Walking in nature or any form of exercise you enjoy: It releases endorphins and if you don’t enjoy exercise, most people enjoy music. I encourage clients to walk to only three to five of their favorite songs. In doing so they have spent close to a half hour exercising. Time goes by faster and the music releases endorphins and feel-good chemicals, too.
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 “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Joye LMHC.
Mary Joye, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor , life coach and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator in private practice. She is also an author contributor to www.DailyOM.com with four E Courses and is working on a PTG offering in the future. In addition, she writes for www.OpentoHope.com for grief recovery and for Central Florida Health News as a monthly contributor. Mary has experienced trauma and post traumatic growth and helps others to do the same individually and collectively through her outreach with guest blogs, podcasts and video interviews about trauma and codependency. Her story has been featured in “O” magazine , “First for Women” magazine and other avenues such as www.Prevention.com, www.UpJourney.com, www.Healthline.com and other avenues online and in person.
Her new book titled, Codependency 2.0 Discovery and Recovery: How to Say No to Others and Yes to Yourself is scheduled to be released by HCI publishing in the fall of 2021. Mary enjoyed a previous career in the music industry as a singer/songwriter in Nashville and incorporates creativity in her work to combat adversity. She is a solution focused therapist who helps others listen to themselves by making connections with the past and present so they can enjoy a better future.
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?
Raised on the Gulf Coast of Florida in Redington Beach, I was the daughter of a father who was psychiatrist and a mother who was a psychiatric nurse. I had one older brother and our childhood was a lot like the kids on “Flipper”. I could go to school in our little beat up old boat as it was far more convenient to cross the bay than walking two miles over the drawbridge to the mainland. I had a very unusual childhood because our family had a lot of secrets and it was up to me to keep many of them because many of them happened to me. I learned early in life how to play a part to project the perfect family image because I was an extension of that much like a preacher’s kid. Psychiatrist’s children can’t openly have problems or discuss them because it would be bad for business.
The images that went with some of the secrets resulted from going on house calls where I and saw horrific scenes. I think makes me a more compassionate and effective trauma therapist today but it wasn’t healthy way to be initiated into the field. I was also home alone a lot and my father apologized for me being self-raised, but I felt the charter boat captains, lifeguards and neighbors in our tiny beach town were the village that raised me. I built houses in the sand and dreamed I could live in them. When I was very young I believed if I stayed in the water long enough, a mermaid tail would grow and I could swim far away and visit exotic places. When I was fourteen, I was aware no tail would grow, so I became a certified SCUBA diver (very rare for a female of that age) and traveled the world doing this.
I was abused in a few ways as a child, too and found solace at the beach. I suffered several broken bones and reconstructive surgeries on my nose. When my leg was broken when skateboarding with my brother I was in a wheelchair over a year. One of dad’s patients paid him with an old spinet piano and I would pull the wheelchair up to it and taught myself to play and later became a professional songwriter and singer. I joined a little theatre group at age fourteen and since I already knew how to “act” from my family, I found a true passion in the collaborative art of theatre. Onstage or backstage I loved how the “misfits”, fit together and made audiences happy. It was a creative and nurturing “family” as were the charter boat captains and lifeguards. To this day the arts, expansive nature and the ocean reset me.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
What a loaded question I had several mentors..
My first mentor was my Berkeley Preparatory School fifth form (11th grade) English teacher, Barbara Millar. She gave us an assignment to write twenty poems and kept me after class and said, “How dare you, you little sh%%t! How dare you act like a dumb airhead and write poems and prose like this!” Then she pointed her finger at me and said, “Never stop writing, never stop writing, never stop writing!” I did not. I have not. I will not. She took my poems against my knowledge and had them printed in the school’s “Phoenix” publication and after the shock of seeing my personal thoughts wore off, I was elected class poet and had to write and read a poem on graduation day. I arose from the ashes of my youth from the Phoenix publication and still have the original class poem. It is all about facing fears, setting sail for adventure and being true to yourself no matter how far away you may feel from the safety of the shore.
