Give yourself what you need, every day. We’re very good at focusing on the needs and demands of the people and organisations around us, but we’re less practiced at focusing on what we need for ourselves to be OK. When you give everything you have to everyone else and leave nothing for yourself, your life becomes seriously unbalanced.
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 Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bronwen Sciortino.
Bronwen Sciortino is an internationally renowned Author, Simplicity Expert and Professional Speaker who spent almost two decades as an award-winning executive before experiencing a life-changing event that forced her to stop and ask the question “What if there’s a better way to live?”
Bronwen spends every day teaching people there’s another way to live so they can tailor-make the life that allows them to be healthy, happy AND highly successful.
With her books ‘Keep It Super Simple’, ‘The Economy of Enough’, and ‘Beyond Ah-Ha’, receiving international critical acclaim and 5-star reviews, Bronwen is regularly sought as a media expert globally.
She works with people internationally through corporate programs, conference platforms, retreats, professional mentoring and in the online environment. She shares her secrets to success and inspires individuals to simplify their lives and embrace the concept of an economy of enough.
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 Tasmania, which is an island at the bottom of Australia. Most of my first ten years were spent living in a beach-side suburb and then we moved to a semi-rural area in the hills with large acreage blocks and a 180-degree view of the beach.
I grew up roaming the countryside, either riding my horses or walking the dogs, and I was surrounded by nature and animals — both domestic and wild.
I was an active child: always outside, doing something. I loved playing sports and participated in everything I could. Physical Education was my favourite subject at school because I got to try out all the different types of sports on offer and it got me outside and into the fresh air.
As a youngster, I took for granted the beauty that surrounded me; I had no idea that it wasn’t the ‘normal’ for everyone. Looking back, I can see that whenever I was in the bush, or by the sea, I always felt free — like I was shrouded in a bubble of peace, calm and solitude and that it had been created just for me.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I like to say that I ‘accidentally’ became an entrepreneur.
Like so many others, I found myself following a career path that wasn’t a match to who I truly am. I was very busy doing all the things I was ‘supposed’ to do, having the things I was ‘supposed’ to have, and being the person everyone else thought I was ‘supposed’ to be. Even though I was stressed, exhausted and miserable, I kept going because I couldn’t let the people around me down.
Ultimately, I took on too much and pushed far too hard for way too long. And then I broke. I went from being an award-winning executive to being on the floor, unable to cope with even the basics in life and unable to stop crying. And it happened in less than 60 seconds.
My breakdown was brutal. It forced me to stop. It demanded that I take a long, hard look at my life and that I start to figure out what I really wanted to be doing long-term.
During my recovery, I was working with a mental health professional and I discovered that I was terrified of writing anything personal down — as I had rationalised it, because it could be used against me as evidence that I wasn’t perfect. So, to help me overcome this fear, my homework became to start journaling.
Even now, it’s hard to describe the sheer terror I experienced when trying to start writing. It took me three weeks to write one word on a page, but that one word opened up a whole new world for me.
As the words started to flow, people around me encouraged me to turn them into a book. I kept hearing ‘…the world needs the words you’re writing — you have to do this for them…’ being repeated to me regularly. I discounted these words initially, because I needed the time and space for the words to work for me before I could focus on them being used by others.
Eventually, those words became my first book — ‘Keep It Super Simple’ — and as it went out into the world people started telling me how much they loved it and asking how else they could work with me. Suddenly, I found myself being asked to do keynotes, facilitate workshops, talk to leadership teams, become a mentor, provide group training sessions … and I also had media starting to want to interview me as an expert on simplifying life.
Without meaning to, I had created a global business, teaching people how to tailor-make the life that would match them perfectly and allow them to be happy, healthy AND highly successful.
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?
Most of us are surrounded by a number of people who play significant roles in our lives and I am no different. There is absolutely no doubt that the person I hold the most gratitude for is my husband, Jon.
He traversed the storm with me when my life broke. While the breakdown didn’t happen to him, the fallout from it certainly did. He went from having an independent, highly active wife to having a fully dependent and seriously unwell person that he became responsible for.
While I had lots of assistance available to me to help me recover, there’s not anywhere near the assistance available to a carer and he had to find his way through the minefield pretty much on his own.
Despite that, he was there for me. He allowed me to take the steps I needed to so I could create the ‘new me’ moving forwards. He never complained. He never made the situation about him.
But mostly, he reminded me every day that he loved me — no matter what.
