Take time to feel peaceful in your being. This may mean meditation or prayer, a long walk or a yoga session. However you find peace, try and build it into your day, or at least your week. It refreshes your spirit and this can help when you feel jaded and even the physical, mental or emotional things you’ve tried have not helped.
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 interviewingSuzanne Wylde.
Suzanne is a coach and author who helps people get in touch with their innate strengths and talents in order to make progress and to become fully self-expressed. Her approach is holistic, eclectic and grounded in common sense and she enjoys helping a wide range of people including entrepreneurs, creatives, executives and CEOs. She offers impactful self-help information and tools on www.suzannewylde.com.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/cdc1db35be485999275e1b006a93300a
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 grew up in England and Italy and I spent most of my time outside of school watching TV, reading and day dreaming. I was (and still am) an introvert so I enjoyed time by myself and I still value the hours of quiet reflection I had, which I probably would not have had if I had grown up with smart phones. I liked spending time in nature and was a big Star Trek: The Next Generation fan because I loved how they were always trying to reach their potential and people were judged on their merit rather than background.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I started doing Tai Chi when I was 16 and I became interested in the Taoist view of the universe and health. This naturally lead me towards a Chinese medicine degree and although I was quite young to choose that path, I’m very glad I did. I also loved writing when I was young but it seemed like my teachers did not think I was very good, so I did not pursue it until around 10 years ago when I started to try to write a book. That first attempt (and another) did not make it, but the writing practice I got while trying to write those earlier books made it possible to write and complete my first ever book a couple of years later. In the meantime I was also gaining experience as an acupuncturist, stretching trainer and coach, which all informed my self-development approach. I have always had a passion for self-development and desire to grow and help those around me do the same. As I mentioned above, I felt that in Star Trek they were always pushing themselves to confront their own biases, overcome obstacles or support their peers in their growth — not for material gain but because becoming your best self is its own reward. Similarly, learning how to support people in becoming more and more independent, self-aware and self-expressed has given me a lot of genuine satisfaction in my life.
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?
I would say for me it’s more a case of many people doing small things to encourage me, or showing me a better way to do things through how they live and express themselves. Being a quiet person and an introvert when I was younger probably meant that a lot of people did not realize how much they helped me, partly because I absorb a lot of information simply by being around people.
Also, because I have had an unconventional career path a lot of sensible and well-meant advice has simply not been relevant to me or my situation, but when people believe in me and believe that I know the right thing to do — that is massively helpful. In terms of that unconditional support family members have been brilliant, and my partner has been my biggest cheerleader, for which I am extremely grateful.
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?
A mistake that happened to me was actually someone else’s. There was a situation that was not feeling quite right, I was corresponding with someone and my instinct was that I wasn’t being told everything. And it was a big deal — something that would have impacted the course of my life. So when they accidentally replied to me instead of the person they were talking to about me, it was quite funny — the truth literally fell into my lap. And I always prefer knowing the truth, even if it is not positive, because it clarifies everything and in this case it also confirmed my intuition. From that point I knew exactly what action to take and I’m grateful they made that “accident”.
From that experience I took the lesson that, as long as it is kind and useful, it is best to be as direct and honest as I can. It is not always my first instinct because I do not like hurting people’s feelings, but I feel it is better that people know where they stand and why. It is something I am still working on, but which studying coaching has really helped with as it has shown me that people’s capacity to hear the truth and have difficult conversations is often greater than I think it is.
I don’t find the mistakes I have made quite as funny as I am a perfectionist and also acutely aware if something I did has hurt someone. My biggest mistakes have been to finish the sentences that I was half way through and suddenly realised I should never have started. My intuition would tell me to stop, but my sense of politeness would override it. I am better at that now though — I think nothing of abandoning unhelpful sentences and switching to a more useful direction.
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?
