skip to Main Content

The Power of Mindset in Your Health and Life

With

Season 2, Episode 2  | February 3, 2020

Mindset is often an overlooked factor in our health and well-being, but it’s where real, lasting change begins — whether you’re working on your health, fitness, relationships, or career. Our guest is Jen Elmquist, a licensed mental health professional, the creator of LT Mind, and the author of Relationship Reset.

 

Woman With Eyes Closed Looking Peaceful.

01:09
Our guest on this episode is Jen Elmquist. She’s a psychotherapist who’s worked in the field of mental health and wellness for over a decade as a clinician, coach, consultant and faculty member at Saint Mary’s University. She’s also the author of Relationship Reset.

01:32
Why we intentionally chose mindset as the first episode for this podcast.

01:52
Jen defines mindset as being your thoughts and emotions that drive your actions. It sounds simple, but it can actually be really complicated.

02:29
How does your personal “why” play a role within your mindset?

04:34
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can both help and hinder us as we’re working toward our goals. Our extrinsic motivators often tend to be temporary, so if we’re looking to sustain long-term change, that’s where intrinsic motivators can become key.

08:11
As we go through the process of looking beyond aesthetics to obtaining a concrete sense of self, extrinsic motivation becomes less important to us. Mindfulness and meditation are two tools that can help us with this.

08:46
So often we put everything else before our own self-care. How can we begin to incorporate mindfulness and awareness into our daily lives? Because it is something that requires regular practice.

09:24
Most of the time we go through the day on autopilot; thoughts and emotions run through us so quickly that all we do is react. Mindfulness is pulling back and understanding what you’re thinking and feeling in a given moment and what you want to do with those thoughts and emotions so you can respond, not react.

11:38
How do we help people even just learn how to pause? If you’re not able to pause to understand what you’re thinking and feeling, what’s working for you and what’s not, you’re not going to be as engaged or successful in life as you could be.

13:34
We’re motivated by two primary emotions: fear and desire.

14:36
Fear can play a role in having a fixed mindset. However, we can learn to obtain a growth mindset, where we believe we’re in control of creating the experiences we want to have.

15:59
Change is inevitable. How can our mindset around change help or hinder us?

16:50
We often don’t see change because it’s gradual; it’s in hindsight that we see an accumulation of change. Seeing change through a window of a physical transformation is a powerful example.

18:50
One of the larger, more difficult changes to make is to overcome nurture, or the belief that you are a product of your environment, especially one that wasn’t healthy or positive. It takes work, but we’re all capable of shifting and growing to get to the place we want to be.

25:08
Meditation is just one form of mindfulness, but it can be extraordinarily powerful. Meditation strengthens your center of consciousness, and by strengthening that you have greater access to awareness — and mindfulness is all about awareness.

26:14
Research done at Harvard showed that after an eight-week meditation program, visible shifts occurred in the brain of the participants, both in the prefrontal cortex — our executive function center — our executive function center, as well as in gray matter, our emotional center.

27:35
Meditation is like mental hygiene. Just like brushing your teeth.

27:39
Outside of meditation, there are other ways to practice mindfulness. One of Jen’s favorite ways is to use her pulse to do check-ins throughout the day.

29:29
About Jen’s personal meditation journey.

30:08
There’s never been a better time to start meditating due to all the resources available now. It may be a spiritual practice for you, something you do in a yoga class, or could play into your tech interest by using an app or metrics-based tool.

31:26
The big piece for people to understand is that meditation is just the practice of working with your mind — it doesn’t need to be the very zen-like practice many envision it as.

32:37
Jen likens the movement of the mind to strength training. If you’re practicing resistance, the busier your mind is, the stronger it’s getting.

32:47
The Harvard research also found that those who went through the eight-week meditation program reported feeling less stressed, reacting in calmer ways, and being more compassionate and loving toward people.

33:38
One of Jen’s favorite meditation breathing mantras is to breathe in the word “pass,” and breathe out the word “through” — inviting your emotions to just “pass through” rather than always engaging with them.

34:24
What are some simple ways people can begin to bring more mindfulness into their lives?

39:06
The one non-negotiable, healthy-living habit that Jen incorporates into her daily life.