To have that level of support, in the most traumatic time of my life, was one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. I will be eternally grateful to him.
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?
The most interesting mistake I have made in the course of my career was allowing everyone else’s ‘stuff’ to outweigh my needs.
The reality is that when I was at the very beginning of my business, I was still very fragile and in the middle of a recovery process. This meant that there weren’t very many funny moments — life was raw, it was serious and it was very, very real.
Working through a recovery process at the same time as quickly building a global business carried an intensity that could have easily become overwhelming. For most people, this aspect seems extraordinary, but for me it became an opportunity to really decide how I wanted my business to be run, who I was going to be within that, and how my business and my life in general were going to be set up to support me, no matter what was happening.
One of the clearest aspects of this was how important it was to me for every day to be fun. Having come from a life and an environment that took everything I had and then demanded even more, I understood intimately what it was like to have to drag yourself through every minute of your day. I knew how much energy it took to present a calm and successful façade to the outside world, while hiding the truth of how miserable life really was. I knew how exhausting it was to appear to glide effortlessly through everything life threw my way, while pedaling desperately beneath the surface to stay afloat and stop myself from drowning.
So, when I had the chance to build something from scratch at the same time as rebuilding myself, I not only made sure the two things matched, but I also made sure they were both infused with loads of fun. That fun extends to people, places and things that I am doing and/or involved with. Until I made the decision to infuse my life with fun, I had no idea of the zing that being a rebel in your own life brings. Nowadays I challenge everything, question the status quo and constantly find new ways of doing things that match who I AM as an individual.
If someone tells me I ‘have to’ or ‘should’ do something, it immediately raises a red flag for me and I stop and question whether that’s right for me. When everyone else is turning right, I’ll be the one turning left to see what’s down that pathway. If there’s a ‘road less travelled’ then I’ll be the one setting out on an adventure to find out how it works for me.
Having fun every day also means I’m just as happy to find out something doesn’t work as I am to find out that it does. When something doesn’t work it is a clear signal that it’s time to change direction and try something else. If it does work then that’s great information to help you keep moving in that direction.
When you drop the pressure and the stress out of every day, life becomes more about the fun of being on adventure than it does about success and failure.
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?
I’m an avid learner and over the years I have read a lot of different genres on a lot of different topics. There are so many books that have inspired me, moved me and motivated me in different ways. One of my favourite books, and one that I refer to frequently, is ‘Mistakes were made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.
I loved the way this book reveals the way that we, as human beings, make mistakes (whether deliberately or unintentionally). It talks about the way that we shift our reality and describe it to others and how we can blindside ourselves by the judgement process we use to consider another person’s behaviour, all whilst ignoring or justifying our own.
I love anything that gives you the ability to see things from a different angle; that opens up the possibility of another perspective. This book gives this to you in a multitude of different ways.
It helps you to think differently, understand the way your mind plays tricks on you and to be able to view behaviour (of yourself and others) through different eyes and with a smattering of empathy, because you can better understand how the behaviour might have happened.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
‘You’ve discovered a wellspring, simply allow it to flow and it will fill your world. Don’t try to keep a safe distance so as to see what happens. Don’t wait to be certain before you take a step. What you give, you will receive, although it might sometimes come from the place you least expect.’ — (Paul Coelho)
So often in our lives we give a lot of credence to the importance of helping others and making sure they’re OK. We get glimpses of the things that are for us, the ones that we need right now or that we can be working towards for ourselves.
But how often do we put those things off until a later date — a time that is more convenient? We’re so sure about helping others, but we think a thousand times before allowing anything for ourselves. It’s so easy for us to be supportive and encouraging when others are taking fledging steps towards achieving their dreams, but when do we give ourselves the same support, the same backing?
I love this quote because it’s such a fabulous reminder of what’s waiting for us when we step in and fully participate in our own lives. We can allow ourselves to be distracted by the needs and demands of others, or we can boldly stride to our own wellspring and simply allow it to fill our own world.
It’s a choice that we’re asked to make every day. When we get conscious about our choices, it’s so much easier to make the ones that are right for us and connected to who we truly are.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m currently working on my fourth book, which is shaping up to be about how to easily live a simple life in a way that allows you to lead a happy, healthy AND highly successful life.
For too long, we’ve been taught that we have to choose between living in a cave and meditating everyday — which will allow us to happy and healthy — or to be successful, which means we have to push forwards at a rapid rate and in a way that negates our ability to look after our health and wellbeing.