Right now I am really enjoying two books; The Empath and The Highly Sensitive by Judy Dyer (which is technically two books in one) and On Writing by Stephen King. The former because I felt as if someone had just written about me, which is great and also a little humbling because at some points I was thinking “oh, I thought I was special”. But mainly it is validating and shares some useful tips for dealing with the world as a sensitive being. I’m also really enjoying Stephen King’s book because I am tackling my first novel this year and I know nothing about writing good fiction, but I am also learning a lot from his approach to life. One thing he said that really struck me was: “Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.” That is something I need to remember as I can be a bit of a workaholic sometimes, but work doesn’t give you hugs or listen to your bad jokes.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
One of my favourite quotes is by Thoreau who said: “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”. I have found that following a whole project or idea through to completion helps me to develop that muscle of endurance and resilience. This has enabled me to cope with with the difficult feelings that often arise when working on a project, such as hating what I’m working on at times or feeling unmotivated. As a result I have not only learned more about those specific projects and skills, but also about the broader skill of learning to complete things.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am very excited about Perfect, the children’s self-help picture book I am working on. It is a diverse and inclusive book, which talks about accepting our bodies, other people and difficult emotions, with little exercises the children can do to make themselves feel better. It has been such a challenge to illustrate it as I used to love doing art, but I have never done this much before. However, I love to push my limits in terms of creativity and finding ways to support people. I hope it will help some young people to feel better in themselves by introducing them to self-expression, breathing and self-love. I feel that this something we should all learn from an early age, but most of us have to struggle through life without it until we run into self-help or counseling. However, children now have more access to learning about self-care and working through emotions and this book is my small contribution towards that.
I am also re-working my self-development book The Art of Coming Home. It came out last year in the UK, but I will be making it available in different formats and countries and hopefully different languages soon. It takes you through a wide range of self-development topics including; self-acceptance, self-love, processing emotions, thinking more clearly, developing your spirituality and building a strong connection with your body. I wanted to write a book that was truly holistic and I have included a lot of useful information and exercises you can use to find your deeper truth. It has already helped people to navigate a difficult year through learning to work through difficult emotions and experience genuine self-connection and love. I hope that as it spreads it will support people with the unique challenges they are facing and it is part of my effort to try and make the world a kinder and more self-aware place.
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.
I find that cultivating mental wellbeing takes an internal and external approach and is a balance of cultivating good habits, while removing negative influences.
- Look at any influences in your life that tend to increase negative thoughts. This might include being around certain people who think negatively, unhealthy foods, lack of exercise or natural light, a job we do not enjoy or television that is violent or negative. Of course, negativity is a part of life and is fine in balance, but when it makes us spiral out of control or away from our centre it is unhelpful. The people around us and our lifestyles have a huge impact on our mental health, so creating a healthy environment can make all the difference. For example, if you are trying to reach a goal and you distance yourself from someone with low expectations who is very critical of people with aspirations, all the energy you had spent fighting those negative opinions can now go into achieving your goal. This situation has occurred in some form to many of my clients and myself also, to the extent that it seems to be a rite of passage for anyone who wants to achieve or do something out of the ordinary. It is important not to feel guilty about taking steps to protect your own mental health.
- Look at any repetitive thinking habits that have a bad effect on you. Sometimes I worry and get caught up in a spiral that feels like water draining out of a bathtub. To get out of it I change the feeling in my body by moving around and I shift my perspective. This will always be my tendency and I will always need to work with it, but through practice it has become easier and easier to manage. Do you have a pattern that sometimes take over? How can you interrupt it and consciously choose another path for your thoughts to go down? There will not be only one right answer, just choose the way that feels right for you and works.
- There are many defense mechanisms we can use to protect ourselves in a world that sometimes feels unfriendly or uncertain. Many of these are in our minds. It is worth being curious about times when you reflexively came to a judgement and were very hesitant to examine it, or beliefs that hold a lot of charge. For myself I make a point of reviewing my biases and thoughts from time to time, just testing out whether they feel genuine or might come from a desire to see the world (and myself) a certain way. As we become more self-aware we usually find our need to be propped up by false constructs diminishes and we want to see the world clearly. Making sure your thoughts and thinking are genuine and based in reality is how we clean the lens we look through.
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 often use visualizations for a wide range of purposes, for example; to feel more grounded, feel self-love, feel compassion or to get in touch with different aspects of myself. These vary quite widely, but a simple one for grounding is imagining roots growing from your feet deep into the earth and then pulling that earth energy back up, filling your whole body and making you feel nourished and solid. Or, if I wanted to get in touch with my inner child I would picture her in my mind’s eye (whichever age she pops up as is fine) and I might talk to her or ask her questions. Although usually we might think of imagination as a way of escaping our bodies or reality, we can use it as a tool for self-exploration and self-healing. It really helps to be somewhere quiet, be as comfortable as possible and suspend self-criticism or disbelief (otherwise you will be struggling against yourself instead of feeling safe enough to sink deeply into your own being).
