Get some sleep! To put it bluntly — our mental capacity goes to sh__ without quality sleep! The dramatic impact of sleep deprivation includes; decreased brain function, memory loss, depression and even psychiatric disorders. Let alone all of the physical impacts we will look at later. Sleep is truly one of the most important factors affecting your mental health. I mean, how many of you are a completely different person when you haven’t slept for a night or two?
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 “What We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Mullins, Founder of Inspired Leadership Group, an integrative wellness solutions company providing well-being events and retreats including concierge mental health and naturopathic practitioners to equip leaders and their teams to mitigate burnout. www.inspiredleadershipgroup.com
Linda launched her first start-up, an integrative live-in wellness resort on the beaches of Florida in 2007 after spending many years in the corporate world. Her company experienced great success from concept to high growth until selling in 2014. During these years she discovered a passion for encouraging and equipping people to increase their health and fitness using a holistic approach.
In 2017, Linda founded Inspired Leadership Group, combining her areas of expertise; corporate and wellness. She and her team of mental health and lifestyle medicine practitioners deliver wellness through one day and multi-day off-site events and retreats for corporations and individuals that focus on mental, emotional and physical well-being to help leaders and their teams mitigate burnout.
Linda’s calling is to empower people to become their best selves by equipping them to overcome their past, realize their true value and help pave the way to reach their full potential. She is working on her first book to be released later this year and is a wellness contributor for multiple magazines.
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?
My childhood was less than excellent to be sure but I am so grateful to be what you call an overcomer. At the age of 4, while my father was serving in Vietnam, my mom was diagnosed with Manic Depression and deemed unfit to take care of so my four brothers and I were put into Foster care for a brief time. That was the beginning of many years of heinous acts against me by various adults charged with my care. Though not ideal, this was only a part of my childhood experience. My father was a decorated army officer having served in Korea and Vietnam. He returned home from the war suffering from the disease of alcoholism yet he was awarded custody and raised all five of us by himself since my mom was unable to. The ingredients of sexual abuse, divorce, broken home, dysfunction, alcoholism and mental illness could be the recipe for total disaster. Such was the backdrop for my early years. It wasn’t pretty — but there was upside (in addition to always having a roof over our head and food on the table); I survived and astonishingly, I was a well-adjusted kid, very social, a straight A student for many years, I even ran track and swam competitively in High School. I then went on to pay my way through college and attained my B.A. which enabled me to enjoy career success. I am totally sane, normal and enjoy a rich, vibrant life that includes lots of love, laughter, quality relationships and international travel (just in case the readers want to know).
There is a special kind of drive that fuels you when you are a survivor, a drive that, if you’re lucky, can enable you to overcome and thrive. I’ve got that drive — in spades! It is the drive that gives me the resilience & persistence needed to achieve my goals and pursue my passions. It has also given me the heart to fight for injustice, love others well and serve in leadership for various non-profits.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I have always enjoyed fitness, but it was my brother Greg, a Navy diver and a personal trainer that first encouraged me to pursue being a trainer and explore becoming a gym owner. Though that did not happen, something more life-changing did; years later when attending a six-week bootcamp in L.A. for weight loss. I had many conversations with other participants about the experience at the camp and what could be improved. I saw a gap in the industry and an overwhelming need for a more meaningful and more effective experience for people to truly sustain a healthier lifestyle. I credit the inspiration to those many guests at that boot camp in L.A.. It was only a few months after returning home to Florida from California that I began curating my first company in this niche industry adding some critical components like individual sessions with Psychologists and Nutritionists as well as a follow-on plan for sustained success of the clients. Thus, an integrative wellness retreat model was born.
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?
Gosh, where do I start? There are so many people in my ‘life family’ that have encouraged me along the way even though up until recent years, I arrogantly believed I was a lone wolf and self-made. Thank God for personal growth right?! My father, Major Mullins drove us hard and encouraged me that I ‘could become whatever I want’. Many teachers and professors along the way with various styles of motivating, all guiding me toward excellence. But I have to say, it is my closest girlfriends, my ‘sisters’ that have always been there to support me, encourage me, lift me up and oftentimes — call me on my stuff that have been primary influencers. As more years are in my rear view now than my windshield view, I realize more and more how important these women have been in my life. Maria Walker has been one of my best friends since I was 21 and she knows most of the recesses of my heart. MaryElaine Cline has been a dear friend and catalyst in my faith walk. There are many others that have played a part along the way. I have always said that I am passionate about two things; my friendships and travel. Now more than ever, I truly cherish my dearest friends who have been there throughout my life’s journey.
