Natalie Hardie of NH Neuro Training: “Regular exercise can help to support your cardiovascular health”

Optimum mental wellness does not infer the absence of negative thoughts or undesirable feelings; it refers to experiencing adversity but being able to understand, manage and challenge your thoughts and feelings, in order to cope with the stresses of life with confidence and happiness. Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are […]

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Optimum mental wellness does not infer the absence of negative thoughts or undesirable feelings; it refers to experiencing adversity but being able to understand, manage and challenge your thoughts and feelings, in order to cope with the stresses of life with confidence and happiness.

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 interviewingNatalie Hardie.

Natalie Hardie is an award winning holistic mental health practitioner, an influential leader within the alternative education sector and director of NH Neuro Training.

NH Neuro Training is an organization which specializes in consultancy and training on the neural and cognitive mechanisms which underlie behaviour.

Natalie is a Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor who has trained education professionals, NHS staff and UK Cabinet members in all aspects of mental health and factors that can affect wellbeing.

Natalie is renowned for her eloquent style of creative non-fiction writing on neuroscience and mental health and has been featured in health and wellbeing publications.

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?

I grew up in Shepherds Bush, an area in West London within a very close knit family who provided a solid framework of morals, values and integrity. My family always promoted the importance of education.

I loved reading as a child! But not fictional stories, I enjoyed immersing myself into non-fiction literature. Anything scientific and technical allowing me to understand the intricate functioning of systems kept me fascinated.

As a child my Dad gave me a book from the series how my body works, and I was hooked! My love of the human brain was inaugurated from here onward!

In school I excelled academically and was always determined to be a high achiever. I went on to formally study Psychology, English Literature and Science.

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

Despite having studied mental health; my true calling came when I was due to attend a hospital appointment.

I got out of the elevator onto the incorrect floor, onto what I now know is the acute inpatient ward.

I remember my brain being engulfed with numerous questions about mental health and the possible imbalances within the intricacies of the human brain.

One question specifically being — what triggers the transition from mental wellness to mental illness? I was genuinely fascinated and my inquisitive journey into mental health was well and truly on its way.

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?

I grew up with an amazing support network within my family.

The women in my life were both hardworking and focused.

My grandmother, my mother and my aunt Patricia have all been monumental in encouraging me in all my business endeavors.

They assisted in molding me into who I am today, instilling the concept of working hard and not being afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

They constantly elevated me, expelling my self- doubt by reaffirming my strengths and limitless capabilities.

Never underestimate the power of words, the words of my mother and grandmother literally spoke blessings into my life which has made me the woman I am today.

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?

To be honest it would have to be about the assumptions people make due to their unconscious bias. After a year or so of anonymity on my social media accounts; someone booked onto a mental health first aid course with me and arrived astonished that I was a woman; they said that they expected to see a male professor! I took it humorously, however it highlights gender bias and assumed inequalities in the profession.

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?

There are so many inspiring books, however one which impacted me is: Strangers to Ourselves by Timothy D Wilson.

This book made a significant impact on me as it offers a compelling tour of the unconscious mind; it unravels its power and sophisticated mental processes; at the same time in which we are consciously thinking of something else!

This book resonated with me as it offered hope and encouragement.

If you desire to change an aspect of your adaptive unconscious, you can do so by making intentional changes; deliberately conducting yourself like the person you want to be.

The evidence presented in this book challenged both my self-perception and my introspection. The choices we think are primarily driven by our rational mind are actually underpinned by a vast amount of activity below the surface of our conscious mind.

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

I have always particularly liked “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending”.

The optimism of these words offers a clear sense of hope. It reminds us that no matter what happens; we must take charge of our present and our future.

The past is out of our control, but the present and the future are within our control. Therefore, success, happiness, achievement and emotional healing are ours to embrace.

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

I’m currently working on research into youth mental health and school exclusions. As school exclusions continue to soar — young people with mental health difficulties are more likely to be excluded. Prompt access to effective early intervention for young people experiencing poor mental health may improve both their mental health and access to education whilst avoiding the negative trajectory that accompanies school exclusions.

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.

Mental wellness arises from understanding and accepting your own abilities, feeling balanced, connected with others and being able to cope with the challenges of life.

Optimum mental wellness does not infer the absence of negative thoughts or undesirable feelings; it refers to experiencing adversity but being able to understand, manage and challenge your thoughts and feelings, in order to cope with the stresses of life with confidence and happiness.

Creating good nutritional habits such as incorporating whole foods, probiotics and super greens into your diet can lead to optimum wellness.

The nutrients in whole foods help to support our brain functioning including our moods, cognition and concentration. Nutrients provide the brain with the required chemical building blocks which are essential to support the synthesis, transportation and degradation of neurotransmitters. Our neurotransmitters influence our mental wellness.

Food is fuel for the body and good nutritional choices can help to support mental wellness.

Ensuring that you are getting adequate quality sleep each night will assist in leading to optimum mental wellness. Sleep helps us to recover from both mental and physical exhaustion. Adequate sleep helps us to focus and cognitively perform at our best.

Lack of sleep can impair the communication between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex in the brain; which is involved in emotional regulation. This can lead to irritability and heightened emotional reactivity. It is advisable to get 8 to 9 hours each night for optimal mental wellness.

Adopting mindfulness can help to achieve mental wellness. Mindfulness requires you to be in the present and focus, eliminating all distractions to clear your mind. Being aware of your thoughts, emotions, feelings and bodily sensations will lead to optimum mental 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 enjoy sessions of Power Yoga; it is fitness based which makes me feel like I have completed a whole body workout — strengthening my muscles and increasing flexibility.

Yoga is beneficial as it focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing in order to improve physical and mental wellness.

