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Julie Kaminski of ‘The Walking Book Club’: “Prioritize healthy sleep habits”

Prioritize healthy sleep habits. If there is a holy grail to wellness, both physically and mentally, it’s sleep. A poor night(s) rest can topple the best of wellness and wellbeing intentions. Irritability, short tempers, lack of concentration are the tip of the sleep deprivation iceberg. As a part of our series about “How We Can […]

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Prioritize healthy sleep habits. If there is a holy grail to wellness, both physically and mentally, it’s sleep. A poor night(s) rest can topple the best of wellness and wellbeing intentions. Irritability, short tempers, lack of concentration are the tip of the sleep deprivation iceberg.


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 Julie Kaminski.

Julie Kaminski holds a master’s of art with distinction in counseling psychology, specializing in group work, and a bachelor’s in business with an emphasis in health and wellness. She is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach who holds ACE certifications in Group Fitness, Personal Training and Fitness Nutrition. In addition, she trained with Wellcoaches, the only coaching program endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Julie is the creator of numerous small group training curricula, including The Walking Book Club and Fitness Plus. She has 30+years of experience working in private practice, major corporations, clubs and health centers.

Julie’s areas of expertise include dynamic group instruction and the development of creative solutions. She has extensive experience designing custom programs for individuals and groups across all areas of wellness, including fitness, health, nutrition, eating behaviors, stress management, and spiritual fulfillment. Her coaching skills include the application of motivational interviewing, goal setting theory and appreciative inquiry. She completed University of Pennsylvania’s Foundations of Positive Psychology and is the author of The Flourishing Home. She was recently named one of the Tri-State area’s senior fitness influencers by the New York Post.


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?

Fitness has been my passion for over 30 years; it dates back to my days of synchronized swimming, which I started when I was nine — yes, nose plugs and gelatin-slicked-back hair — and abruptly ended when it was cut from the university budget.

After competing in the first Olympic trials for the sport and becoming an All-American, pool time was no longer part of my daily life. I immediately missed the energy: the music, the people and the invigorating challenge of working as a team.

Teaching what was called “aerobics” back then became my exercise outlet. Today, the fitness industry has expanded far beyond the thong leotard, and I still love helping people get fit and feel great.

After getting a master’s degree in counseling, I worked with survivors of violent crime, chaired the renovation of a local domestic violence shelter, and became board certified through the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Coaching lends a comprehensive framework to the work I’ve been doing intuitively for years. A personal trainer can show you how to do a bicep curl, but a great bicep is not everyone’s answer to wellness.

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

There isn’t one pivotal moment or person. However, as I look back upon the courses I took in college back in ‘86-’88, I enrolled in classes that are very much in line with the passion I have for my current profession, including graduated level classes in stress management, psychology, and anatomy.

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?

The advantage of going to a big college like the University of Arizona allowed me the opportunity to be inspired by respected professors in a variety of fields. Even now, thirty years later, I can recall how engaged I was in the material taught by passionate scholars.

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?

I love teaching group fitness. The positive energy, laughter, music, and silliness that occurs when people share a workout has been my passion for the last 30+ years. If there’s a mistake I learned along the way, it’s that not everything is measured in dollar amounts, but if you count the worth in friendship refueling the soul, I’m a millionaire.

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?

Creating Your Best Life by Caroline Adams Miller is probably the book that had the most impact on my professional life. Miller pulls from the fields of positive psychology and goal-setting theory that gave credence and structure to the work I was intuitively doing for years. My eyes opened to the influence of primes in our environment and how they can help and hinder goal attainment. The curiosity of how primes work in your home environment gave shape to an entire chapter in my book, The Flourishing Home.

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

“Savor life’s Cupcake Moments.” Too often, we fly right by the little occurrences in life that are worthy of appreciating. Cupcake Moments is a term I use with clients that pulls from positive psychology’s studies in savoring, the ability to enjoy mindfully. Cupcake Moments are small bite-size personal occurrences that deserve savoring.