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?
Who me — make a mistake? Well, it’s not too funny, but hopefully interesting; One big mistake I made in early adulthood was choosing to chase the almighty dollar rather than something that brought me joy. For so many years I chased money — and I got it. I was fortunate enough or talented enough or lucky enough to begin earning six figures at a young age and continued for 20 plus years. But when I opened my own company, even with the struggles of opening in a recession, enduring the Gulf spill and my own shortcomings as a boss, I realized the true joy of meaningful work that not only helped others, it included a lifestyle of wellness, a sense of balance and more flex-time. It turns out, for me anyways, this was the real pot of gold. Now I’m chasing my passion that helps to transform lives instead of chasing the dollars. And guess what, it turns out when you’re pursuing the right stuff, the dollars will follow.
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 Bible. The more I read it, the more wisdom I gain and the more loving I become. It’s not only the greatest story ever told, but the best-selling book of all time. I love it all but the book of Proverbs is one of my favorites because it is so rich in basic truths and foundational principles for doing life and business; it has taught me divine strategies related to love, health and wealth. It has impacted my life, my work, my relationships and my joy.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
There are two; ‘The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former’ The Holy Bible — Haggai 2:9. To me it means that my best days are yet to come, and I believe it. The other that seems to complement this is another favorite quote; you don’t always get what you want, but you usually get what you expect’ by Charles Spurgeon.
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 thrilled to be working on developing an app that will enable people to get more well-being solutions on demand. Without going into too much detail (secret, speed-to-market stuff) it will go beyond what so many of the mental wellness apps are already doing. In fact, a different slant altogether. It will help businesses and their employees as well as individuals have access to holistic wellness. I am seeking funding in the coming weeks so VCs welcome & stay tuned!
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’m so glad you started with mental health. It’s an area that has been pushed aside for way too long. Yet, it’s the key to everything and so many of the factors surrounding good mental health are profoundly simple.
1) Get some sleep! To put it bluntly — our mental capacity goes to sh__ without quality sleep! The dramatic impact of sleep deprivation includes; decreased brain function, memory loss, depression and even psychiatric disorders. Let alone all of the physical impacts we will look at later. Sleep is truly one of the most important factors affecting your mental health. I mean, how many of you are a completely different person when you haven’t slept for a night or two?
2) Balance your biome. Nutrition impacts the microbiome in your gut, now called your 2nd brain -and your mental wellness is directly related to your gut microbiome. In fact, the communication between your brain and your gut flows in both directions; your health, including stress, impacts the microbiome in your gut which ultimately tells your brain what to do. It’s true, our gut bacteria can alter how we think, feel and act. So, once again, nutrition is a key to your health . . . your mental health. Without going into scientific details ( I will leave that to naturopathic doctors on my team and the likes of Johns Hopkins) your gut sends signals to the brain that can trigger mood changes like anxiety and depression and a host of others — good and bad. If that’s not enough to make you dig in a bit deeper to your own microbiome, I don’t know what is.
3) Deal with your trauma — we all have it, whether childhood trauma or adult trauma of divorce, death, loss, global pandemic — you name it — we all got some. Make a habit of talking it out, getting a counselor or a coach. With all of the resources available online, it’s easier than ever now to access help. There has never been a better time to seek treatment and finally get rid of those things that have negatively impacted your mental wellness. When consistently cone, you can emerge with less anxiety and a more healthy, balanced mind which will also impact your physical wellness.
One significant life-altering session with my Psychologist was back in 2010 when I she used a Cognitive based therapy called Brainspotting (look it up — it’s very effective). Though I had met with Counselors in the past, this was really different; that one session unlocked a connection, a direct link if you will, between my behavior and a specific memory of abuse from my youth. That result of the session was essentially removing the energy and ‘trigger’ from that memory that made me act in a particular way. My brain was ‘re-wired’ in that area of trauma and a seeminlgly unrelated pattern of behavior I had for years was changed, virtually overnight! It was remarkable. I was able to get rid of subconscious thoughts that were influencing my behavior which had kept me stuck in an unhealthy pattern. I cannot express enough how vitally important it is for each of us to do the work and deal with our stuff. Not only so we can be our best self and flourish in life, but so we can be the best human and doing our part in humanity.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Prayer is my meditation. Talking with God each morning and throughout the day brings me peace and sets the tone for how I will show up that day. I also practice Restorative yoga or Yin yoga a couple of times a week specifically for the physical aspects of helping me to unwind all of the muscles I ‘wound up’ during the week. It lengthens my muscles, reduces tension and I leave the class truly restored and ready for another intense workout.