More Like This

A person sits cross-legged with a bowl of healthy cereal and fruit.
By Molly Schelper and Jill Patton
Gather inspiration for crafting a morning routine in Part One of this three-part series.
Woman breathing looking peaceful.
With Jen Elmquist
Season 1, Episode 13   April 13, 2020

Jen Elmquist, MA, LMFT, director and co-creator of Life Time Mind, shares ways to protect your mind and body, as well as some simple mental exercises you can do if you feel overwhelmed with stress or worry.

Listen >
Person walking on path alone outside.
By Experience Life Staff
Strategies for reframing fear and enjoying life in the face of anxiety.

Transcript: The Power of Mindset in Your Health and Life

Season 2, Episode 2  | February 3, 2020

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, the signature program lead for Life Time’s Alpha program. We’re all in different places along our health and fitness journey, but no matter what we are working towards, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode we’ll cover the foundational elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, health issues like sleep and stress management, and mindfulness and community.

David Freeman

And we’ll be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go. 

[Music]

David Freeman

On today’s episode we are going to be talking about mindset and how it influences everything: self-esteem, health, relationships, and careers. It’s often just as powerful as circumstance in determining the course of your life. Today’s guest is Jen Elmquist, designer and program lead for LT Mind, which is Life Time’s internal performance coaching program.

Jamie Martin

Jenn is a psychotherapist who has worked in the field of mental health and wellness for over a decade as a clinician, coach, consultant, and a faculty member at Saint Mary’s University. She’s also the author of Relationship Reset, which was published in 2017.

Thanks, Jen, for being with us today. We’re excited to have you.

Jen Elmquist

I’m so excited to be here, Jamie and David. Thanks so much.

Jamie Martin

We wanted to start with mindset for this podcast, because it really is a foundational element of healthy living, though it’s often something we don’t think about first. We typically jump into a fitness program or a nutrition program or something without really thinking about where we are right now from a mental, emotional, social perspective, so let’s start with mindset — why is it so important, how do you define it.

Jen Elmquist

I define mindset actually very simply. So, it is your thoughts and emotions that drive your actions. And it is honestly that simple, yet it is so complicated because if you do not have the awareness and the skills to regulate your thoughts and emotions, you will be acting unconsciously, so that consciousness that comes to be aware of your mindset is probably the first step to any success, whether it’s a health and fitness program, it’s your career, it’s your relationships — but your awareness of the fact that your thoughts and your emotions will drive your actions is the key.

David Freeman

Well, being in the fitness industry for like 10 years now and just being around fitness the majority of my life, that’s always been like a foundational piece, whether it was coming from my father, coach, whoever it was, always were talking about how you approach things from a mindset, and with all of the individuals that I’ve ever worked with, that was always foundational as well. Everybody wants to come in with the ideology of saying, alright, we’re going to do this, I want to do a pull up, I want to do this and that, but by the end of the day, I always bring them back and I say, alright, the why, and where is this coming from, the emotional connection, too, whether it was losing weight or doing a 5K, the why is what we speak in depth at the foundation before we even start their whole fitness journey. So, you probably have heard like the Simon Sinek, the whole why, like start with the why, so how does that play a role within the mindset?

Jen Elmquist

Well, the why ultimately is how we feel, right? So, if I want to have an outcome and I want it to mirror an emotion that’s going to feel good, I’ve got to understand what I have to do to get that emotion, right. So then what it attaches to is what we think or believe about our ability to do that or whether it’s possible. So coming in and doing a pull up, that’s a huge challenge for most people, right, doing one pullup. And so if the belief is I can’t do that but the desire is I want to feel accomplished, we’re actually going to work hard to see if we can shift what we believe. So, if I can change what I believe and all of a sudden I can do the pull up, and now I know I can, now I feel accomplished, and that’s where mindset comes into play, and it’s exactly what you’re talking about, that’s the why. Why do I want to do that? I want to feel something that I don’t feel right now. I want to feel better than I feel right now. I want to feel successful. I want to feel like I’m moving forward. I think most of us in life say, I want to feel like where I am isn’t permanent, I want to feel like I can move forward from where I am and do something more. 

Jamie Martin

Extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation — how do they both help and hinder us? Because, you know, for instance, I am working towards a pull up right now and it’s a total mindset thing. It’s more I know physically I can do it, but it’s my mind saying you’ve never been able to do this. But I want to do it because I want to show my girls someday that I can do it. That to me is an intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic, so can you talk to that a little bit about why we need both, and why they both serve us.