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

The Walking Book Club is my passion project; we listen while moving to audiobooks and meet virtually. Our community of book lovers in sneakers encourages exercise and movement, engagement, and learning through books and connects people globally. The pandemic has shifted so many aspects of life — how we socialize, exercise, and engage in learning and enjoyment activities — I hope to inspire people to live a healthier, happier life. In 2020, I added a philanthropic aspect to the group with Heart and Soul Book Chats, which pairs authors or books with a humanitarian cause. Not only is The Walking Book Club good for the mind and body, but we’re good for the spirit too. To date, our members have raised close to four-thousand dollars for a variety of charities.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In our work, we talk a lot about 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.

1) Appreciate how all the elements of health and happiness influence mental health. Start with a holistic inventory of health and happiness elements because they influence each other and mental health, positively or negatively.

For health, those elements include:

Nutrition and eating behaviors

Exercise and activity

Stress management

Genetic and medical influences

Spiritual care

Regular exercise is a mood enhancer, whereas poor nutrition may leave you feeling lethargic and negatively affects your mood.

The elements of happiness pull from positive psychology and include:

Positive relationships

Positive emotion

Engagement

Achievement

Meaning

Look for people and activities that bring forth more of the elements proven to enhance your ability to thrive. During the pandemic, I spoke with a friend who found significant meaning in creating painted rocks for the community path behind her house. She was engaged in an art project, which helped her feel more purpose during isolation, which lead to more positive emotions and better mental health during an extremely challenging time.

2) If one element of health and happiness is critical, it is social influences. In the words of positive psychologist Chris Peterson, “Other people matter.” Pay attention to others make you feel. While we all have “bad days” from time to time, there might be relationships that need to be minimized or eliminated. One client realized that she always accommodated, gave, and did for specific friends, leaving her resentful and fatigued. Not only can relationships affect your mood, but they are the number one influencers of health habits; if your friends smoke, drink, or are obese, you are more likely to be as well. Seek out positive relationships.

3) Prioritize healthy sleep habits. If there is a holy grail to wellness, both physically and mentally, it’s sleep. A poor night(s) rest can topple the best of wellness and wellbeing intentions. Irritability, short tempers, lack of concentration are the tip of the sleep deprivation iceberg.

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

The magic of the work I do is the appreciation that everyone is unique and has different needs. While yoga and meditation are excellent tools, my spiritual care is manifested by walks in nature.

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.

In terms of physical wellness, optimal physical wellness:

1) Find what works for you. Too often, the latest trends and headlines leave us feeling like we “should” be doing a particular activity or exercise. Running a 5k or high-intensity interval training might be the answer for some; if you can’t see yourself doing it long term, consider what does excite you. One client felt like she “needed” to be doing yoga but couldn’t stand the idea of being confined to a mat; however, she did come to love Pilates.

2) Strive for 80/20; perfection is overrated. Life is full of hurdles, challenges, and colorful chaos. 2020 threw us several curve balls we’re still dodging and managing. Give yourself the grace not to be perfect. If you can’t get your thirty-minute walk in today, don’t give up entirely on regular exercise’ pick back up the next day. I had a client who would toss in the towel every time her daily exercise got derailed; we worked had to change her mindset from “perfection” to “most of the time.”

3) Be kind to your body; you only have one. There is an analogy among some fitness professionals, take care of your body like a car. If you drive your body hard, fast, and without regular care and maintenance, it’s likely to give out sooner than later. People living in Blue Zones of longevity don’t take Peloton classes, run marathons, or pump iron; they live in environments that naturally keep them active. Personally, as I age, I see more value in the Blue Zone philosophy. Years of being an athlete and group fitness instructor have caught up. I wish I had done fewer box-jumps and taken more walks instead.

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?

In my experience, there are three significant impacts on optimal nutrition and eating behaviors.

The first is eating behaviors. Most people know that French fries and doughnuts are not optimal every day, but in times of stress, anxiety, boredom, sadness, and loneliness, we turn to food for comfort. Awareness is the first step to improved eating behaviors.

Lack of preparation is also critical. Right now, I’m working with someone who had identified that grocery shopping and menu preparation are cornerstones of her wellness. Without regular thoughtful trips to purchase healthy food options, she turns to quick and easy, often unhealthy choices like fast food.