The practice of yoga helps to improve emotional regulation including reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

Breathing techniques in yoga can assist with stress reduction by lengthening your exhalation relative to your inhalation.

By becoming conscious of your breathing; you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system has a calming effect on the body; when stimulated, muscles become less tense and heart rate and blood pressure is lowered resulting in mental and physical wellness.

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.

Habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness include exercise, staying hydrated and positive thinking.

Exercise helps to increase cerebral blood flow which exposes your brain to more oxygen and nutrients which is needed for optimum physical wellness.

Regular exercise can help to support your cardiovascular health.

Exercise also helps your sympathetic nervous system to be less reactive by regulating your heart and blood pressure.

Regular cardio exercise can support your heart health leading to optimum physical wellness. Aerobic exercise utilizes repetitive contractions of muscles which causes your heart to beat faster, this can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol whilst strengthening your heart and blood vessels.

Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins; which help to relieve pain and improve the quality of our sleep. Exercise can also help to reduce your stress levels; regular exercise and elevated endorphin concentrations help to balance your body’s level of stress hormones such as cortisol.

Approximately 60% of our body is made up of water and the brain consists of approximately 75% water. Therefore ensuring you are adequately hydrated is paramount for physical wellness.
Drinking water increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain which maintains optimal functioning; including improved concentration, cognition and alertness.

Water delivers oxygen throughout the body and helps maintain the balance of body fluids. This includes digestion, circulation, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature which are all crucial physical wellness.

Choosing positive thoughts has a remarkable impact on your physical wellness.

Your thoughts will ultimately affect your body and your healing.

Repeated and directed attention to positive thoughts can effectively rewire your brain, whilst stimulating and strengthening areas that release feel good neurotransmitters.

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?

I am an advocate for nutritional healing.

If we do not make healthy eating a lifestyle habit as opposed to a quick fix diet; we will not reap the benefits. However, it can be challenging as unhealthy food choices are readily available, which often makes it difficult to disengage with undesirable eating habits — such as over consuming unhealthy foods, under eating, overeating and emotional eating.

One of the main blockages preventing us from integrating the correct changes into our lives is because we are often subconsciously programmed by our habits.

Creating change takes time and intentional conscious effort. Your brain has to override default wiring in order to implement a new habit; so it is easier to replace a habit rather than attempting to eliminate an old habit.

Intense emotional experiences can also serve as blockages to making better decisions. Your brain associates previous memories and emotions with current situations; however misleading perceptions of experiences can influence our thinking.

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

Processing your emotions is crucial to emotional wellness.

Emotions need to be expressed to be processed. Taking time to explore our emotions, why we react in certain ways, acknowledging and exploring our triggers will lead to emotional wellness.

An important part of emotional wellness is the ability to learn and grow from experiences.

Daily journaling can be an advantageous habit to adopt. Journaling can help to understand and process emotions whilst recognizing and tracking triggers.

Journaling can help to reduce stress and anxiety whilst providing an opportunity for positive self talk. Including three things you are grateful for each day can help to improve your emotional wellness.

Ensuring you have a supportive network will help to enhance emotional wellness.

The quality of your connections are important; spending time conversing with others who will support, encourage and uplift you will help to lead to optimum emotional wellness.

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

Smiling helps us to communicate without needing to say a word.

The act of smiling activates neural pathways that benefit and improve emotional wellness; as it increases the level of mood enhancing hormones like serotonin and endorphins.

Smiling is powerful because it is contagious.

When others smile at us it stimulates our mirror neurons; initiating a cascade of neural activity which evokes us to smile back. 
Our mirror neurons allow us to create a symbiotic exchange, which results in both parties activating their reward system and releasing feel good chemicals.

Smiling can also help to reduce blood pressure and levels of stress hormones like cortisol which is paramount for emotional wellness.

Smile as often as you can!

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

Spiritual wellness helps you to find meaning and purpose in life; creating harmony with yourself and the external world.

Habits which can lead to spiritual wellness include self exploration, meditation and journaling.

By exploring your inner self you take intentional time to be curious.

Think about who you truly are, your purpose, which life events have impacted you, as well as your values and intentions.

By meditating you help to calm your mind of all distractions and focus on the present. Meditation can lead to spiritual wellness as it assists with altering consciousness and ultimately

achieving peace.

Journaling can be a great way to cultivate spiritual wellness as it provides an opportunity to reflect and think deeply about who you are and what affects you. Journaling will help you to manifest what you truly desire. Spiritual journaling requires you to be open, honest and transparent with yourself; this is the only way to make meaningful and optimum change.

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

Spending time in nature can help to cultivate a state of holistic balance and spiritual wellness.

The elements in nature also resides within us, the oxygen we breathe works simultaneously with trees.

We are comprised of remnants of stardust, connecting us to the universe.

Spending time star or cloud gazing can be a great source of meditation as it strengthens our spiritual connection to nature.

Your body absorbs minerals from the Earth, so spending time in nature barefoot with the use of grounding can help to reap the healing benefits of negative ions from nature.

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 love to inspire a movement where we focused on nutritional healing. Enhancing our cognitive abilities by consuming whole foods designed to support our brain functions and wellbeing. We are comprised of elements; remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies. Eating foods which support and enhance these elements would help us to function at our most powerful 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 🙂

Top of my list would have to be Michelle Obama, she is a true modern day revolutionary woman who takes practical steps to make social changes for causes close to her heart. I would love to enjoy some breakfast whilst discussing her reach higher initiative.

I would also squeeze in some lunch with Dr Joe Dispenza, his passion for epigenetics and neuroscience is quite phenomenal!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on all social platforms: @nhneurotraining

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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