Realize the potency of Gratitude. Gratitude is a gamechanger. It changes how you look at things. Before I started gratitude journaling, the world felt “out to get me” and I was a half-full person. That person is a stranger to me now! It’s hard for me to remember how things looked so negative so much of the time. Gratitude has shifted me into a more resilient, positive person.
As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.
What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?
One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness ” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Turino.
Sarah Turino is CEO/Founder of The Whole Woman Wellness Formula. An industry veteran of 18 years, Sarah helps smart, successful women reach optimum wellness through The Whole Woman Wellness Formula and it’s four pillars: Nourish, Move, Calm, Love. Sarah is a Holistic Personal Trainer,RYT 500 Yoga Guide and Mentor specializing in therapeutic SomaYoga, and a Group Fitness Instructor. Her specialty is making movement, holistic wellness and functional fitness approachable and accessible. Prior to creating The Whole Woman Wellness Formula, Sarah was in the radio and television industry for nearly 20 years. She has authored one book, “The Illusion of Balance” with another on the way and produces video trainings and virtual wellness programs, hosts workshops and retreats, and is a guest teacher and speaker. Sarah shares her time between the Twin Cities, Minnesota and the Lake Superior shore with her husband, two daughters and two dogs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?
My career in wellness started in teaching aerobics during college (imagine reebok aerobics shoes, pushdown socks, spandex and very large hair.) My dream was a career in radio and television, but even after I graduated and got my first job as a morning radio news anchor, I kept teaching aerobics on the weekends. Once I moved to television, I retired from aerobics. I enjoyed a 16 year career in radio and television in two different cities.
After I had children, I immersed myself in full-time mom’ing. I knew I didn’t want to go back to television, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. The truth was that being a stay-at-home mom was really challenging for me. I lost myself in it all and suffered from post-partum depression with both babies. I joke about being unshaven with spitup on my shoulders, but that was pretty accurate.
What helped pull me out of it were anti-depressants and exercise. I’d hand babies to my partner when he’d get home from work, get on my running shoes, and sprint out the door. I also signed up for an early morning boot camp. It was in moving my body, or being embodied, that I remembered myself. Moving was/is spiritual for me. I used to joke and say that “God is in a burpee,” but for me, it was.
As a result, I started my first business — Turino Fitness, which specialized in outdoor bootcamps and personal training. I tucked my classes and clients in when my family was asleep, usually in the wee hours of the morning.
But two things were missing:
- How do I help teach others to feel this deep sense of connection with themselves?
- And how do I teach people to come at their wellness from a place of loving their bodies instead of hating their bodies?
I believe that to teach something, you have to learn it yourself.
When my last daughter entered preschool and I finally had 3 hours to myself, I designed my own self-compassion course. A friend had recommended a book “Self Compassion” by Kristen Neff and I finally had the time to read it. It split me open and put me back together again. I dug further reading anything and everything I could on the subject including Brene Brown and how pervasive shame is and how to counter it with vulnerability and self-compassion. This directly translated to how I teach wellness in my work.
Then, I came back to yoga. When I was a child, I studied Siddha Yoga and visited and trained with Swami Muktananda in India. I was 10 and it was an incredibly potent experience for me. I have practiced meditation my whole life.
This time around, I was called to study Hatha Yoga and Somatics or SomaYoga at YogaNorth International SomaYoga Institute. It was profound for me and reconnected me to my childhood learnings, but deepened them by adding the gentle, healing movements of SomaYoga.
From these experiences, The Whole Woman Wellness Formula was born. The Whole Woman Wellness Formula is a 12 week holistic wellness course with 1-to-1 coaching. It is based in four pillars: Nourish, Move, Calm and Love and teaches wellness from the starting point of self-compassion.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The moment it all came together.
I have spent my life seeking, healing and intentionally trying to evolve to be my best self in all areas of my life.
There was a moment for me when I felt like everything solidified and came together. The sum total of my life experiences became like a foundation to build my business upon.
It was potent.
I continue to learn and to expand the edges of my experiences, but for me it feels like everything now is building on that solid foundation.
When I create, or teach, or share from this foundation, it feels sure and grounded, so I try really hard to stay on the sweet spot.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson
The first time I heard it I felt this quote deep in my bones, but I couldn’t figure out how to believe it for myself. It’s so easy to believe it in others, but not yourself.
My upbringing was NOT full of people saying, “WOW, you’re amazing. I am so proud of you!” The messaging I got was more around “Don’t take up so much space, be quiet, be smaller, don’t take away from me,” so shining bright wasn’t easy for me.
The irony is that I chose a career on television and on the radio, where I had to shine bright and take up space.