Finally, one of the best things we can do for our children is model healthy nutrition and eating behaviors. When you eat fresh fruits and veggies without cajoling, bribing, and fanfare, your children, naturally become curious. In our house, our mantra was “Try it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it, but you have to try it.” Combine that with healthy meal offerings, and you set the foundation for lifelong healthy eating.

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

You are unique: Your picture of happiness and health is like a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle pieces come together uniquely, including what emotional health looks like for each individual. Revisit the elements of happiness listed above and explore how they manifest for you. I have a client who is a self-described introvert around new people, but social outings with friends are critical to her emotional health. The pandemic has been extremely challenging for her, as those activities are limited. Other clients have felt comfort in being home without the pressures of the outside world. It’s ok that we are different.

Respect and value your emotional health: If and when you identify what enhances your emotional health, respect and value it. You deserve to be happy, and those around you will benefit too.

Include emotional health habits regularly: In our town, we have a woman who regularly mows the grass in the local roads’ median. She speaks enthusiastically about her work in interviews. It’s striking how much meaning, engagement, and achievement she gains through this activity. Not only is her jigsaw puzzle picture unique, but she also actively incorporates it regularly in the summer months.

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

When I was teaching group fitness pre-pandemic, I would ask participants to stand on their step-boxes with their hands on their hips and then strike a victory pose. I borrowed the activity from Ann Cuddy’s Ted Talk on body language. Instead of “fake it, till you make it,” she ends the talk with the statement, “fake it until you become it.” So yes, I believe in the power of smiling to improve emotional health. Hang with people who smile and make you smile.

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

One of the most remarkable responses during an intake interview with a client was her response to the question, “What do you do to refuel your spiritual tank?” The conversation stopped in its track because the concept was foreign to her. We then talked about the subtle difference between managing stress and refueling the spirit. I shared that you can fill your car’s gas tank to 50% regularly, but sometimes it’s good to fill the tank to 100%. The same sentiment can be applied to refueling your spirit. While regular manicures were a part of her self-care, the concept of refueling her soul was new. A light bulb of possibilities turned on. Over a year, my client’s eyes opened to the idea of spiritual refueling; she experimented with soul-nourishing activities and savored the feeling of a full tank.

I ask clients about how they can nurture the spirit daily with little things and what activities fill the heart to 99–100%. Clients’ answers are always different — time with grandchildren, painting, writing, reading by a fire, the soft fur and purr of the family cat — are among the responses. For me, a walk on the beach and saltwater soothes and refuel my spirit. While I can’t jump in the ocean every day, a warm bath at night helps as well.

Thus, look for creative ways to incorporate spiritual care daily, plan for ways to take the tank to 100% if able, and finally, savor the experiences, both big and small.

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

As I mentioned above, walking in nature is one of my favorite ways to soothe my soul. It turns out there is a scientific reason behind it. Biophilia asserts that humans have an innate need to connect with nature. When I was researching and interviewing people for my book, The Flourishing Home, their favorite spot in their home always included nature views and vistas. While it may be a small tweak on a person’s environment, I’m always curious to know how nature impacts their home and workspaces and how few simple adjustments might make a significant impact.

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.

The Walking Book Club is impacting health and happiness worldwide by connecting people through audiobooks and movement online. We’re approaching 5,000 active members globally. Before the pandemic, my dream was to facilitate in-person gatherings all over the world. I see members’ posts in the same geographic regions hope that they can meet face-to-face someday.

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 🙂

Last year The Walking Book Club moved and listened to the audiobook Becoming by Michelle Obama. Many members felt like they had a walking buddy in the former first lady and were surprised to learn about her upbringing, professional career, and maternal philosophies. Instead of a meeting over breakfast or lunch, I’d love to share a funky, music-filled workout with Michelle and our friends. I picture laughter, camaraderie, silliness, spiritual refueling, and heart-pumping gathering.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me @juliekaminski and @thewalkingbookclub or join us on Facebook at The Walking Book Club and The Walking Book Club Discussion Group. My website, www.JulieKaminski.com, is full of Healthy-Body Happy-Mind bonus tools as well.

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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