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.
- As someone with a method of stretching (Moving Stretch) I am very biased towards that. I love seeing how people become more settled and comfortable in their own bodies as their ability to move increases. For myself it has allowed me to work on my health and posture, but on a deeper level to work through emotions that have been trapped in “stuck” areas of my body for a long time. That is a more involved form of stretching which a lot of people do not experience, but it is possible for everyone with patience and the right quality of attention. On a physical level, people who are more flexible have also been shown to be at less risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis and other health issues. From my experience I have noticed that people tend to feel happier, more themselves and more confident, the more their body is an expression of who they are rather than a limitation.
- Enjoying movement is very important. You will notice that there are a lot of disciplines of exercise, movement, rehab and more. I recommend when choosing one you observe whether the people look happy or not. If the people look like they are taking themselves too seriously, struggling against their own bodies or even punishing themselves through extreme exercise I would look elsewhere. I believe there is something very healthy about releasing certain chemicals through positive emotions while we work out. Almost as if we can build that into our bodies. And if that is too woo-woo, you might just focus on the part where you are less likely to injure yourself if you are happy and listening to your body.
- Cultivate a healthy relationship with your body through listening to it; which movements it wants (and needs to make), what foods it is craving in a healthy way, what things it is addicted to in an unhealthy way, how much water it wants, how much sleep it wants, who it wants to be around (and not) and more. This extends beyond healthy physical habits into tuning into your body to connect to your instincts. The more connected you are to them, the more you will be able to avoid issues — whether that is a person you should not trust or an avocado you want to eat. Avoiding issues that might cause you stress, danger or illness are all important for keeping your body healthy.
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?
I tend not to recommend a specific diet for everyone, as I think we are quite individual. However, I do think that most people would benefit from breaking their addiction to, or over-reliance on, certain foods and drinks. I used to be addicted to coffee, but after giving it up I found my mind became crystal clear in the mornings. The fog I used to wake up with was not solved by the coffee but caused by it. I also gave up refined sugar two years ago and tend to just have coconut sugar or honey if I want to bake something sweet. There are many benefits to doing this, for me it has helped to stabilize my energy levels and avoid the horrible crashes I used to experience. In general I prefer not to be controlled by an addiction because I feel I am not really completely autonomous when I am and I have noticed that seems true for others also.
I think blockages occur when food is giving us something we are not getting in other areas; comfort, excitement or an experience, for example. I love food so I am probably not the best person to ask in terms of weight loss, especially in a pandemic year. However, the times when I had the best relationship with food were times that I processed emotions in real time, I was working towards meaningful goals and spiritual development also helped me a lot. And, of course, a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains, drinking enough water and reducing processed and artificial foods always works wonders.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Do not reject negative emotions, but also do not wallow in them. While some people seem to swim in a pool of negativity, others seem to be attempting to fly above negative thoughts and refuse their existence. Neither is a balanced approach. A lot of people are saying “don’t surrender to the fear of the pandemic”. Well, fear is a natural response to danger — almost a sign of sanity. If you are not feeling a little bit of fear about the situation there is probably something wrong with you. But after feeling it, what do you do — go into a spiral of 24 hour news and worst-case scenario-worries, fight with it to try and defeat it, subscribe to a theory from an “expert on the internet” that tells you there is nothing to worry about? I recommend when you feel a difficult emotion at first just breathe, experience the emotion as it is before you allow your mind to attach thoughts or a story to it. Then just accept it, accept the discomfort without needing it to be different. If you need to, express your emotion — through drawing, writing, screaming into a pillow or movement, perhaps. Then consciously shift your focus to what you want to think about. This is not repressing the emotion, it is just putting things in perspective and choosing where you put your attention. After all, at any given time we might be experiencing a wide range of emotions but are not aware of them because we are thinking about something else. If you try fighting an emotion you will lose, but through listening to it and then deciding where to put your focus you can stay centred.
- Explore your relationship to different emotions. Would it come as a surprise to hear that some of us enjoy feeling bad and might even reject feeling good? It is all about our comfort zone! It might be worth considering that we may repeatedly return to an unhelpful emotional pattern because it feels comfortable like an old pair of jeans. I recommend evaluating your relationship to different emotions to see if it is genuine and represents who you are now. If you aspire to a happy life, but when something good happens feel distrustful or wait for the other shoe to drop, it might be worth thinking about why that is and then attempt to get comfortable with an emotion that has felt risky in the past.