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.
Move more — I am a big fan of moving in different ways as often as possible. Especially when we are stuck on a computer most of the day. Though the recommended minimum 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity and 10,000 steps a day, that is a minimum. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be minimally healthy — I’ve been there. We’ve got to mix it up and do more to take it to the next level. It doesn’t mean you have to join Crossfit, but cross training is a great way to see results in your body. Doing the same routine each week is good, but good is the enemy of best. Interval training like Crossfit or HIT or Orange Theory is a great way to go as it revs the metabolism and you get both cardio and strength training. If the gym isn’t your scene, find something you do enjoy. It will not become a habit or lifestyle if you hate it. One of my favorites is Cardio tennnis- it’s a blast! Just ask any of my clients. And, if you’re like me and prefer outside, the options are limitless; cycling, basketball, snow shoeing or kayaking adds variety and a chance for connection with nature and other people if choose. Make it fun, it doesn’t have to be torture to stay physically fit.
Nutrition — I strive, and truth be known, sometimes struggle to achieve moderation in all things when it comes to food. What I know for sure is, we must eliminate processed foods and minimize refined sugar- they’ll kill ya! Processed foods break down quickly into sugar which causes spikes in your blood sugar and insulin levels which can lead to cravings for more of the same. Keeping your blood sugar stable isn’t just for diabetics, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Sugar is the real killer. When we eliminate or dramatically reduce our intake of processed foods and sugar we decrease the risk of virtually every known non-communicable disease. Oh, and as several of my Nutritionists preached, ‘eat a rainbow’. Our meals should include a colorful and varied array of nature’s bounty. Over the course of a year and a half, I lost 90 pounds by eating ‘clean’ and consistently exercising six days a week. The journey began with that six-week intense immersion — it made a believer out of me.
Breathwork for stress reduction — Stress wreaks havoc on the physical body. Luckily, getting physical exercise, eating nutrient-rich foods that are low in sugar and dealing with your trauma all serve in reducing stress. And one of my most significant discoveries over the last several years has been the profound impact that proper, diaphragmatic breathing has on your overall wellness. Deep belly breathing that expands your belly when inhaling and contracts your belly when exhaling dramatically increases oxygen levels and blood flow which in turn slows the heart rate and results in increased health of body and mind. If you haven’t tried it, consider putting it on your short list of things to do.
The first time I remember experiencing this power of breathwork was at a marketing conference in 2012 where 2,000 of us were deep breathing in unison for the purpose of increasing our energy at 9 pm after a 14-hour day at the conference. At the end of the ten-minute practice, I was not only re-energized, I was euphoric; My body was charged up and my head felt light, clear and alert. I was hooked! Recently, I have taken breathwork in a class setting similar to yoga where the instructor leads you through the proper technique to modify the physical and mental state. It’s amazing and effective for managing your physical state like before giving a big presentation or when you’re tired and need to be more alert. Whether you check it out online or go to an instructor, the health benefits are overwhelming and can actually heal you from an assortment of ailments. I discuss it and demonstrate it each time I’m doing a keynote or workshop for executives. I want everyone to know about it because it can literally change your life.
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?
You’re right Mitzi, we all know what to do intellectually but many of us fall short of doing it. It’s not a knowing problem, it’s a doing problem. What I’ve discovered through many years of my personal journey combined with scientific information from industry professionals is that it’s all about our relationship with food and alcohol. Yes, it’s a relationship and it is either healthy, dysfunctional or somewhere in between. Depending on your background and the way you were raised, you learned certain behaviors related to food. When I immersed myself in this industry some 14 years ago, I began addressing the issue of my own self-medication with food. Not to say everyone that over-indulges is self-medicating, but it is a surprisingly high number. The degree to which we use food or alcohol for comfort, dealing with stress and stuffing or managing other emotions makes up the quality of our overall relationship with food. It’s a tough one because food is so embedded in our culture as a social and celebratory event, it can be harder to manage proper intake. After all, it is the most highly-addictive legal substance we know of and what makes it more challenging — we need it to survive. My suggestion is to simply ask yourself the question ‘why am I eating this?’. When we are mindful about what we are doing and why, we can begin to cultivate a better relationship with food and alcohol. And, while still enjoying and indulging on occasion, we can change the role of food in our life to that of a rich, vibrant source of health and fuel for our body as opposed to a stress-reliever or source of comfort.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
A grateful heart — I recommend for my clients to practice gratitude at the beginning of each day, and at the end of each day if you’re able. Maybe even keep a gratitude journal. I must confess I am not consistent at journaling , but it is very therapeutic and serves as a great resource of reminders of how good you really have it. Personally, gratitude is part of my daily conversations with God and also in the moment, whenever a blessing occurs.
