Find purpose in your work — Because we spend about half of our waking day working, in order to live a spiritually connected life, it’s important to find purpose in our work. The obvious way to do this is by pursuing a career that directly contributes to your life purpose. Those of us in this group are incredibly lucky! But this isn’t possible for everyone to do all the time. But no matter what, you can choose to acknowledge the powerful and subtle positive influences that your work has on you, your family and your community.
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 Natalie Moore, LMFT.
Natalie Moore is a licensed therapist, content creator and expert speaker based in Los Angeles. She helps ambitious, creative millennials increase their emotional resiliency and transform limiting patterns to create the life, love and career of their dreams. Natalie incorporates holistic modalities like mindfulness, somatic psychology, breathwork and manifestation into her therapy work to support the natural healing process. She offers her services via secure telehealth to California resident adults.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/0c6e7d9d94578d110aee165eaf150c80
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?
As a child, I was always asking “why?” Anytime something intrigued or perplexed me, I would ask my parents why something was the way it was…often to the point of my dad imposing what he would call a “question moratorium,” doubtless because he was exhausted from the constant questioning. As I grew up, this curiosity extended to human behavior. I sought to understand why people behaved in the strange, irrational and sometimes hurtful, ways they did. I wanted to know why there was so much divorce, addiction, displacement and mental illness in my own family. I wanted to understand my own feelings and my reactions to the situations around me.
This is where psychology came in. From a young age, I knew I wanted to do something that helped people — maybe be a teacher or a scientist. But it wasn’t until I opened an Intro to Psychology book at 16 that it hit me. There is a field of study dedicated to studying human thoughts, emotions, behavior and relationships. Further, there is a field of practice that helps people transform them for the better. My life was changed and I knew what my passion was. I needed to learn everything I possibly could to not only help and heal myself, but also help and heal others.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I don’t think anyone really pursues a career as a healer, I think it pursues you! When you have a calling to help others, your life reveals this purpose to you and provides you all the experiences you need to develop your skills. I pulled inspiration from a number of places.
Teachers were early role models for me, as they were infinitely patient, present and attentive.
My own family dynamic was grist for the mill. I took the job as peacemaker early on — a role that when unhealthy can hinder you as a healer, but when harnessed consciously, is an invaluable asset.
As early as middle school, I attracted friends who needed lots of emotional support, due to having less-than-optimal family lives. This was my first unofficial training as a therapist — listening, empathizing and providing feedback and encouragement.
In high school, my father made a career change to become a therapist, and we would have in-depth conversations about our own family system and how it developed that way. This further fueled my curiosity.
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?
Every week for 50 minutes I would sit on the brown, saggy couch in Chris’ office. This is where I would have my weekly cry session. I would reflect on the successes and failures in my life and work as a therapy intern gaining my clinical hours of experience. Chris would sit there with a soft face, just allowing me to talk, cry, close my eyes, breathe deeply or whatever I needed to do to release my thoughts and emotions. I’d share all the things I had said and done in my sessions that week and all the things I wish I’d said and done instead.
There was no judgment, no urgency, no need to fix anything or get it right. There was just space to be, explore, move about or just be still. This is where I was given permission to make therapy an art. Something I shouldn’t seek to emulate, but something I needed to create myself. School, trainings, books and experience give therapists the foundation and the tools to pull from, but to be effective, one has to develop their own style of relating and healing that is aligned with and unique to them. With Chris’ support and guidance, I was able to embrace my unique gifts and show up more fully and authentically in my work.
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 I was in counseling in my early 20s, my therapist used to invoke a story that when she conducted her very first therapy session, that she sat in the wrong chair, and that her client pointed out “I think I’m supposed to sit there.” It was her way of reminding me that mistakes are not some terrible thing to be avoided, but that they are inevitable and teach us to not take ourselves too seriously.
A year or so later, after I completed one of the first therapy sessions of my career, I began wondering why the room had been set up backwards. The therapist clock was turned toward the client, the tissue was on my side of the room…and then I realized…I sat in the client seat the whole time! I had a little laugh to myself and remembered that I’m only human.
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?
Easy. “The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabrielle Bernstein completely shifted my worldview. While reading her book, I felt immensely safe and supported, empowered, excited and inspired on a level I had never experienced before. Even though I was a therapist and had already been on the path of personal development for several years, this book provided the missing pieces of wisdom and guidance I didn’t even know I was looking for.
