Lynell Ross of Test Prep Insight: “Good habit for Wellness”

Good habit for Wellness: Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack. Good habit for Performance: Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Good habit for Focus: Set aside time each to practice focusing As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & […]

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Good habit for Wellness: Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack.

Good habit for Performance: Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

Good habit for Focus: Set aside time each to practice focusing

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynell Ross.

In addition to being the Resource Director for Test Prep Insight, Lynell Ross is a Psychology Trained Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Certified Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer with the American Council on Exercise, National Diabetes Prevention Program Instructor and Certified Life and Relationship Coach. Lynell also teaches workshops on topics that include stress management, conflict resolution, improving relationships, sleep and whole being wellness. To help students reach their full potential, Lynell writes articles for Test Prep Insight on nutrition, fitness and stress management and whole being wellness.

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?

Growing up, I always thought I had an ideal childhood, mostly because I grew up in the country, with a very loving mother, and two sisters, even though our father died when we were very young. My mom taught us how to be resourceful, curious, responsible, to stay active and live a full life. We had a vegetable garden, dogs, cats and horses. I spent much of my time as a child outdoors, hiking, fishing and swimming. I also enjoyed helping my mother cook and serve large meals to friends and family. I never thought I would be able to incorporate these things into my career years later.

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

I would have to say that it was my mother who inspired my career, first as a journalist, and later after she died prematurely of a heart attack. Because of her, I changed my focus and became a health coach. It wasn’t until after my mother passed away from a heart attack that our family came to understand that heart disease can be inherited and runs in families. I began to put pieces of the puzzle together, after remembering that I lost both grandmothers and grandfathers to heart attacks between the ages of 40–72. Once I realized how prevalent heart disease is, (it is actually the number one killer in America,) I went back to college to study nutrition to learn how to take care of myself and my family. I was married and had a baby boy and four-year-old son when my mother died and we lost out on many years with her.

The more I learned about nutrition, the more I found that our health is about more than just what we eat. Being healthy means being physically fit as well, so as part of my nutrition education I became a Certified Personal Trainer. I became very passionate about health and once I learned that up to 95% of all chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes, I knew I had to share what I learned with other people. I had to find a way to get the word out about how to live a fully healthy life, and to thrive in all areas. I thought these two certifications would be enough to establish my health coaching business, but as I began to help clients I quickly learned that much of our behaviors, actions and choices are psychological. So, I went back to get my health and wellness coaching certification from Wellcoaches, a psychology-based program that specializes in behavior change.

I have been helping clients change their eating patterns, lose weight, and become physically fit for over 14 years now. Working with people and helping them solve problems so they can have a full life is very rewarding, so I looked to find ways to reach more people. In addition to working with individual clients, I wrote a book on healthy living and used it as a guide to lead corporate wellness workshops, teaching employees how to deal with work life balance issues, eat better and exercise while managing a full-time job and often a family. I also teach conflict resolution and stress management as so many people struggle with stress and overwhelming pressure at work and at home.

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 person who has had the greatest influence on my career was Tom Liguori, the President of the company where I landed my first job after graduating from college. I stayed there ten years because he was such a great leader. To this day, I keep in contact with fellow colleagues who feel the same way. Tom was a young man in his early thirties at the time, but was wise for his years. He ran a hundred-million-dollar company, but treated every employee with respect and dignity. He set clear expectations, and made sure we had open lines of communication. The most profound thing about him was how he would allow us to charge forward with new projects and ideas, trusting that we would either succeed or learn a lesson. Being able to learn from a kind, yet visionary leader who trusted me to take on greater and greater responsibility taught me to believe in myself and how to encourage others. And while running a successful company, he always shared how important it is to put family and relationships first.

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?

One of the most interesting mistakes that I made during my career happened while I was working at a health clinic teaching the Diabetes Prevention Program. I loved my work as a lifestyle coach, working with clients individually, then teaching classes, cooking healthy meals and leading fitness, wellness and stress management classes. The interesting mistake I made was to become too protective of our team, staff, and patients. I took on more and more work that should have been delegated to others and I wound up burning myself out. At the time I didn’t realize that I was repeating family patterns of being the caretaker of our family. I went to counseling so that I could heal my pattern of overdoing and taking on the responsibility of others. It was a painful lesson, but one that helped me to grow with all my relationships.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Getting a good education is the most important thing a young person can do to empower yourself. But don’t stop with your schooling, continue learning through workshops, continuing education and most of all through life experiences. Find mentors, ask questions and become a lifelong learner. Never be afraid to ask for help or for more responsibility so you can live up to your full potential. Learn how to be vulnerable with safe people so you can build lasting relationships.

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?

One of the books that has made a big difference in my life is “Authentic Success” by Robert Holden, Ph.D. In Authentic Success, Robert Holden examines the difference between the kind of success that comes with money and awards versus the success that comes from helping others and sharing your gifts with the world. From the book, I learned to slow down and enjoy each day instead of waiting to be happy until I arrive at a future destination. Robert Holden runs a program called Success Intelligence and coaches global leaders at companies such as Dove, The BBC, The Body Shop and Virgin. I have attended four, week long coaching programs from Robert Holden which changed the way I run my workshops, coach clients and live my own life. Through Robert’s work I have learned to appreciate and value the people, and things that are meaningful to me in life rather than chasing after profits and status.