My second and perhaps most significant mentor was Ann Hughes who was a friend of my mother’s. She knew what a difficult childhood as her mother was like mine. In my twenties she gave me a gift of free therapy under one condition…that I didn’t tell my mother. If not for her and for dispelling the fear of getting therapy when your dad was the only psychiatrist in town, I could not have navigated the rest of my life. I am a therapist because of her.
The career I had in the entertainment industry was clearly fueled by my mother as this is what she wanted to do and her parents wouldn’t let her. I became a technical theatre major in college and put myself through my last two years of college as a stagehand. Dr. Albert Wehlburg, the head of the tech department, encouraged me and made me…a girl…(gasp) the head of the scene shop.
My first job out of college with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts was working as a make-up and wardrobe assistant on the 1979–1982 KISS tour and I was noticed by their tour producer, Bill McManus who was impressed I was climbing forty feet up the truss to hang lights by myself instead of drinking beer with the boys. The famous rock star of KISS, Gene Simmons, a teetotaler, hired me and became another mentor who began as a tormentor. I always said having four rock stars as bosses was a piece of cake compared to my demanding family. Gene heard me sing and heard songs I wrote in the dressing room and helped me get to Nashville where I fit in much better and then I became a professional actor and singer/songwriter there.
I was thrust back into graduate school at age forty-five because I was writing at Warner Chappell and they merged with AOL and I knowing our contract wouldn’t be renewed, I had to reinvent. Psychology seemed the easiest route because I had learned much from my father’s mentoring in psychiatry. However, he was angry I didn’t go to medical school, so I told no one I was in graduate school until long after the diploma was in my hand. So, in this case, a last mentor was a merger which created an emergency where I emerged as a therapist.
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?
That would be Ann Hughes as I mentioned above. If she didn’t give me the gift of therapy, I would not have known the value of it and would have missed my calling when I left the music business. Looking back, all my songs, secular and gospel were about getting people in touch with their feelings and being true to themselves. That’s the golden thread woven through what seems to be career changes but they were transitions and not changes. We stayed very close until her passing three years ago. I dedicated my new book on codependency to her.
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?
When in graduate school, about to embark on an internship at a drug and alcohol rehab, a supervising professor called me up to her desk after class, much like the English teacher did many years prior.
She said, “You’re severely codependent.”
I refuted, “No, I’m not. I’m just nice.”
She admonished, “You’ll get eaten up alive in rehab if you don’t get a grip on it and it’s my job to teach you!”
She later told me she was the child of an alcoholic and she worked in a rehab and helped me become less codependent through her wisdom. Because of her helping me so passionately from a place of understanding, I made it my passion to pay it forward, got more help in this area and now write books and E Courses about it. My mess became my message.
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 book that had the most impact on me was “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White. It is about King Arthur and his round table. Arthur was an overlooked child who was destined to become king but was reluctant to lead. At his multicultural think tank, no one sat at the head of the table because there wasn’t one. He also talked about using “Might FOR right” not might is right. I wrote my first song at twelve about this concept. At the end of the book the old king laments while looking at the birds in the sky. He wished we didn’t need borders and could fly over them as the birds do and be as free as they are. It is altruistic but also realistic and overall an optimistic legacy. I related to every character in the book because though flawed, they were purposeful and powerful mythical figures. It is much like the Joseph Campbell model of the reluctant hero and the journey to learn life lessons and pass them on to others, equally as examples and caveats and encouragement.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
You can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it. Albert Einstein
I am a solution-focused therapist so this resonates because you can’t solve hate with hate, hurt for hurt or vengeance for offense. That brings me to another quote I love which is, “Living well is the best revenge”. Don’t get back at people, get happy and live a wonderful life detached from those who hurt you! The people who hurt you are seldom the ones who can repay you.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
This year, HCI is releasing my new book titled Codependency 2.0 Discovery and Recovery: How to Say No to Others and Yes to Yourself.
I am in the process of producing podcasts, videos and when the vaccine is here to make live appearances on this subject of codependency as well.
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. Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
I love guided meditations and creative visualizations in addition to silence and stillness I nature. All of them unlock the brain and set wheels of ideas into motion which I can act upon and it is simultaneously relaxing and energizing.
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.
