The practice of gratitude. Just this simple change in how you view your world really changes your perspective in so many areas of your life. By looking at all the events, situations, people, etc. that appear in your day from a perspective, of what gives you joy, makes you smile or somehow adds to your life, you will find your mind looking for more and more good things to be grateful for.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia O’Connor Heitz
Patricia is a Reiki Master, a Teacher of Mindfulness and Self-empowerment Coach as well as author of the book “Daydreams Come True” a workbook helping define your belief system and how to change your belief to support what you want instead of unconscious, self-sabotaging beliefs. She has spent the last 18 years studying the mind, body connection, its relationship to disease and how and why we sabotage ourselves. Since she was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2002, and through study, and awareness was able to discover her own self-sabotaging beliefs, and heal them, she has made this wellness work her passion.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
In 2002, I was diagnosed with Kidney Cancer. Since I had no symptoms, this came as a complete shock to me. Even more stunning, was that just 6 months prior to my diagnosis, my father-in-law had died from the very same disease. At the time, my children were young, and I kept thinking “I cannot die; I have young children” While I was home recuperating from having my kidney removed and waiting for biopsy results to see whether the cancer had spread outside the kidney, I read a book someone had given me: “You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay. When I read the question: “Why do you need to have this?” It was like a lightening bolt struck me! I knew instantly that the anger and negative energy I had been holding onto from a traumatic childhood had contributed to this cancer. This blew me away! I thought: “If I could create this disease from my anger, what could I do If I was happy and loved myself?” From that moment on, I had to learn everything I could about the mind, body connection and how to create wellness in your life and health.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
As I was finishing up writing my book: “Daydreams Come True”, I noticed a comment from a business colleague on Face Book that sounded very dire about where she was mentally. I messaged her and asked if she was ok. She told me she was not in a good place and was actually contemplating suicide. I asked her if she would mind working with me for 6 weeks to go through each of the 6 chapters of my book to see if we could change anything for the better in her life. She agreed. As we went through all the exercises in the book, I noticed a little more hope in her voice, and her comments and answers seemed to have more optimism in it. By the time we were finished, she realized what she had to do to break out of the fog of depression she had been in. About the same time, her daughter, whom she had not seen in some time, sent her tickets to come and visit. After that visit, she knew she was going to move to where her daughter and grandchildren were to start a new life. She now lives a fulfilling and very happy life and wrote a beautiful review for my book.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I can’t really think of anything humorous. Since the subject of wellness, mindfulness and healing is kind of a sober subject, I can’t really say anything humorous has occurred in my work. I’ve had lots of satisfaction, that has given me joy and made me smile, but nothing actually humorous.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
My unique contribution to the world of wellness is one of personal experience; of disease, self-sabotage, self-loathing and ultimately the healing of these. I have made my experience a study in wellness and have learned more than I could ever convey. I have studied every mind, body, wellness research, book, audio, and lecture I could find and feel like I have a library of information in my head that I am so excited to share with others for them to be able to learn and heal as I have. To this day, I either walk with an audio book, or read everyday on these subjects. It is my passion.
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?
I would have to say there has not been one person. I really wanted, and felt I needed, to find a person to help me on my journey, but I discovered on the way, in order for me to feel confident, strong and empowered, I needed to do this, without support. Much of this was due to my difficult relationship with my mother growing up, and the lessons I needed to learn. However, there have been many people who have popped up along the way, that have helped me when I was stuck, or have encouraged me to get to the next level.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep 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 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
3 Main Blockages:
- Our Belief about ourselves, which is usually not supportive of wellness
- Our lack of self-love to take better care of ourselves
- Our fear of breaking out of our comfort zone so as to learn and integrate new practices
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”?
The 5 Lifestyle Tweaks I think are the most dramatic to improve one’s Wellbeing are:
1.) Meditation/Mindful breathing: Meditation, for me, has been the single most improvement in my wellbeing. If you’re like me, at first, I thought: “This is only for people into yoga”, or “ this seems kind of woo-woo”, but I gave it a try. At first, it was difficult to calm my brain down from thinking/spinning, but I did what was recommended; I tried for just 10 minutes. In that 10 minutes, my goal was to not have any words or images run across my mind. I found for just 1 minute I could do it. The next day I set aside 10 minutes and had a goal of 2 minutes of nothingness and if/when my mind strayed, I just kept bringing it back to nothing. Eventually, practicing every day, I saw a big difference in my sense of calm, inner comfort, and letting go. My perspective started to change about how important I viewed things. Events or situations I thought were the end of the world, were brought into perspective, and I found them less deadly, until eventually, I found them just annoyances that I could let go of.
If you find yourself still resistant to meditation, a similar technique is mindful breathing. Following a guided prompt, you can learn to calm your mind through specific breathing techniques. These techniques will bring a similar sense of tranquility to your psyche and allow you to see things from a more placid point of view.