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

“You have been given the greatest power in the world, the power to choose.” ~ Denis Waitley

This quote is important to me because it reminds me that we are never trapped, unless we believe our thoughts. We always have choices, and those choices affects every area of our life.

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

My latest work is with Test Prep Insight, a company comprised of education individuals who are passionate about helping students prepare for exams so they can succeed in their career paths. I provide health and wellness resources to students regarding nutrition, fitness and stress management to help them become their best.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

As a health and wellness coach, I know that good habits are the foundation of a healthy and successful life. First, we must decide what is most important to us, and know what we want. Then we need to create a plan to make those goals a reality. The only way to reach our goals is by developing good habits that we practice daily. Good habits are important in every area of our life, from eating more whole foods from the food groups, and being physically active each day, to the way we manage our stress, behave in our relationships and how we handle our finances. Our habits affect our physical wellbeing as well as our mental health. We can either develop habits that hurt us or habits that help us. The good news is that we can change our habits anytime we make a clear, committed decision.

I work with clients all the time who come to me for help, thinking it is going to be hard to develop healthy habits because they have the bar set too high and expect immediate results. Once we work together, they begin to learn that good habits are developed day by day, with small steps. But those small steps add up to great successes. Some clients need to learn to eat better so they add in more fruits and vegetables and eat less processed foods, while others start walking 10 minutes per day. By the end of three months they are walking 30–60 minutes per day and have lost 12–15 pounds.

Some people need to learn how to say no and set boundaries so they can free up their time to do the things they want to do for their health and wellbeing. Many people have a habit of saying yes automatically and it drains their time and energy. Learning to say no with grace is one of the most effective habits you can practice to gain freedom in your life.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

When I was younger, I began to develop good eating habits, and stayed physically active, but through the years, I learned that developing good sleep habits are also important. I developed a “Daily Healthy Habits Checklist” that I printed out and keep on my planner to help me remember what I want to do each day. For example, the list starts with a morning practice of reading personal development books, meditating, exercising, drinking water and eating a healthy breakfast. My checklist includes everything I want to do each day including three healthy meals, taking my vitamins, taking breaks to walk during the day, going to bed at the same time each night and making a gratitude list to end the day. If I get off track in one area, my list is a guide to help me get back to my healthy habits.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

The best way to develop good habits is to start small. If you want to become more physically fit for example, you don’t start out with a goal of running a half marathon. Commit to walking 10 minutes per day, then each week increase the time by five or ten minutes. This doesn’t sound challenging, but the idea is to be able to stick with it and succeed. At the end of one month, you will be walking daily for 30 minutes, and will stick with it because it feels good, it is easy and has become a part of your daily habit. After that you can increase your time, and speed or add in hills to make it more challenging.

The best way to stop a bad habit is to counter it with something else. If you want to stop snacking at night, then you need to find something else to do to keep you mind and hands busy. If you want to stop drinking coffee after 2 pm, replace it with an herbal tea. If you really want to stop the habit badly enough, make the decision, and replace it with a better habit.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Good habit for Wellness: Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack.

Eating a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack is a great habit because it helps you get the nutrition you need. It is easy to remember and easy to do. Just grocery shop each week, so you have the food you need readily available. Even if you are eating out or picking up food, you can choose to have a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack. Most people In the U.S. do not get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and are missing important nutrients in their diet. This one habit can help you become healthier each day.

Good habit for Performance: Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

Sleep is vital to our health and wellbeing. Not getting enough sleep creates the same impairment as drinking too much alcohol and even affects our ability to drive. Even moderate sleep deprivation produces cognitive impairment and physical performance. By creating a bedtime routine and going to bed at the same time each night, you set yourself up for a sound night’s sleep. Your body does best when you give yourself time to wind down, turn off upsetting news or violent programs, eat earlier in the evening, and turn the lights down low to prepare for sleep.

Good habit for Focus: Set aside time each to practice focusing

We are not taught to focus. In fact, with today’s technology and all its distractions, we are less focused than ever. To teach yourself the habit of focus, get rid of as many distractions as possible. Turn off the ringer on your phone, turn off notifications, close the door to your office, and tell people you cannot be disturbed.

Each day, set aside quiet time, and close your eyes for one minute to focus on one solitary thing, such as your breath, or nature scene. Stay with that focus until you are able to do it. As you feel comfortable increase your time by one minute each day. Your mind will wander. We cannot turn off our thoughts, they are like a water faucet on full blast. We think approximately 60,000 thoughts per day, in addition to the barrage of noise coming at us from all directions. It is possible to learn to turn down the volume on those thoughts and focus on one thing at a time.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

One thing that helps me is to sit down with my weekly calendar on a Saturday and plan my week ahead. I plan my meals, and grocery shop to get healthy foods in the house. I prewash and chop vegetables and fruits so it is easy to grab with a meal or snack.

I look at my schedule and plan the times I will exercise and walk. I create reminders to help me drink enough water such as filling up a 64-ounce water jug each morning, and setting my vitamins out to take with breakfast.