This book is all about teaching people how to be the rebel in their own life and how to set out their own definitions of happy, healthy and successful … and then create the steps that allow them to have everything they need to be content.
I’m also working on some online mini-programs that help people reset their energy levels, understand their stress (where it’s coming from and what to do about it) and how to move beyond their comfort zones. The world is in chaos, and so many people feel their lives are out of control beyond redemption. The purpose of these mini-programs is to help people to easily and simple reset and move forwards in a different way.
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.
1. Understand your energy. Our energy levels are the best sign we have for where our health is at. When our energy levels are really low, it’s a signal that something isn’t right, and usually (in today’s busy world) that we’re under a considerable amount of stress. When we start to consciously connect with our energy on a regular basis, we can start to understand what we need to give to ourselves to make sure we top our energy tanks up. Everything is much harder when we’re tired, so by protecting your energy you reduce the chances that stress can take over. Doing this means you also reduce the likelihood of experiencing serious mental health issues such as exhaustion, sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression.
2. Give yourself what you need, every day. We’re very good at focusing on the needs and demands of the people and organisations around us, but we’re less practiced at focusing on what we need for ourselves to be OK. When you give everything you have to everyone else and leave nothing for yourself, your life becomes seriously unbalanced. The first thing that is affected is your health and wellbeing and the moment this happens, you are hampered in your ability to give to those around you. It goes against everything we’re taught, but the solution to this situation is to make sure you give yourself what you need every day. Start by working out where your stress comes from, and then put in place simple and easily implemented steps that help you to reduce the impact that the stress is having. By doing this, you can change the way you breathe, the way you sleep, the way you digest food and your body’s ability to remove toxins from your system. It doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t have to be complex and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Some of the most effective things you can do (like abdominal breathing and drinking enough water) take minimal effort, cost almost nothing and can be achieved in less than 5 minutes.
3. Alternate between rest and surge. In our always-switched-on, busy lives, it’s easy to see how we’ve become obsessed with always needing to be doing something. Our lives are highly visible thanks to the technology that comes with social media; however, that has seen us caught in a spiral, believing that we’re always having to prove that we’ve achieved something. Living like this also traps us in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode (which switches on our response to stress) because it feels like we’re never allowed to relax. Being trapped in this state means that we’re constantly under stress, and when we’re constantly under stress, every second is impacting our health and wellbeing — particularly our mental health. When we allow ourselves to get into a cycle of ‘rest, then surge’, ‘rest, then surge’, we make a conscious choice to step away from stress mode and we allow our system to reset. When we do this, we give ourselves greater energy, we have more fun and we find ourselves being more engaged with what we’re doing. All of these things create positive momentum in life and give us an environment where we’re less likely to experience serious mental health conditions.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
Hatha yoga and Yin yoga are my favourites. I love the way that they allow you to truly connect with the pose and they give you the time and the space to allow the body, breath and the mind to come together in alignment.
A good Vinyasa session can be beneficial as well, but I often find that the faster styles of yoga feed into the busy-ness of the mind and don’t always allow surrender to a full connection.
For me, it’s in the stillness of a pose that the true awakening arrives.
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 think there are three key things to understand here.
The first is that there is an entire industry that has sprung up around healthy eating. Trillions of dollars a year is spent globally by people trying to find the perfect solution that will fix their health and wellbeing issues.
What we eat plays a massive part in the way that we interact with life.
What most of us don’t realise, however, is that there is no regulation around the use of the word ‘healthy’ and little monitoring of what is in being offered in the marketplace.
Marketing campaigns are effectively used to convince us that we’re time poor and too tired to take on the responsibility for putting together nourishing meals for ourselves and our families. Before we know it, we’re looking to everyone else to tell us what the right foods are, to cook our meals for us and create our solutions so we can move forwards.
The big problem with this is that ‘everyone else’ isn’t us. They don’t know us and they can only provide us with information and solutions based on their knowledge and the filters they have for their lives. The second we hand over responsibility to someone else, we step into a quagmire that’s hard to get out of.
The second thing to understand here is the impact that being stressed has on our lives. While ever we are stressed, our body thinks that our lives are under threat. Your body has no way of telling the difference between a truly life-threatening situation and the fact that you’ve got too many emails in your inbox. Therefore, it sends chemical signals to the brain demanding that immediate, quick-release energy is required for survival. This chemical signal will override any desire or willpower you might have, and will demand that you eat what you need for survival. This is when we find ourselves reaching for the carbs and the sugars so that this demand is met.