I started to see everything in my life through a different lens. Instead of seeing difficult situations as bad luck or a huge inconvenience, I started asking myself how I may have unconsciously attracted this experience into my life and what lesson I needed to learn from it to no longer attract it. I started seeing everything in my life as 100% my responsibility, not from a place of blame or shame, but from a place of ultimate empowerment. If I created it, then I could create something better.
Her teachings inspired me to deepen my own spiritual practice and inquiry as well as integrate spirituality even more into my psychotherapy work with clients who were drawn to it.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard. But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.” -T. Harv Eker. If you take the easy route in any area of life, whether it be school, health, career, finances or relationships, you’re setting yourself up for fewer opportunities, poorer health, weaker relationships and overall hardship in life. Whereas when you take the more challenging route, you’re paving the path to have many more opportunities, greater health, stronger relationships and a more easeful life.
This concept resonates so much because it overrides our most primitive drive, which is to seek immediate pleasure and avoid pain, and speaks to a more evolved part of humans. The part that can envision a better future if one is willing to tolerate discomfort in the short term to achieve a desired goal in the end. So much of what I do as a therapist is help people develop greater emotional resiliency so that they can do what’s hard now (whether that be process a past trauma, have a difficult conversation with their partner or ask their boss for a raise) and experience greater ease later (peace of mind, authentic relationships and financial abundance.)
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I have been dreaming up an online year-long personal development course for quite some time now that’s in the outline phase. I’m taking all of what I’ve learned from 16 years of study and practice in psychology, counseling, holistic health and spirituality and distilling it down into the core teachings and practices that are most effective in helping people thrive in lives, careers and relationships. It will be composed of lessons, journaling prompts, guided meditation practices, group work and some individual intensive sessions to provide the needed support and guidance for immense personal growth and healing.
This course differs from therapy in that it provides more structure and self-study throughout the year. It differs from a self-help workbook in that it provides more accountability and individualized guidance. The course would be offered at various pricing tiers to make it more accessible to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford therapy. My ultimate goal is to demystify therapy, shake up how mental health services are disseminated to the public and empower people to take control of their own wellness.
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.
- Learn to meditate — I know you’ve heard it before, but meditation is my #1 go-to recommendation for clients who want to improve their mood, focus, memory or self-awareness. If formal seated meditation isn’t your thing, find ways to bring your attention into the present moment, even if for just a few minutes a day. This could be feeling the breeze on your skin as you take a walk, or noticing the sensation of hot water while you take a shower. Any task can become a mindful moment if you notice the 5 senses.
- Play games — Games are not just for kids! As we age, we tend to play less and become creatures of habit. Playing games keeps our minds sharp, allows an outlet for silliness and creativity and connects us to those we play with. Go ahead and dust off those old board games. Games are a cheap, easy and fun way to improve your mental health.
- Take media breaks — Our minds are overloaded with more information and stimulation on a daily basis than ever before and the technology that delivers it is designed to be addictive. Studies show that more time spent on social media is associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression. In order to buffer the negative effects of media exposure, one must adopt a conscious relationship to it, which means setting time boundaries for usage.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Have you ever sat down to meditate and felt like such a failure because you couldn’t turn your brain off? You set the timer to Zen out and suddenly everything on your to-do list pops into full focus? Or you’re so restless, you can’t get comfortable and still? Or you don’t even notice that you’ve spiraled into endless thinking until your meditation bell goes off and you realized you lost track of your breath ages ago? Or the very worst…meditating for 20–40 minutes and not feeling any better than when you went in? I’ve had all of these experiences and more.
But what if I told you there was an active breathing meditation that gave you the results you’re looking for — greater sense of calm, ease, clarity, connectedness, joy, release, freedom — every time? A technique that goes with instead of against your active mind? It’s called Breathwork and it’s a 3-part open-mouth breath that when done correctly helps you move through mental and emotional blocks that most meditation techniques don’t get to. Breathwork is the steel wool that cuts through the gunk holding you back. It’s been life-changing for me and I integrate this technique into my psychotherapy work with clients.
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.