I set aside 20 minutes each morning to read and do my mediation and focus practice.

I make a firm commitment to be in bed by 9:30 pm to read and do my gratitude list so I can fall asleep by 10 pm.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Good habit for work: When I need to get work done or meet a deadline, to help with concentration and to avoid distractions, I turn my ringer off on my phone, and turn it upside down so I can’t see it. I turn off notifications on my computer, and I do not open emails.

Good habit for work: I only check my email three times per day. With the work I do, I must check for new assignments three times per day via email, so I open it up, answer any important incoming email, get my new projects and close it down. If I want to read or answer lesser important emails, I do it at the end of the day or after my important work is done.

Good habit for a sport: Before I go running or hiking, I always warm up and do simple stretches. Warming up before exercise is essential to preventing injuries and for optimal performance.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

To stop me from spending too much time on emails, I remember that someone else’s urgent problem does not have to come before my goals and deadline. I have a sign on my computer that reads, “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Turn off the ringer on your phone

Nothing is more distracting than seeing text messages, voicemails and notifications popping up on your phone all day long. It takes an average of 23 minutes to get yourself back on track after being interrupted. Imagine how much time you are wasting each day by answering texts and listening to voicemails, or going down the rabbit hole after reading a news notification.

Practice deep breathing and sitting silently while you wait for anything

Next time you have to wait in line for anything, at a store, at a stop light or while on hold, instead of becoming angry and impatient, use the time to become peaceful and calm. Take a few moments to breathe deeply. Studies have proven that the quickest and best way to reduce stress is to practice deep breathing. Try this breathing exercise next time you have to wait: Take a long slow deep breath in for a count of 8, hold for 4 and exhale very slowly to a count of 8. Do this three times and notice how much calmer you feel.

Notice your thoughts, but let them go. Don’t attach to any thought except what you need to focus on.

We spend too much time ruminating about things that happened in the past and worrying about what may happen in the future. Spiritual teachers wisely tell us that the point of power is in the present moment. Be conscious and aware of what you are doing at the moment. As you practice this, you will find yourself less distracted, more serene and with better clarity to focus on what you need to.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Make a list of the top three things that you want to focus on for the month.

Then make a short list of what will help you accomplish those goals such as turning the ringer off, turning off notifications, or checking your email once or twice a day. When you write things down on a 3 x 5 card and post it where you will see your reminders, you are helping yourself remember what you have committed to.

Find one or two deep breathing exercises you like and commit to doing them

Start small. At first, remember to do your deep breathing exercises once or twice a day, then increase the number of times you stop to breathe and reset more and more until you can do it every hour. Place a post it or 3 x 5 card with a note to remind you to “Stop and breathe.”

Make a sign that reads, “The point of power is in the present moment.”

Print out or color a colorful sign that reads, “The point of power is in the present moment” to help you focus on what is most important, and to tune out the extraneous thoughts that ruin your day.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

First, you have to find what you love to do. You can be in a state of flow at work or at home doing something you love such as cooking, gardening or painting. I love to research and write and I find myself sitting in my office for hours not noticing the time. I also feel in the flow when I am coaching a client to find their own answers. I know I am in the state of flow when this happens and I lose track of time. If I had not worked with a life coach years ago who encouraged me to follow my passion and learn about healthy living, I would not have had the courage to research new opportunities and follow through.

We often stick with what is comfortable, and don’t feel like we should pursue our interests and passions, but we rob ourselves and others if we don’t live up to our own potential. Each of us has unique gifts and talents, and it is up to us to become curious and pursue things we enjoy doing. As we grow, and become our best self, we also become role models for others, allowing them to dream of what is possible. As we do our best at work or home, we are giving to others as well as fulfilling our destiny.

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.

Be kind to yourself and others.

Many people do not realize that being kind to yourself means taking time to understand yourself, to become aware of the things that motivate you and that may have hurt you. When we do the deeper work of becoming aware of our flaws, and hurts, and when we learn to forgive ourselves, we are more able to forgive others. Sometimes it can be easier to be kind to others than it is to be compassionate ourselves. We are often taught that it is selfish to take care of our own needs, and we can be hardest on ourselves when we make mistakes.

We need to establish a balance of being kind and compassionate with ourselves, to become our best-physically and mentally, so we can in turn, be kind and compassionate with others. Imagine a world where we were all a bit kinder, how much better off we would all be.

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 🙂

The person I would most like to have lunch with is Dr. Henry Cloud. Dr. Cloud is a clinical psychologist and a New York Times bestselling author who has written 45 books that have help millions of people. Dr. Cloud is also a well-known executive coach and leadership consultant who helps companies build successful teams and improve performance. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, Dr. Cloud launched a call-in program to help people deal with their problems, fears and anxieties. His work in teaching people how to set boundaries, learn how to say no, improve relationships and heal from traumatic experiences is life changing. In addition to be a very funny guy who helps put people at ease, I would be thrilled to ask him questions that could help me become more effective in my work.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My latest and most important work is with Test Prep Insight, a company dedicated to helping students prepare for exams that will help them improve their lives and careers.

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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