It took me many years to live this as a value. To be authentic and stand solidly in my power and shine my light. And it is a lesson I take seriously with my teenage daughters and with my clients. You are a unique gift, don’t hide your light. Shine bright.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
“Women, Food & God” by Geneen Roth. In order to be someone who teaches people about wellness, I had to unpack my own relationship with food. I’ve danced with disordered eating and obsessive exercise in the past in order to “look like a fitness instructor.” And this book helped me step back and learn to treat myself with deep respect and love…not just with what you’re eating, but in everything. Geneen Roth has said, paraphrasing, “the answers to everything begin with your plate.” I’ve found it’s true.
And “Self-Compassion” by Kristen Neff. A friend gave me this book at just the right time and the work of self-compassion settled deep in my bones and everything I put forward is about sharing this message. Kristen Neff has spent her career researching and teaching the gift of self-compassion. She is a gift.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am thrilled to be writing my first work of non-fiction called tentatively, “The Invitation”. It is a complete book of approaching your wellness holistically and from a place of deep self-compassion and will include a companion workbook so people can explore and dive into each chapter’s practices. It is broken up into sections — body, mind and spirit — so people can approach their wellness from a holistic perspective. Because the body, mind and spirit is all connected — you are all connected — we are all connected.
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 believe in mentors and guides and look to them in all facets of my life — personal, career, parenting, partnership, so it is challenging to choose just one. One of my favorites is my friend and mentor Ese Eniwumide helped me to take all this complex information in my brain and turn it into The Whole Woman Wellness Formula. She challenged me, coached me and helped me to birth what I consider to be a revolutionary approach to your wellness. I admire her so much! I got to meet her in London and it was a thrill to sit across from this person who worked with me hand-in-hand to create. It takes a great person with so much capacity and empathy to hold space for you while you birth a project.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
Gratitude is finding the gift in the moment and being thankful for the gift — whether the moment is hard or beautiful.
I believe that every day, we get presented with scenarios and opportunities for growth and to connect with our highest selves. In those scenarios, we get to choose how we receive and process that gift.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
I think gratitude is not taught as a practice; same with self-compassion. You can’t teach what you don’t know and if you don’t know, you can’t practice it.
Gratitude is something that needs to be cultivated. Then you can begin to work with it and practice it into your life. Then it becomes like muscle memory. You are reprogramming your beautiful brain with the neural pathway that leads to feeling gratitude in even difficult challenges.
Are life’s challenges still hard? Sure. But you can then start to look at these challenges as opportunities. Situations become learning experiences that you can stand in and be present with and receive the learning. This is a really different approach than, “This sucks. Why does this stuff always happen to me? The world is hard and out to get me.” Instead you can get curious and say, “This is hard. This challenge is a gift to learn from. How will I keep my equanimity, receive the learning and be grateful?”
It’s found in presence. And presence, just like gratitude, is a practice.
You are holding the experience in your hands and holding it up to the light and getting curious about it versus feeling the weight of the experience on your back.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
Gratitude is a powerful healer. It puts you in the position of seeing all things good and bad as opportunity. It grants hope. It changes your goggles from the inside out. After practicing gratitude for a time, you start to see the gift of everything around you. The obvious things of course — a sunrise, the rain tapping your apartment window, fresh air, your people. But for the challenges as well — losing a job, divorce, loss, moving cities, illness and heartache. Because challenges are opportunities to grow our resilience through gratitude and presence.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
Two times in my life, in the lows, I clung to the practice of Gratitude.
The first was when I was post-divorce, in a new city, in a new job. I had no friends and was healing from the collapse of my marriage. It was the first time I’d been depressed. I went to work and functioned, but everything was gray.
I picked up a book in the bookstore called “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. In it, she recommended a gratitude practice. Every day, journal 3 things you are grateful for…so I did. This simple practice, along with talk therapy, changed me and helped to pull me out of my depression.
Four years later, I was remarried and had been practicing Gratitude Journaling for 4 years, my partner Craig and I found out we were infertile. It rocked our whole world. We decided to go down the path of IVF to conceive.
Could I find gratitude in pregnancy loss, in the possibility of not getting pregnant, in the shots, mental stress and difficulty of IVF?
Yes. Not 100% of the time, but mostly yes. In the darkest times and the times when I felt the most fear, I had a glimmer of hope. And that hope was nurtured by gratitude.
Gratitude is an integral part of my life. I have a gratitude practice that I have used daily for 22 years. It has changed me and the lens with which I view life and all of life’s challenges. As a result, it is a practice I teach to clients in my business. I teach it as part of my courses and with my one-on-one work with clients. And I write about it (Gratitude Journal, Gratitude for Your Body, Gratitude during COVID19.) I am a champion for gratitude.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Realize the potency of Gratitude. Gratitude is a gamechanger. It changes how you look at things. Before I started gratitude journaling, the world felt “out to get me” and I was a half-full person. That person is a stranger to me now! It’s hard for me to remember how things looked so negative so much of the time. Gratitude has shifted me into a more resilient, positive person.