2.) The practice of gratitude. Just this simple change in how you view your world really changes your perspective in so many areas of your life. By looking at all the events, situations, people, etc. that appear in your day from a perspective, of what gives you joy, makes you smile or somehow adds to your life, you will find your mind looking for more and more good things to be grateful for. Examples such as: The person who lets you in a line of traffic, who holds the door for you, who sees you only have a few items in the grocery line and allows you ahead of them; the list can be endless. However, you have to really become mindful of finding these circumstances, especially if you are used to just getting annoyed at all the things that go wrong and then complaining about them. I start my day after my 10-minute meditation with thinking about all I have to be grateful for in my life that day: my family, my health, whatever joyful things I have to look forward to that day. It could be something simple like “I’m grateful I have a 20-minute commute so I can listen to my favorite music, or getting to meet with a new client/customer that day to create a long-lasting relationship/account, etc. You will find yourself picking up on elements of your day, you had never really paid attention to, but now that you bring them into focus, you realize give you joy.
3.) Mindfulness: Many think of mindfulness as part of meditation, which of course it is. However, applying “being mindful” during your day, is not just about breathing. Being mindful can make a big difference in how you act/react to people and circumstances. We all have had moments of tasting our foot in our mouth, or the feeling of “why did I say that” or worse “I wish I hadn’t lashed out like that”. By setting an intention of being mindful before you speak a thought, you can catch yourself before you say or do something you will regret. Simple things like being short with someone, or the feeling of frustration, when something doesn’t go your way or becomes a roadblock to what you are trying to accomplish. By stopping in the middle of your re-action and asking yourself “How important is this really in the big picture of life and death?” and/or stopping yourself before you re-act by taking just a few deep breaths to instantly calm your brain before it shifts into the gear of saying something inappropriate, can help not only your interactions with loved ones, co-workers and friends, but also for your health. Mindfulness has been proven to help lower blood pressure, improve sleep and alleviate gastrointestinal issues. Why? It brings our body into homeostasis; the balance your body needs to thrive.
4.) Spending 30 minutes a day doing something just for you. As a woman, I found this very difficult at first. Having a family, job, friends and family, I had endless tasks to accomplish in my day. If I took time out for me, that meant 30 minutes of time not given to my tasks. However, I found when I did force myself to take 30 minutes to just walk at lunch time, with no objective in mind other than to just observe, or listen to my favorite music while taking a walk as soon as I got home and before I started dinner, or taking 30 minutes after dinner, after homework, to draw, or write, or do something that gave me joy, made a big difference in my life in helping me feel like I wasn’t just living to serve friends and family. I felt like I could and deserved to do something I liked just for me. I feel like it has made me a happier me, which enables me to be more pro-active in my life instead of re-active.
5.) Daily Movement: Since Covid-19 has become such a disruption in our lives and many of us now work from home, staying mobile has become a challenge. We find ourselves sitting in one position at a pasted together small office in our home for hours a day. This can have dire effects on our bodies. For me, I started having small back pain, that expanded to major back pain. After finding a great chiropractor to help relieve this pain, she explained to me, how damaging to my body sitting without much movement is. When you sit, your spine compresses, and your muscles actually contract from lack of movement. Of course, the best discipline is exercise and working out. This is the optimum habit to keep your body healthy. However, if you, like me, find yourself not able to work out due to COVID-19, time, family obligations, just walking a few miles a day, or getting up every so often during the day and doing stretches, can greatly help keep your muscles healthy and prevent aches, pains and discomfort. I set my timer for every 30 minutes and get up, move about, and do stretches for about 3 minutes. I am amazed at how just this simple insert into my day has kept my body from becoming stiff.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
3 Benefits of Daily exercise are:
- Improves mental health and mood. As soon as you start moving, your heartrate increases which increases production of endorphins, known to help produce positive feelings.
- Increases energy levels. As heartrate increases, blood flow to the body brings more blood and oxygen to all areas of the body proving energy.
- Reduces Stress. When your body is stressed, adrenaline, cortisol and a cocktail of chemicals are created to intensify the flight or fight response. Those chemicals need to be moved out of the body so stasis, or balance can be restored to a healthy state. In the case of constant stress, which most all the population experiences, those chemicals build in the body adding to many different health issues. Exercise stimulates the lymphatic circulation, our built-in toxin elimination system, to move these chemicals out of the body.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to start a self-and social guidance curriculum to teach people how to know and love themselves and understand why and how other people operate the way they do. Right now, we have such a divided nation; divided by hate and false information. The reason this has taken root in our culture is because so many people live their lives just trying to survive; survive making enough money, raising a family, keeping up with social peers, wanted to be accepted and living a completely in-authentic life. There has been a hug cost to this. People are not happy with their lives and therefore themselves, so they start to believe anything that they think can give them more power, such as prejudice, superiority, and at its worst violence. There needs to be new curriculum in all our schools, at every level, from kindergarten up through graduate school. It’s not just about knowledge, its about how to apply and utilize that knowledge to add value to our culture.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry David Thoreau
Upon my “awakening” after surviving kidney cancer, this quote really spoke to me. I wasn’t happy with my life and had dreams that I didn’t know how to make come true. I kept looking at that quote and reminding myself that it was ok to live the life I was imagining and that I deserved to accomplish my dreams. Now, that I am living my dreams, I still like to look at that quote and know I am still going confidently in the direction of newer, more expanded dreams.
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 if we tag them 🙂
I would love to speak with either Joe Biden and/or Kamala Harris. Creating a new administration with as many challenges as they have, I believe, discussing my idea of offering educational programs that help unify the country such as self and social guidance curriculum that teaches people acceptance, and self-love would greatly benefit our country. I am inspired by their determination to help unify the country, but that is such an insurmountable goal unless we re-culture our society. The only way, in my opinion to re-culture our society is through education.
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