hence, why turmeric is so powerful at helping boost mood since it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory food. That is huge, and that is a major difference in both treatment, outcome and the reasons why people suffer from mental health problems. It’s no wonder to me people don’t trust mental health providers when there isn’t even a clear understanding of what is causing depression to begin with.
Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?
Talking about mental wellness being a spectrum that everyone is a part of. We all have moments and times when we are mentally unwell, and that does not mean we are mentally ill. If a person is not working daily to facilitate mental wellbeing, the likelihood is that they are moving to a state of being more mentally unwell. The mind gets cluttered when we don’t take time to clean it. That’s normal. So how can you stigmatize someone for the body and mind doing exactly what it’s supposed to do when you don’t take care of it? Shedding light on mental wellness and its different natural causes, and what’s necessary to stay well, helps to destigmatize mental wellness.
Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?
Meditation and mindfulness comprised over 85% of my personal healing journey, as strange as that may seem. There are direct connections between mental health, wellbeing and the body’s ability to heal and recover from illness.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
Put laws in place that prohibit workplace discrimination of mental health. Don’t put someone’s career or financial success on the line and people will be more willing to seek the help they need. Elevate the conversation around mental wellbeing to something everyone should look at and make a part of day to day life. Mental wellness is a muscle we all need to flex daily. It’s when we don’t that problems arise.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Do something daily for yourself that you enjoy. I love having a cup of tea each morning. The consistency in doing something for my own self care is a big part of my wellness routine.
- Have some consistency in each day. The mind loves consistency. It brings comfort and feelings that things are on track. The more things you can make habitual and part of your daily routine, the better your mental health will be.
- Cultivate a mindfulness and meditation practice. We eat and digest food daily, but people rarely digest what happens in their minds. This causes mental garbage to accumulate. Digest your thoughts and experiences daily, and you will stay mentally well.
- Get daily exercise. When you move the body, you help to declutter the mind. There are strong connections between physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing.
- Eat foods that boost mood and help deal with stress. Foods like turmeric, ginger, chard, chocolate, hummus, bell peppers and many others trigger biochemical reactions in the body that elevate mood by boosting serotonin, dopamine or norepinephrine production in the body.
- Avoid toxic people. There is nothing that will kill your mood quicker than the people you hang around. Make sure you choose a positive environment.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
My inspiration doesn’t come from books or podcasts, but from my own experiences and the importance of making life better for everyone who may be suffering and unable to find solutions for their pain. I’ve always been ideals driven, and mental wellbeing for everyone is at the top of my priority list of things to advocate for.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!