Stacey Cook: “Be the rule, not the exception”

Connect with people, animals, and nature regularly. Really connect. Have meaningful conversations, take your shoes off in the grass, and look deeply into your dog’s eyes. Take time to acknowledge how connected we all are by showing your deep gratitude and support. You’ll make heartfelt memories and lifelong friends. Often when we refer to wellness, we […]

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Connect with people, animals, and nature regularly. Really connect. Have meaningful conversations, take your shoes off in the grass, and look deeply into your dog’s eyes. Take time to acknowledge how connected we all are by showing your deep gratitude and support. You’ll make heartfelt memories and lifelong friends.

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 interviewingStacey Cook.

Learning to meditate at an early age began Stacey’s life-long interest in personal development and overall wellbeing, naturally leading her to a career in coaching. Through her education and completion of multiple certification programs, Stacey learned to incorporate Eastern philosophies with Western coaching methodologies to unleash potential and enable people to be their best selves. As a Certified Consultant for the Barrett Values Centre and a Chopra Center Teacher, her coaching practice focuses on supporting people ready for change by providing the space and tools to discover themselves and their values. Armed with a meaningful (and unique) vision, her clients gain the motivation to move forward. Stacey sees this type of heightened awareness as the key to a life that flows — easily and effortlessly.

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 spent most of my life in the Dallas, TX area. As an only child, I filled a lot of my time with books, music, and animals. Learning to enjoy my own company has served me well in life — I still love a good weekend alone.

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

I’ve worked with Executive Coach Kristine Steinberg for many years. She is highly trained and educated, but I’ve always felt it’s her essence that gets such incredible results. She is authentic, generous, loveable, and this comes through in her coaching. She made me want to contribute to the coaching world in a way that’s unique to me. She inspired me to look closer at what my education, experience, passions could offer to others, and that was the start of becoming a personal development coach.

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?

There are three:

  1. My husband has been instrumental in reminding me of the importance of being true to yourself over trying to please others.
  2. My friend Rachal knew I should be a coach before I did. She was always there to remind me that I was on the right path.
  3. My friend Malini embarked on the coaching journey at the same time. She held me accountable, was an excellent sounding board, and is always the first to celebrate my wins.

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?

During a career coaching session, a client mentioned she had received her black belt. I was confused by the topic change, especially since she had never mentioned martial arts before, but completely overjoyed with the news. She had to interrupt my celebration to explain that Black Belt was the name of a certification she needed for work. Just as impressive, but I walked away with a valuable lesson. Never assume anything — always ask and stay curious.

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?

So many books! The one that took me further down the path of personal development is by Deepak Chopra, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to The Fulfillment of Your Dreams. It’s a deceptively small book filled with insights, life lessons, and practical tips that support and encourage a more abundant life. I love how there’s a law/ lesson for each day of the week.

My 20-something self didn’t have a lot of direction. This book empowered me with a fresh perspective and easy to follow instructions to improve my life and wellbeing from the inside out. Even now, when I need to get back to basics, I start with Chapter 1: The Law of Pure Potentiality and the words “Today I shall judge nothing that occurs.”

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

Be the change you wish to see in the world — Mahatma Gandhi

Be the change reminds me that the moment I want to judge or blame another, it’s time to focus that attention on myself. Hard as we try, the only people we can change are ourselves. My greatest wish is for more kindness in the world, and this quote reminds me that the more kindness I spread, the more there will be. We’re all creating ripples in life… I’m trying to send mine out with a little more intention behind them.

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

I’ve just partnered with a non-profit organization to provide life coaching to survivors of human rights abuses. They are doing fantastic work, and I am excited to play a small part in helping move their mission forward!

I’ve also launched a personal development coaching package that incorporates a person’s personal mantra (based on their birth info) called Root, Grow, Flourish. It’s a journey of exploration, clarity, and insights that flows into intuitive, supported steps toward a life of your own creation.

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.

Habit is the keyword. I suggest practicing meditation, movement, and challenging yourself for optimum mental wellness.

A meditation practice benefits every area of life, including our mental wellness. It reduces stress, decreases depression and anxiety, and can even increase grey matter in the brain — specifically sites linked to learning, memory, compassion, and introspection.

So Hum is an excellent everyday mantra for its ease and meaning. It means “I Am” in Sanskrit and is a vibrational expression of our connection to the universe. To use it, sit comfortably in a quiet area and close your eyes. Take a few slow, deep breaths and think the mantra gently to yourself. You could even connect the words to your breath. Thinking So as you inhale and Hum as you exhale. Keep thinking the mantra over and over. So Hum, So Hum, So Hum. If at any time, your mind wanders off to other sounds in the environment, sensations in the body, or thoughts in your mind, just recognize this and gently turn your attention back to the mantra. So Hum, So Hum, So Hum.

Of course, the quality of our food, sleep, and relationships matter. All are vital areas that need attention, but movement is at the top of my mental wellbeing list. Short bursts of exercise to get your heart rate up can quench overwhelming feelings like anxiety. Have a stressful call? Running in place, jumping jacks, or pushups can help, but for overall mental wellness, you just need to move more.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains that the brain prefers a body in motion. It’s not the volume or length that’s important but rather the consistency. He suggests that you ask yourself each time you are about to sit: Could I stay standing instead? Just bringing attention to the amount of our inactivity might inspire new ways to move.

Finally, continue to challenge yourself. Learn a new language, start a business, or embark on a personal development journey, all with the intent of moving toward a life of your creation. It keeps your mind active, engaged, and fulfilled. Thinking in new ways can transform your mind and, likely, your life.