In reality, it has nothing to do with intelligence, desire or willpower. Until you get your stress under control — physically and emotionally — your body will send you instructions that you cannot ignore.
The third thing to understand is that there are a lot of food companies who have done a lot of research into additives and preservatives that can be put together in specific ways to make you crave foods. In a way, it’s like becoming addicted, just as you can be to alcohol and drugs.
The whole purpose of these foods is to get you hooked and then keep you coming back for more.
The best way to arm yourself against these things is to start reconnecting with who YOU are. What are the things that are causing you stress, and what can you simply do to start reducing their impact in your life? What are the foods that can assist you in this process? What are the foods that make you feel sluggish and tired, or make you feel unwell after you’ve eaten them? Start to understand yourself and then move towards the things that support you. And remember to be really compassionate with yourself. If you do find yourself turning to foods that you think aren’t good for you, give yourself a hug, send yourself some love and then take a look at what it was that attracted you to the food in that moment.
Before making a food choice, I love to ask the question ‘what’s the most nourishing option for me right now?’
This question gives me the time and space I need to make a conscious decision about what I am about to eat. Sure, sometimes you might still choose the chocolate or the hot chips with salt, but the more aware you can become, the easier it is to make choices in a different way.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Give your emotions the airplay they deserve. We spend a lot of time making our emotions right and wrong. We’ve been taught that some emotions are good (like love, cheerfulness, positivity and so on) and some emotions are bad (like hate, anger and sadness). There’s a whole spectrum of emotions that we’ve been given — somewhere in the tens of thousands of them. We weren’t given them so we could hide from them. We were given them so we can experience what it is to be human. For some time, there’s been a movement for us to be ‘positive’ and ‘grateful’ about everything. We’re encouraged to find the silver lining and then move on. If we do this without first experiencing the true emotion that comes with a challenge, then we risk trapping that emotion in our system. Once it’s trapped it creates an energy imbalance and that can lead us to experience stress which affects our overall health and wellbeing. So, feel the emotion. Acknowledge that whatever has happened is painful; it makes you angry, it triggers you (or whatever the emotion is that you are feeling). Next, release that emotion and THEN look at the situation to find your lesson. Doing this makes it so much easier for you to move forwards without getting stuck in a spiral.
2. Turn your inner voice into your loudest cheerleader. Often, the way we speak to ourselves and/or treat ourselves creates the biggest impact on our emotional wellbeing. How often do you say things to yourself that are overly harsh and critical? If you constantly give yourself a hard time (like I used to do!), you will most likely be creating emotional upheaval for yourself. When we constantly berate ourselves for all the little things, we create an environment where we can never achieve our own expectations. There’s very little joy in living like this. Instead, when you turn your inner voice into your greatest cheerleader it’s like having someone constantly by your side that always wants you to do well. They always find the shining star in everything you do, and they help you to find your way through the ‘tough stuff’ with so much more ease and grace. There’s a thousand people out there in the world who will happily have things to say that aren’t encouraging or motivating for you … but when you make the closest person to you — yourself! — the one who brings you the most happiness, those other voices fade into obscurity because their opinion doesn’t carry any weight anymore.
3. Get curious about what you are feeling. We’re taught not to take too much notice of our emotions because they might just tell us that there’s something wrong with us. Emotions are things that people tend to use as weapons. If you think about the playground, you could never let someone that was picking on you know that they had upset or frightened you, because that made you an even bigger target for them. In the workplace, if you’re female you can’t let anyone see you’re upset or angry, because then you get branded as too ‘emotional’ and that might mean you won’t get that promotion or pay rise. On the sporting field, you can’t show any emotion because if you win and you celebrate then you’re showing off. Over time, we block ourselves off from the emotion because we don’t want the things people say about those emotions to be true about ourselves. So, we simply don’t look. But when we step into consciously connecting with emotions — without any judgement — we start to see how holding onto them affects our health and wellbeing. When we get curious about our response to things, we get loads of information that is really useful to us in guiding us about what we need in the moment. We can then use that information for the benefit of our wellbeing.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
There is no doubt that when we’re truly smiling at something, our body relaxes and we are able to move away from a stressed state of being. Given 70% of us spend over 80% of every day in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode, the more we can do to help us move back into a relaxed state of being the better.