- Separate your feelings from those of other people. Because emotions are contagious, it can be hard to know why we are feeling stressed, angry, hurt — is this really our emotion or did we pick it up somewhere without realizing it? They are invisible and do not have name tags, so this can be hard to figure out. Luckily we do not usually need to know where we caught an emotion (if we caught it at all), we can just say to ourselves: “what is mine, what is theirs?”. This is a very simple phrase which I hold as a question in my mind, that also feels like an intention to separate my energy and emotions from those of other people. It works very quickly for me, but you may find you have to modify it to work for you. If there is a particular person who you are catching negative emotions from then try reducing eye contact (so phone calls instead of face-to-face or video calls), reducing time spent listening to their voice (so emails instead of phone calls), try not to be close to them physically and in extreme cases you might want to evaluate how much you want them in your life. You can talk to them about it, but a lot of people with these kind of habits often find it very hard to change and maintain that change — they are in their comfort zone! It is just not comfortable for you.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
Smiling is great when it is genuine, and a bit odd if it is too forced. Although I do think that you can turn a mood around by smiling I’d recommend doing this by also thinking of something nice, funny or watching a comedy at the same time rather than just making the face. At times when I have been ill I have watched comedy to boost my immunity by laughing and it worked great.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Spirituality is very individual and our experience is personal to us. It is also the least tangible of the aspects of the self so for some people it can feel a little out of reach. I think it is worth remembering that it is not necessarily the same as being religious (even though that is how many people explore their own spirituality) or lacking the ability for rational thought. I can tell when someone’s spirit is in a good state because they have a shine in their eyes, a desire to enjoy themselves and grow in some way and they want to lift other people up. And the converse is true for a spirit that is has lost some of its brilliance. Here are some ways you can nurture yours:
- Spend time in the moment experiencing something that inspires you somehow. This might be time in nature, looking at art, listening to music, watching an amazing athlete. Whatever it is, try to let the experience be pure, be in the moment, fully open and just “being”.
- Make sure you are not telling yourself fibs. We all do somethings at points to make life easier. I just had a spoonful of peanut butter — if I wanted to feel virtuous I might explain that away saying I had low blood sugar. But that would be a lie and I would create a dissonance within me, a disconnect. Someone might lie to get out of a parking ticket, work for a company they believe harms the world in some way or say something harsh to a friend to make themselves feel better, for example. Whatever you might do that is less than ideal, I highly recommend not lying to yourself about it or minimizing it with justifications. Part of us will always know the truth and we will be fighting to suppress that part. Be as honest with yourself as you can and then make conscious choices that you feel will not diminish your spirit or integrity, within the bounds of what is possible.
- Take time to feel peaceful in your being. This may mean meditation or prayer, a long walk or a yoga session. However you find peace, try and build it into your day, or at least your week. It refreshes your spirit and this can help when you feel jaded and even the physical, mental or emotional things you’ve tried have not helped.
For some more easy and impactful tips, readers can check out my video here:
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
The spirits of plants and animals living out in nature are alive and kicking! Just being around them can cleanse your energy and do you good almost immediately. You do not need a specific practice, although I do have one in my book along the lines of connecting with a tree and asking it to help clear your energy. If that is too much on the hippie side, a simple walk in nature is also great.
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.
I would like people to believe that other people are fundamentally good at heart. I feel that that might help to fight a lot of the conspiracy theories, injustice and prejudice that is around at the moment. We need to remember how to connect with one another as equals, have long form conversations and bring the humanity back to situations where extremism has become the norm instead of the mindset of a handful of outliers.
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 have been pretty inspired by Jonathan Frakes, who was an actor in Star Trek but then went on to become a director and has directed some episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. Because he was acting in a show where they are all about achieving your potential, but then made than a reality in his own life and pushed the boundaries of what he was able to do, I find that pretty inspirational. Many of us want to do great things, but don’t always do the work it takes and deal with the difficult emotions that come up for long enough to get there. So I am very happy for people when they do make it. I also like the way he directs, there’s a great balance of action as well as a depth of emotion that keeps me engaged in the story.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can check out my site www.suzannewylde.com, instagram @suzanne_wylde and on facebook @Wyldesuzanne.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.