- Practice Gratitude Journaling. My practice with gratitude began with gratitude journaling. It was after my divorce and I was depressed and in a new job, new city with no one around who I loved or who loved me. I felt terrible. I read a book called “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach and she recommended writing 3 things each day that you were grateful for. For weeks on end I wrote: 1. A roof over my head. 2. Food in my refrigerator. 3. My job and/or friends and family. I did this until one day, I remember being thankful for the rain on my window in my tiny apartment. That was the turning point for me. I started seeing things everywhere to be grateful for.
- Bring Gratitude into Difficulty. It was in this difficult time that I realized that it was Gratitude that had shifted me. As the years went on, more difficulty came, that is how life is sometimes. But even in the most challenging times, I sought out the lessons and what I could learn instead of focusing on the difficulty. That is what gratitude taught me. Yes, life can be hard, but you can always find simple things to be grateful for within the hardship.
- Remember that Gratitude is a practice. I love the brain and the complexity of neural pathways. When I was studying SomaYoga, which is neuromuscular reeducation. It reinforced for me that the brain is incredibly pliable and resilient. If you look at a person who looks at life as half empty. I believe that with diligence and practice, you can rewire how you look at life. The result that you don’t mindlessly go to feeling negative and crappy. Instead you stand in the intersection and make a conscious choice. That is what practice does for the brain. In the case of Gratitude, it is repetition and practice that will help reinforce the neural pathways.
- Share the gift of Gratitude. I did some research for a training on paying it forward. And I applied the same concept to the gift of Gratitude. One day, I called up 5 people who made impact in my life and told them how amazing they were and how much they meant to me and how THANKFUL I was for them. They were incredibly touched and a few, moved to tears. That moment of gratitude was a gift for me to give it and it was a gift for them to receive it. That same day, one of the people I reached out to posted about how much it meant to them and how they were going to make a point to tell people, “Thank you.” From that point forward, I go out of my way to tell people, “Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for making this world a better place.” And I mean it.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
I believe it starts with simple action. A practice I use and recommend is the active practice of a Gratitude Journal.
*It started when I was just divorced, new job, new city, and in a really terrible relationship. I was depressed and self-medicating with alcohol and cigarettes. I couldn’t see anything good, or happy or colorful. I felt deep shame and so much self-loathing. The book invited me to start practicing gratitude every day. Each day, I was to write three things I was thankful for in that day.
So, day after day for a while here is what I wrote…every day:
- A roof over my head.
- Food in my refrigerator.
- Friends and family who love me. (Sometimes I’d write my job as a gratitude)
That simple practice, and therapy helped to pull me out of the dark:
What is so funny about this to me is that now, I could fill a book daily of the things I am grateful for…heck I’m grateful for EVERYTHING now.
But I had to learn gratitude as a practice before I could see the gift in each moment.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
The practice of the Gratitude Journal came from the book, “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach.
I remember feeling like she had this gift that I couldn’t understand. She was able to seek and nurture abundance in the simple moments. It really was a lovely book.
Another thing I am so grateful for and recommend so highly is the gift of SomaYoga, which I learned at the International SomaYoga Institute. Because I learned a ton around brain science and to see that the brain is an incredibly resilient organ. And you rewire things and make change on all levels — body, mind and spirit.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
The movement that I would love to bring forward is the gift of wellness that is based in self compassion versus self-loathing.
Nearly everyone approaches their care from a place of feeling like they have something they don’t like about themselves.
My work is to help people understand that they are a gift and your body is a gift. It allows you to sense and feel, to give and receive love, to communicate in so many ways, to create and do your work, to move in whatever way you are able and when you reconnect with it, it allows for deep knowing.
The problem is that the whole diet and over-exercise industry is predicated on separating you from you body, feeling discontented in your body, and disliking your body. Because once you’re there, they can sell you things to fix your “problem” body.
Writer and racial justice educator, Ijeoma Oluo says it best, “You can’t hate your body into a shape you love.”
I believe that when you approach your wellness — taking care of yourself — from a place of fixing, that change isn’t sustainable.
But when you start with deeply appreciating, respecting and loving exactly where and who you are, you begin to care from yourself from that place. And that kind of wellness looks different than dieting and exercising yourself into submission. It turns into, I want to care for myself because love my beautiful self and want to care for myself on every level.
That looks like addressing stress and inviting equanimity. That looks like nourishing your system, both in what you are consuming as nourishment and what you are allowing into your mind and into your energetic boundaries. That looks like moving not because you have to, but because it feels so good (and that’s different for every body.) That looks like learning and developing the practices of self-compassion so that you treat and talk to yourself differently.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
You can find me learn more about The Whole Woman Wellness Formula at sarahturino.com, on FB, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Generosity is a key value for me. I offer weekly emails chock full of helpful tips to approach your wellness from a place of self-compassion and actionable tips for your body, mind and spirit.
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Thank you! I wish you all the best with this series. 😊