- Walking in nature or any form of exercise you enjoy: It releases endorphins and if you don’t enjoy exercise, most people enjoy music. I encourage clients to walk to only three to five of their favorite songs. In doing so they have spent close to a half hour exercising. Time goes by faster and the music releases endorphins and feel-good chemicals, too.
- Sleeping well: You can’t run on the fumes of toxic exhaustion or the fuel of caffeine. Good sleep keeps you motivated and thinking well and feeling well enough to exercise. A good balance of exercise and rest is crucial to well-being.
- Vagus Nerve health: There is a little known physiologic reactivity always going on in our bodies, run by our limbic system (the autonomic nervous system) that “communicates” with our parasympathetic nervous system which is the vagus nerve. It comes out of the brain stem into the forehead and runs down the body to every vital organ. When we go into fight/flight or frozen reactivity the vagus nerve involuntarily reacts. For example, the same nervous system that takes your breath away when you see the Grand Canyon is the same one that makes it impossible to breathe when you have a panic attack. One is connected to a positive emotion and one is to a negative one, but the vagus nerve reaction is the same. I encourage codependent clients to pay attention to their vagus nerve because the physiological reactivity is what causes them to say yes when they mean to say no. It is a conditioned response but can be regulated. I made a video for this for codependency and it works well in anxious moments and is very simple and fast.
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?
Yes, is difficult to put into practice and the main blockage is rooted in neuroscience as food is one of the quickest ways to get feel good chemicals, particularly the “comfort foods” of carbs. My heritage is Mediterranean and every culture has a comfort food so heritage also can be a block.
Changing how you think helps. I have decided to never say “I need to lose twenty pounds” again. Instead, I say, “I need to gain twenty years of better health”. The former statement is punitive and the latter helps me to tell myself to love myself enough to reward myself with good choices. It’s a work in progress and all can do it.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Silence and listening to yourself: Silent and listen have the same letters. When you listen to yourself in quiet and solitude, it reduces, people pleasing, approval and advice seeking behaviors. It helps you be true to you without judgment or input from others. The best decisions I ever made and you will ever make that are authentically true for you are done without asking others what they think. This can be expedited with meditation but isn’t necessary. The best ideas come to people doing mundane mindless tasks such as showering or driving. The brain is never idle and will help you listen to yourself when external chatter is reduced. This also helps reduce vagus nerve knee-jerk reactivity.
- Financial life in order: Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy peace of mind. Most people negate the affect finances have on their emotional life. If you live in lack, anxiety and depression usually exacerbates and you can’t enjoy the quality of life you may need to find good medical care or have extra for recreational activities. Many people remain in toxic relationships solely due to financial lack. This is a huge part of codependent recovery as well. Financial independence and security allow you to have more choices if you wish to exit unhealthy relationships or explore finding new ones with travel or things you enjoy that cost money.
- Good social life: Be with people who make you feel good about yourself and do likewise for them. Good social connections are imperative to mental and physical health. Harvard did a longitudinal study and found in over 75 years that loneliness is dangerous and can be more harmful than drinking or smoking. Lonely people die sooner than their socialized peers. I wrote an E Course for DailyOm.com titled “How to Overcome Loneliness” and it was written during the pandemic when I was in quarantine and feeling loneliness too. Connectedness is happiness even if it is one phone call or a handwritten letter. Connect and you will be rejection proof. Also, one last thing…don’t underestimate how huge, small talk can be. It is how we make acquaintances and every friend, spouse and partner began as an acquaintance. We are hard wired for relationships and taking small steps to engage with others every day will help you feel emotionally protected and resilient.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Sincerely smiling releases endorphins and dopamine and lots of feel good chemicals and it also helps others to realize you are friendly and safe. A smile is a primitive brain response to show ourselves friendly and approachable and keeps us connected to others. We are wired to be social and a smile is the catapult for connection. Oddly, when you smile while you are singing it also helps you stay in better pitch. This was always a marvel to me onstage. Smiling enhanced me vocally while simultaneously connecting me to an audience socially and spiritually.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Think about what you’re thinking about! This is very important as your thoughts are what you become. This is a concept in nearly every faith and philosophy. What we think is what we act on and what we become. When we focus on loving, buoyant thoughts about people, places and things instead of negative things, our neural pathways shift and lift from anxiety to peace. Self-limiting beliefs dissipate into limitless possibilities when we trust in a creative loving guidance bigger than ourselves or our circumstances. If you are more about science and don’t believe in the Divine, then knowing empirically proven, psychological principles of self-fulfilling prophecies and cognitive behavioral therapy are the same as the spiritual principle of what you think, you become.