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 have tried many different meditation types and find them all highly beneficial, but my daily practice is rooted in Vedic Meditation. It’s a mantra-based technique that can be used anywhere at any time. The word mantra translates to vehicle of the mind, and that’s what it is — the mantra transports our minds from the level of external activity to the quiet inner space within each of us. After each meditation, we take a little more of this stillness into our daily lives. When I practice regularly, I find it’s much easier to be the person I want to be — the person I know I am deep down. When things get chaotic, and my practice tumbles down my list of priorities… it shows. Things just don’t run as smoothly for me because I’m not as grounded.

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.

I’m going to keep coming back to a daily meditation practice for this reason — it works. It’s proven to lower inflammation and blood pressure while improving our sleep and so much more. Plus, it’s effortless to do. All you need is a safe, comfortable place to sit. Plus the less stressed and more grounded you are, the more mindful you will be in your everyday choices, making meditation the foundation of healthy eating and quality exercise.

Physical health is all about balance and individuality. Diet and exercise are essential, but to be most effective, they need to meet two requirements:

1. Fit your personal needs and interests

2. Be the rule, not the exception

Consider approaching physical wellness with curiosity. If something sparks interest, try it at least once to discover what works best for YOUR body. Pay close attention to the foods and movements that support you feeling your best. This information, coupled with a flexible mindset (not all or nothing), can be your customized road map to optimal physical wellness.

Don’t forget to make time for laughter too. It feels good, it bonds us to others, and it’s such a great stress release. Stress is considered a cause of some of our most common health issues — one of the easiest ways to combat it is with the true joy of a good laugh.

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?

Values are often our most potent sources of motivation. When we uncover our core values and then touch on these to make decisions, we’re more likely to make choices that match the goals we’ve set for ourselves. It’s also helpful to keep asking yourself why? Why do I want to eat less sugar? If it’s to lose weight — why? Keep digging to find something to anchor you during those tough decisions.

We can also get stuck on the external. It’s natural to focus on how we will look once we’re in the habit of eating well, but feelings can be more powerful. Think deeply about how you feel when you make healthier choices. Lighter, stronger, more energetic? How does this impact every area of your life?

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

I would say don’t be afraid of your emotions. They can be powerful and overwhelming but come with important messages. So, practice paying attention to what yours are saying so you can tend to them when needed. And ask yourself these four soul questions before you meditate:

1. Who am I?

2. What is my dharma (or purpose)?

3. What do I really want?

4. What am I grateful for?

Be care not to get caught up in having answers; just plant the seeds, and allow the answers to arrive in their own time, knowing they morph into new things, just like we do. The better we know ourselves, the more centered we tend to move through life.

Also, start to witness your life as it happens. Work on recognizing the moment a person, situation, or event elicits a negative response from you. Most of us don’t realize we’ve been triggered until after we’ve had an emotional reaction. If we can raise our awareness to see these moments objectively, we’ll have the space to choose better responses.

And of course, enlist support in the form of a friend, coach, or therapist. We all need someone in our lives that holds space for us. A place we can release our feelings without fear of judgment. Somewhere to sort through the thoughts in our heads and, more importantly, feel heard. The flip side of this is to see where you can return the favor and show up emotionally to those close to you.

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

Stillness in whatever way that resonates with you: meditation, deep breathing, prayer…. Try dedicating the first few minutes of your day to a breathing exercise. You can breathe in for a count of four and breathe out to a count of five. Do this for as long as it feels comfortable. Exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system and can have a noticeable calming effect. Starting in a restful state helps us maintain a less reactive, more positive demeanor throughout the day — a more accurate representation of our spiritual selves.

Connect with people, animals, and nature regularly. Really connect. Have meaningful conversations, take your shoes off in the grass, and look deeply into your dog’s eyes. Take time to acknowledge how connected we all are by showing your deep gratitude and support. You’ll make heartfelt memories and lifelong friends.

Uncover your core values. Not the values that society, religion, family say you should have but the ones that resonate for YOU. You can do this through an assessment, coaching, or journaling exercises — whichever way, it’s information that helps you make choices and create a life of deep meaning.

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

Reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben opened my eyes to how much we have in common with nature. Each tree is a valuable part of its community, they have their own language, memories, and spend their lives caring for one another. Just being in the fresh air can be healing, but intentionally recognizing how connected and similar we are to nature re-energizes us spiritually. For me, it feels like supportive, loving energy all around — what’s more spiritual than that?

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.

Humans thrive when they are kind to animals. I don’t expect every person to be a vegan, but the fewer animal products we consume, the more it benefits our planet, our health, and our spirits. And it doesn’t take an all or nothing attitude to make a significant difference. Just enough curiosity to find reasons that make it easy for you to cut back. The Gentle Barn is masterful at spreading this message in a positive, non-judgmental way. Their program that explores kindness, empathy, and responsibility with school-aged children by introducing them to rescued farm animals gives me tons of hope for our future.

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 🙂

Sade Adu. Not only is she incredibly talented, I think she is the best example of being true to yourself. She doesn’t cave to pressure from fans, record labels, or the media to do or be anything she’s not. I admire how she and the band only put out quality work that means something to them. People label her as mysterious or a recluse, but I like to think she is sure of what she wants and who she is. That she has created a life of meaning within a circle of friends and family that understand each other. I suspect she has some profound lessons to share, and I would be honored to start the conversation.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I can also be reached at [email protected]

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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