- Nourish yourself — The wellness world talks a ton about what to eat and what not to eat. Sure, there are basic principles that we can follow to choose foods that are higher in nutrient-density, easier for the body to assimilate and will keep us fueled for longer. But far less often do we talk about the importance of our relationship to the food we’re eating. When talking about nutrition for optimal wellness, I recommend folks become less hyper-focused on metrics like calories or even macronutrients and become more acquainted with the process of sourcing, cooking and enjoying their food. When we do this, we’ll naturally make healthier choices without the feelings of restriction, deprivation, guilt or resistance.
- Move your body — We all know we need to exercise for optimal physical health, but there are many mental barriers that keep us from doing it as consistently as we want to. One of the barriers is even calling it exercise, which makes body movement sound like it needs to be done in a specific way, in a specific place for a specific amount of time. This is simply not true! Your body just needs to move to be healthy. This could be playing tag with your kids at the park, briskly taking the stairs instead of the elevator, doing calf raises while you wait in line at Starbucks…anything to get your heart rate up and to strengthen your muscles. If you want to integrate a more formal exercise routine, find something you enjoy doing, so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
- Sleep deeply — Good sleep (which consists of plenty of deep sleep and REM sleep) helps us consolidate new learning, maintain our mental health, regulate our metabolism and body weight, boost our immune system and reduce the risk for neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, and more. In order to get these benefits, we need good sleep hygiene — or the habits that promote good sleep. This includes having a consistent sleep schedule, getting 7–9 hours of sleep per night, dimming lights and electronics at sunset, limiting substances like alcohol, cannabis and caffeine, reducing overall stress, avoiding food 3 hours before sleeping and winding down from stimulating activities at least 1 hour before bed. Remember, you’re not perfect! But if you can commit to a few of these habits, you’re well on your way.
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?
- Emotional dysregulation — We often use food as a way of modulating our emotional and physical states. When we’re feeling sad, lethargic or even bored, we seek caffeine, sugar and simple carbs to stimulate us. When we’re feeling stressed or insecure we seek comfort foods for self-soothing. If we can attend to unpleasant emotions with healthier coping tools, like taking a brisk walk to lift our spirits or taking a few slow, deep breaths to reduce stress, then we don’t need to rely on foods for emotional regulation.
- Gut dysbiosis — So many people blame their poor dietary choices on lack of willpower, when in fact, the real issue may be lack of microbial diversity in the gut. Science has started to uncover that microbes have a significant impact on our taste receptors, our pleasure pathways and moods, our sense of hunger or fullness and thus, our eating behavior at large. Knowing this, we can reduce self-blame and focus on eating foods that will promote a diverse microbiome.
- Polarized thinking — A major deterrent to healthy eating is all-or-nothing thinking. Often when someone embarks on a diet they have grand plans about what they’ll eat and what they won’t. They’ll go all out for a couple of weeks and then as soon as they submit to the inevitable food craving, they feel like they’ve failed and then they give up on the diet altogether. A true lifestyle change toward healthy eating requires grayscale thinking, which involves understanding that no one will ever eat a “perfect” diet, but that one can continue to commit to a healthy eating practice, with the occasional indulgence.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Lean on social supports — We are social beings, wired to find safety and support in relationships with people we love and trust. Interestingly enough, though, a common response to feeling poorly is withdrawing from others, which ultimately makes us feel worse. When you’re having a tough time, as challenging as it can be reach out and ask for help, call a friend. Talk about what’s wrong. Let them provide the perspective and encouragement you need.
- Write out your thoughts and feelings — When we’re overwhelmed, our minds and bodies can feel like a whirlwind. It helps to take a moment to notice and write down your thoughts, emotions and body sensations. Simply putting your experience on paper can give you that needed space to start seeing your situation more objectively and identify next steps for moving forward.
- Practice self-compassion — We know we’re our own worst critics. But what can we do about it? Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism. All you have to do is imagine what a supportive friend might say to you, and say it to yourself. If you made a whopping error at work, you can mentally say to yourself “you did the best you could” or “you’ll learn and do better next time.” Simple, but powerful. Repeat as often as necessary! If you want to take this a step further, you can add in compassionate self-touch, which could be putting your hand to your heart, cupping your hands in your lap or crossing your arms over chest for a self-hug.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
I first learned about the power of smiling as a psychology undergrad when I read about the facial feedback hypothesis — first introduced by Darwin — which asserts that facial expressions not only convey our emotions, but also create them. This was famously tested in a study in which subjects either held a pencil between their teeth (to force a smile) or between their lips (to inhibit a smile) and were asked to rate how funny they thought certain cartoons were. The subjects with the forced smile rated the comics funnier than those whose smiles were inhibited, indicating that one’s facial expression changes their emotional experience.