Forgiveness — It doesn’t matter how grateful you are, if you’re harboring unforgiveness toward someone, the gratitude isn’t as effective but the unforgiveness is poison to every cell of your body.
Intimacy with God and others — Seek to know and to be known. If you’re tucked away in your home, a very private person lacking close relationships or even a few people who really know you well, it can be a recipe for lack of optimal emotional health. We are social creatures and our connection with each other serves to encourage us and nourish us.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Yes! It not only increases your face value but it tells your brain to be happy. We actually get to choose how we feel. We choose what thoughts to consider or allow to ‘hang out’ in our mind. Smiling intentionally disrupts the narrative in our head and tells us to be happy. It is hard to be depressed when you are standing erect with your shoulders back and a grin from ear to ear on your face. Give it a shot, it’s almost impossible to do.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Put God First (or your higher power) each day. This is a genuine relationship with the Creator, not a religion. If you truly believe in a higher power, then act as if that power is real and present right in the room with you. You wouldn’t consider ignoring your spouse, significant other or loved one standing in front of you, you would say good morning. Or, at least I hope you would. So why not say hello and acknowledge God first thing in the morning, it not only nourishes your spiritual relationship and closeness, but it honors Him and invites Him to enter in and helps set the tone and direction of your day.
Loving others well — the essence of connection. If we approach our relationships with the framework of outdoing each other with kindness, loving others well isn’t such a hard thing to achieve; it is less focused on self and more on the other. Find out their love language and use it; use words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, give them gifts, and spend quality time with them. Don’t just say it — do it! Honor the relationships that you have been gifted with. At the end of the day, this is what so many of us seek, someone to love and cherish. I love that word cherish and hope that my friends and family know how much I cherish them and appreciate them being a part of my life.
When talking about legacy with a dear friend of mine, she says that when she makes it to heaven and is at the pearly gates, she wants to be known for having loved people well. That touches my heart and inspires me to pursue the same.
Repent and apologize. Repentance is among the least favorite words on earth I suppose. It doesn’t mean saying you’re sorry, it means doing a 180, turning away from that behavior. Repentance paired with a sincere apology will change your entire life and set off a ripple effect that impacts the lives of countless others. So, when you say you’re sorry, really apologize to those you have hurt or offended to diffuse the offense and not allow bitterness or resentment to take root. A genuine apology doesn’t begin with; I’m so sorry but . . . instead, it might be more like ‘I’m really sorry I hurt you — will you please forgive me’.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Absolutely! To me, the beauty of nature is food for my soul. It is the manifest evidence of the Creator himself. The awe and wonder takes our breath away and urges us to listen closely, peer outward and discover a world completely outside of ourselves. When we are present in nature, we cannot help but consider the majesty of a higher power. By pondering this existence and emptying self of menial concerns, nature brings a literal breath of fresh air and perspective on life like no other.
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.
Immediate Forgiveness Required -or, at least forgive early and often. We’re all familiar with the verse “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Forgiveness is mandatory for your well-being. Harboring bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness in your heart literally makes you ill. If each of us would truly forgive those that hurt us or offended us, including ourselves, I believe we would experience divine health, greater joy and even world peace. It has worked well for me. Though I had so many atrocities committed against me in my childhood, by forgiving the trespassers early on in my life, I did not allow them to overtake my life, ‘steal’ my future, my joy or my health. Funny, it was only a few years ago that I actually forgave myself for things I believed to be my fault. It brought significant change and enabled me to love myself and others at an even deeper level.
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 🙂
This is a tough one with so many remarkable role models in different areas like Condoleeza Rice for politics & leadership, Tony Robbins for inspiration, Brene Brown for thought leadership & unveiling shame and vulnerability, Paula White for Ministry, Sheila Johnson for business, BET & Sports Teams, Arianna Huffington for Thrive Global & a stellar career in media and Oprah Winfrey for, well — all of those things.
If I must choose just one, I will choose based on my passion for well-being and helping others to mitigate burnout and thrive in life which is in alignment with Arianna Huffington. Ms. Huffington,you inspire me, I would be honored if we could enjoy lunch together.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.