There are so many more stressors than ever before in life; they appear in every corner almost every second of the day. The research is showing that the more stressed we are, the more our emotional wellbeing is compromised. The more that stress increases, the more we are at risk of experiencing serious mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. These have a direct impact on our emotional wellbeing.
If all it takes to help us do that is to find things that make us smile, then why wouldn’t we be doing that as often as possible?
When we smile, we feel good, and with everything that comes with the modern way of living and all the stress that comes with that, why wouldn’t we want to feel good as often as we can?
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Start to use questions to help you connect with what you need. There seems to be this prevailing view that in order to be spiritually well, we need to leave everything we have in life behind, wear cheesecloth and go and live in a cave so we can meditate every day. The reality is that we can bring a spiritual practice into our lives simply by connecting with ourselves on a regular basis. The easiest way to do this is by adding the power of questions into every day. Asking questions allows you to create a tiny amount of space, but this gives you the opportunity to create a conscious connection AND a conscious answer. For example, someone tells you that you ‘have to’ do something. You could ask the question: ‘Is that right for me?’ This allows you to consciously decide whether that is something you want and/or need to be doing. Meditating regularly is also a great way to strengthen the connection you have with yourself. It also creates a space where the focus is on you. A mediative process can also be a great way to receive answers to questions.
2. Take time to connect with yourself every day. Time that is just for you may seem like a luxury in these busy days, but in reality it is one of the few things that actually creates time and space for you. It might be through meditation, through movement or through allowing creativity to flow, but taking time to connect with yourself gives you the opportunity to clear your mind, drop some stress and relax into the space that you create for yourself. Research shows that when you give yourself this time every day, you gain clarity of mind, carry less stress and achieve more restful sleep.
3. Use the power of breath to keep you centered. The more we become trapped in the busy-ness of life, the more we affect the physical and mental wellness we carry within ourselves. There are many forms of breathing practice that have been used throughout religion, meditation and yoga — for centuries. Perhaps the most applicable to our modern way of life is abdominal breathing. This is connected directly to the nervous system and allows you to immediately move yourself from a stressed state to a relaxed state. Every time you practice a breathing technique, you are engaging in spiritual connection with yourself. It doesn’t take much time and is completely free. The biggest challenge that comes with incorporating breathing techniques into your day is to remember to do them.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Nature always shows us the way. When we are at our most disconnected, we will have disconnected with nature. When we connect with nature, we connect with ourselves. Throughout the world — and throughout history — you can see the role that nature plays in showing us how to reset, renew and regrow. Look at the way that the land recovers from devastating fires or floods. When we stop and look at the way that nature flows, it doesn’t struggle; it doesn’t fight. It simply finds the easiest pathway through whatever it finds in front of it. It changes with the seasons and shows us how to rest, renew, surge and recharge. Connection is the key, and when we spend time in nature we’re given the opportunity to leave behind the distractions that keep us trapped in chaos and step into a space that is there purely to help us rest, recover and grow. There is so much for us to learn from the plant and animal kingdoms. Our challenge is to set our egos aside, stop and listen to what they have to say.
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 inspire people to view the world with a filter of love.
We’ve been taught to compare, judge and criticise as the primary way of determining where we are at in comparison. We’ve been taught that competition — and getting to the top no matter what it costs us (or those around us) — is the number one objective in life.
If instead we could view everything in front of us as a projection showing us the direction of our next step, maybe we’d see the end of war, the end of greed and the end of a life full of ill-heath and misery.
We’d be aligned with the things that are important to us, and simply let go of the things that aren’t. We’d be happy for everyone’s achievements while still chasing our own. We’d move to living life from a place of abundance for all, instead of lack and competition for scarce resources.
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 would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with P!nk. I love her sass and the way that she stands up for the things she believes in. The way she encourages people to be true to themselves and celebrate everything they are, is something the world needs so much of at the moment. Every day, I teach people that there’s another way to live, and so does P!nk. I think we’d have lots to talk about, but I also think we’d have loads of fun!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I spend a lot of time in the online space and am frequently sought as an expert for media across all channels. I share a lot of my work through my online platforms that readers can access by connecting with me:
Website Link: https://www.sheiqlife.com/
Free Email Series: https://www.sheiqlife.com/7-steps-email-series/
I also have an online program to assist busy professional women reduce stress and beat burnout that can be accessed here: https://sheiqlife.com/kiss-fbpw/.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.