So, knowing all this, should we just fake a smile all the time? Or put a pencil between our teeth? I wouldn’t recommend it. I prefer a visualization exercise to bring about the real thing. This is something I do often with my clients. You can do this while you’re reading this article. Think about a person, place, pet or thing that when you imagine it, you can’t help but smile. This could be your favorite place to visit (a beach, a lake, a mountaintop,) a person you love (your partner, your kiddo, your favorite grandparent) or maybe it’s your dog or your cat. Really put yourself in the scene. Now that’s a genuine smile!
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Commit to a spiritual practice — There are many paths to spiritual growth, but each requires commitment to ongoing practices that move you along that path. A spiritual practice is anything that connects you to something greater than yourself, promotes curious observation, contributes to your unique purpose and transforms your personal struggles into strength. Your spiritual practice is unique to you. It doesn’t have to be meditation or prayer, if that doesn’t resonate for you. You could develop a gratitude practice, spend more time in nature, practice nonjudgment, create art, be of service, be in silence, learn a martial art, chant or breathe deeply. Find what works for you.
- Seek guidance and community — No man is an island. In my own spiritual development, I’ve leaned on teachers, mentors, books, podcasts, meditation classes and workshops, spiritual centers, retreats, supportive friends and a supportive partner. Though no one can take your spiritual journey for you, others who are also on the path or further along can provide helpful wisdom and tools for your journey. Accept the support. There are no brownie points for a spiritual journey done solo!
- Find purpose in your work — Because we spend about half of our waking day working, in order to live a spiritually connected life, it’s important to find purpose in our work. The obvious way to do this is by pursuing a career that directly contributes to your life purpose. Those of us in this group are incredibly lucky! But this isn’t possible for everyone to do all the time. But no matter what, you can choose to acknowledge the powerful and subtle positive influences that your work has on you, your family and your community.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
In my mid-twenties I got out of an abusive relationship and had to start my life over again. Because I was so raw from my experience, I was more open to new things than I had been previously. One day, my stepdad asked if I wanted to join him and my mom on a hike and I agreed. They must’ve been shocked because I had never wanted to go hiking with them before! Being on the trail that day was so healing and felt so “right” that I had an immediate urge to set the goal to hike Mt. Whitney, which my mom and stepdad had summitted a few years prior.
From then on, the wheels were in motion. I started running multiple days a week and going on long training hikes on the weekends. I learned how to be an outdoorswoman. And yes, I did end up making it to highest point in the 48 contiguous states. Spending all that time in nature taught me so much. It taught me the importance of preparation, intuition and self-reliance. It encouraged me to connect to a childlike playfulness and wonder. It gave me opportunities to build strength and grit. And it required an understanding of and respect for the environment.
I credit the outdoors in helping me heal my wounds and connect to a part of me I didn’t know existed. When I felt anxious, the woods calmed me. When I felt unworthy, the trees didn’t judge. When I felt excited, the mountaintop was there to meet me. A big part of spiritual wellness is feeling connected to something greater than yourself. Being in nature gives you a sense of scale you wouldn’t otherwise have. When you’re freaking out about your deadline and you see a bird chirping away or a river flowing, it reminds you that the world is so much wider than your current perspective.
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.
In two words: intentional living. Most of our suffering comes from living on autopilot — repeating the same thoughts, emotions, beliefs and behaviors that don’t serve our highest good. The movement I’m inspiring through my work is one of empowering people to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and to make the necessary changes to have anything they want in life, love and work.
So, what does it take to live an intentional life? Daily practice. It takes challenging thoughts and beliefs that are unhelpful. It takes facing your difficult emotions and finding ways to move through them. It takes consistent action toward your goals, even in the face of uncertainty and inevitable failures. Simple, but not easy. I help clients break all of this down into more doable steps in our work together.
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 would absolutely love to have lunch with Lindsey Mango, a life and business coach. Her podcast Anything but Average has been a great source of inspiration to me in my personal and professional life. There are those people who when you’re listening to them speak, you feel like they’re reading your thoughts and talking directly to you. Lindsey does that. It would be such a blast to actually meet this person who has had such a positive impact on my life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website: https://www.awakentheself.com/
My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/awakentheself
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.