Mental Health//

Why Jillian Michaels Has Been Flexing Her Meditation Muscle

The fitness guru used to think “doing nothing” was a waste of time — until she experienced the power of stillness.

Don Flood
Don Flood

Welcome to Thriving Mind, a resource to help you understand your individual signs of stress, take small steps to recharge, and unlock better mental health.

Jillian Michaels, the fitness guru who helped transform people’s bodies — and lives — through TV, her My Fitness app, and books — knows the running-on-a-treadmill feeling well. You know, the one where you’re exerting a lot of energy but not quite sure if you’re going anywhere.

“There is no question that juggling work, life, and kids, can be extremely stressful,” Michaels, a mother of two, tells Thrive. “Not so long ago, I felt I needed about 10 more hours in a day just to make a dent in what I needed to accomplish. It started feeling like a literal weight on my shoulders.” It was while she was doing research for her latest book, The 6 Keys: Unlock Your Genetic Potential for Ageless Strength, Health, and Beauty, that she “realized how truly deleterious stress is to our physical health, as well as our emotional well-being.” 

Before we can fully cope with our stress, we need to develop awareness of what our stressors are in the first place — and actionable steps that support our mental well-being. A new Thrive Global survey of over 2,000 Americans ages 18 to 85 shows just how desperately people want and need that knowledge: 91% of respondents said not knowing or ignoring their personal signs of overstress had a negative impact on their mental well-being, 72% wish they knew more small everyday steps to improve their mental health, and nearly half said when it comes to managing their stress, they don’t know where to start. Because there is power in sharing our stories, Michaels is opening up about her own stressors, her signs of overstress, and the small, everyday steps she takes to take care of her mental well-being.

Thrive Global: What are some of the stressors in your life?

Jillian Michaels: Gosh, so many things cause me stress. There’s work — all day long — and family dynamics are also hard. I think so many of us feel that the weight of the world is on our shoulders. We feel that if we fail, we take everyone who is depending on us down with us. 

TG: What signs tell you that you’re dealing with too much? 

JM: When I’m dealing with too much, I get physical feelings of anxiety when I try to sleep. I’m super forgetful when I’m overwhelmed. I’m also more susceptible to getting sick, and my sex drive is down. 

TG: What are the steps you take to recharge and practice self-care?

JM: I always hang out with friends and my kids. They force me to be present, give me purpose, and make me feel loving and loved. I work out and eat clean — it’s helpful for me to control what I can when I feel out of control. I also volunteer. I’ve been working a lot with the United Nations Refugee Agency, and it helps me feel less helpless when I’m involved and I’m taking steps to try and make the world a tiny bit better.

The last thing is meditation. I had always completely dismissed meditation, feeling like the number of things I could get done in the time “wasted” meditating were greater than the benefits of taking a break to “do nothing.” Then I saw the overwhelming evidence for how meditation (and the other activities I enjoy, like socializing and volunteering), can truly improve your physical health and your state of mind. So I committed to making meditation a part of my daily routine. It’s a game-changer! It has become an irreplaceable part of my daily schedule, and I’m even adding meditations to my app because I appreciate first-hand how significant the benefits are. 

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

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