- Connect to a Creative Source: Some laugh at this but where do ideas and inventions come from if not gathered from outside of ourselves? Inspiration is from the Spirt to your spirit, whatever that may mean to you. Carl Jung talked about individuation and each person’s spiritual path is sacred to them and you follow your path instead of one laid out for you by doctrine or dogma.
- Be with others who share your beliefs: It is energizing and creates synergistic connectivity from a place of honoring spiritual connection. When I am with others who believe in similar things the energy and intention shifts, from feeling guarded to feeling completely protected by others who respect beliefs and don’t criticize. It is a sanctuary of connectedness without offense or defense.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
The metaphors of nature are endless. One of my favorites is heliotropism. This is a plant’s way of seeking the light. If you turn a plant toward the light the leaves all reach for it even though we can’t see it. If a plant is intelligent enough to do this, we need to learn from this.
Nature nurtures us; body, mind and spirit. I have been skydiving and SCUBA diving, hiking and skiing. They all connect us with nature. The sights we see underwater are just as awe inspiring as jumping out of plane and feeling the wind envelope you like water. We are all connected on this planet.
When pushing past the pain of my sibling’s horrific and untimely death, I went to Sedona, Arizona and hiked for miles every day for a month in solitude and silence on red rock trails. One day I got lost…very lost…and saw a rusty post that said, “Wilderness Boundary”. I was terrified because the sun was going down and I had no water. I cried then prayed, “Can I please just be over all this grief now?” Within a minute or two I heard horse hoofs clopping unsteadily. I followed the sound and there was a very gruff woman rider. I told her I was lost and she said, “Follow the horseshit”. In that moment in time, I realized manure is nature’s fertilizer and we can choose to stay stuck in the muck or bloom where we are planted. Even if we feel lost, we can grow onward and upward from our less than ideal life events. Nature is the only place a human can listen to themselves uninterrupted or unthwarted by the interference of others.
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.
I would help women and children of the world, especially trafficked ones. Women and children are victims of genocide, gendercide and unspeakable abuse. Because we don’t speak about this global crisis, there is little hope for the voiceless and helpless. I would love to inspire others and expose the need of those silenced by bullies and murderers. Parents are sometimes forced to sell their daughters or worse because they can’t afford to keep them or it is against the law to have more than one child. Girl children are the most at risk. Women and children are people too, and there is nothing domestic about violence and it is another form of trafficking. We need to take the word “domestic” out of violence and treat these offenders as we would anyone who committed violence of any kind. Make the World Safe!
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 🙂
I have met many show business celebrities, but a purely business personality I would most like to sit with is Sir Richard Branson. What I admire the most about Sir Richard is that he runs an empire from a tiny island in the Caribbean, not too far from where I live in Florida. He seems to be an ambivert, (also like me) but more importantly, he invites think tanks of the world’s greatest thinkers and leaders to his island to solve world problems. I love this. It’s like King Arthur’s round table only it isn’t mythical but it is magical and is a highly productive and philanthropic endeavor. His business acumen, love of music and the sea along with his desire to create a better, cleaner and more peaceful planet are renaissance skills I admire and aspire to and would love to be at one of his think tanks and meet his wife as she isn’t in the limelight much, but I bet she shines in ways that I’d love to hear about from her perspective. I adore cultural exchanges and traveling and have done this on a much smaller scale but would love to be part of a relevant discussion on the tiny island where I would feel at home and a peace near the beach while making a global difference joining synergistically with others. He has done so much for so many and set me free about my dyslexia, too as he is open about it but most dyslexics are creative and I would agree wholeheartedly as they have to look at things differently to succeed.
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.