Mindfulness — realizing that mindfulness and meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting and doing nothing for hours, but that it helps to meditate on the go i.e. when I become aware that I am getting lost in thought and following anxiety down the rabbit hole, disengaging by focusing on the breath. Also brining more awareness to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking etc., and channeling this energy into something else.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nia Davies. Nia is a wellness writer and entrepreneur at niafaraway.com. She studied Medical Science at Imperial College London and launched sustainable CBD brand Yūgenial last summer. She also works with The Third Wave promoting Psychedelic Science, and X+Why a purpose-driven workspace for startups that understand that business should be a force for good.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I initially enrolled to study medicine, but after a few years struggled to know if it was what I really wanted, and was failing to manage my mental health. After going through a pretty taxing burn out in which I was advised to take a year out during my finals, I discovered that I was passionate about holistic wellness, business, writing, communicating, and the emerging science behind cannabis and psychedelics. Yūgenial CBD launched in summer 2019 and seeks to inform, whilst challenging perceptions around plant medicines, drug policy and integrative health.
Can you share an interesting story that’s happened since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Yes, I once accidentally fumbled my way into an interview with the ex-prime minister of Israel — a controversial figure who has just launched his own medical cannabis supply chain. I was at an expo with a writers pass from my blog, and they didn’t tell us he would be there, only that we had the opportunity to speak with someone from the board.
I hastily wrote some questions during a very vigorous security check that told me this was going to be slightly more serious than the casual breakfast chat I had imagined. But it was my introduction to how deeply political the industry and the war on drugs still is, and that there’s always a benefit to being curious, consistently seeking transparency and asking questions.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the biggest mistakes was failing to correctly budget and plan. It was difficult because I partnered with an angel investor that wanted to work on an installment basis without a set figure in mind, and instead of a lump sum, this made it difficult for us to do much long-term financial planning and eventually we had to pivot. We also learned a lot about the demands of private manufacturers and how tricky it can be to get actual quotes and minimum order quantities from them, from the outset.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I was at university, I was constantly going to events like Tablecrowd and trying to get out of my bubble and meet people in different industries and of different age ranges. I met a real variety of characters that I still speak to to this day and they’ve helped with everything from advice to work experience, housing and funding. I am eternally grateful and whilst business has a reputation for bringing out some of the worst aspects of society, I witnessed a great amount of generosity, desire to help and to make change, compassion and open mindedness.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Cannabis is a complex industry with the potential to usher in new paradigms in healthcare. The Endocannabinoid system still isn’t taught in medical schools, even though this system underpins and affects almost every other system in the body. We have many outdated structures, stigmas and perceptions that are holding us back when it comes to education, research and use.
Using CBD has changed my life, along with other on-going holistic lifestyle interventions and changes, it’s helped me recover from some of the effects of chronic stress and burn out, and I also had my first natural period in around a decade just a couple of months after smoking the buds (moderate use and tobacco and nicotine-free rolls).
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
The things that have helped me:
1) Mindfulness — realizing that mindfulness and meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting and doing nothing for hours, but that it helps to meditate on the go i.e. when I become aware that I am getting lost in thought and following anxiety down the rabbit hole, disengaging by focusing on the breath. Also brining more awareness to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking etc., and channeling this energy into something else.
2) Journaling — writing down 3 things I’m grateful for in my Gratitude app every morning, and journaling away some of the overthinking, so I can form a more coherent picture and thought process.
3) Parasympathetic Activation — yoga, vibration, breathwork and permission to take time out. I love exercise like running, but it’s important to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system too, through practices like yoga, breathwork and anything that makes the Vagus nerve vibrate (I recently got a sensate device which is great but chanting and humming also work). Permission to take time out and not always be having to ‘do something’ is a mindset I try and adopt more often.
4) Supplementation — my diet isn’t always as healthy as it could be, but I try as much as possible to stick to the 80:20 rule, and take supplements such as Turmeric, CBD and Fish oils. I also like Aime Supplements, which are natural and based on clean science.
5) Affirmations — I know a lot of these increasingly popular woo-woo practices get a lot of stick but I do enjoy some of them and you just have to find what works for you! I like the ‘I am’ affirmations app because they’re just little reminders throughout the day: to accept yourself, not take everything so seriously, that its ok not to be perfect, and to keep trying and enjoy the challenges.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Legalisation of cannabis and psychedelic medicine, along with education around responsible and informed use.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1) Everyone else shares the same human fears and insecurities, and they never really go away no matter your title or experience
2) Embrace challenge and difficulty more, because it’s far more rewarding and fulfilling. Enjoy the process not just the outcome
3) Balancing direct and emergent opportunities requires staying open minded and flexible
4) Appreciate the failures as well as successes, because that’s how we learn and grow
5) Have more confidence in yourself and don’t always assume other people must know better
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health, because I think if we tackle that, then the other compassionate causes may naturally follow. Mental health is invisible but it affects every one of us, and dictates so much of how we live our lives.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@niafaraway and @yugenial
Thank you for these fantastic insights!