Jen Elmquist

Yeah, and they do both serve us. And I know you probably see this all the time, David, that idea of somebody coming in and there’s a big event coming up, whether it’s a high school reunion or a wedding dress they’re trying to get into — there’s something. Or, a race — you know, something that they want to prepare for and do. That’s extrinsic motivation, right? That’s something external that you’re driving towards that you want to accomplish.

The intrinsic kind of goes back to that feeling, and that really is based in our values, and you were saying, Jamie, that I want to do a pull up because I want to be able to show my girls that. And that’s a value of yours, is that you are a model for your girls of what’s possible, and that’s going to drive you to do something. And I think the difference oftentimes — and join me in this conversation —  but our extrinsic motivations, although motivating, they tend to be temporary, right, so they drive us to a temporary moment of success. And so, oftentimes, with health and fitness, that’s great if there’s something we want to accomplish temporarily, but if we’re looking at sustaining our health long-term, we’re not always able to sustain beyond that temporary accomplishment, right? So we hit that race or we hit that event and then we kind of go back into bad habits after that.

Where our intrinsic motivations tend to be long lasting because they are rooted in our values. They are rooted in the things that we’re driving kind of our whole life off of. And so, for example, if an intrinsic motivation is, I want to age with vitality, and it’s really important because maybe I watched my grandparents not do that, right, I watched them struggle with some sort of disease or some sort of issue maybe with knees, and they didn’t have mobility anymore, you know, so I look at that and say, I don’t want that for my life, I want to age, I want to be able to move for a long time, and I want to be able to have energy for a long time, that’s going to drive me to take care of myself in a more sustainable way.

David Freeman

Yeah, I 100 percent align with that. It is crazy in the sense of the thought process because of the emotional connection to, I want to lose the five pounds, and I always say, OK, once we lose the five pounds, guess what, I want to lose another five pounds. So there’s more to it. And I always look at it from the health and fitness standpoint, and the analogy I usually bring whenever like, I facilitate any kind of like seminars, what were you . . . like, these athletes . . . that I work a lot with athletes, and I always ask the question, I was like, the coach, or your father, or whoever, or mother has said to you, you were what before athlete? And you were like student before athlete. And I said, you should have the same approach health before fitness because we’re going after this aesthetic piece, but internally, whether it’s mental or the cluster of all these internal pieces are being jacked up because I’m sacrificing so much for this aesthetic piece, it’s that instant gratification of someone acknowledges me or they see me now, and I always give the visualization of see yourself, right, look in the mirror, see yourself, and identify with self, and once you’re able to understand who self is, that mirror becomes a window, and you’re able to help others because you now know who you are.

Jen Elmquist

So beautifully put, and I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s that depth of process, right, so you’re going from the surface, our physical surface, of how we want to appear, how do we want to present to others, to that deeper understanding of self, and I know we want to touch on today the ideas of mindfulness and meditation, and those really being those paths into a concrete sense of self, and when driven from that sense of self, actually extrinsic motivation becomes less important to us. Yes.

David Freeman

Right.

Jamie Martin

Yeah, when we’re feeling fulfilled, we see ourselves accomplishing these things, that self-confidence builds throughout all of those things, but I think you get to that, you know, mindfulness is an aspect of this, the awareness you talked about right at the top. How do we begin to incorporate that into our lives more because so often it’s like we put everything else before our own self-care, right, and that includes how we care, in some cases, it’s how we care for our bodies, it’s how we care for our minds, we put other people first. So how do we begin to make mindfulness and awareness a part of our daily lives? I mean, because it is something you have to practice, it doesn’t just happen like that, with the snap of a finger.

Jen Elmquist

No, it doesn’t. And you know the reason it doesn’t is because most of us haven’t taken the time to start to do the inner workout with our own self, of really understanding the concept of self-regulation. So, quite some time ago a group of researchers got together and experts in the area of mindfulness, and they actually put together a definition of mindfulness to help set the stage going forward, and you know how that is, is we get these concepts out there, and then it goes out to so many different areas that people start defining it in all different ways, and we wonder what truly is that definition of mindfulness, and they talk about the fact that mindfulness is self-regulation, which means we’re able to understand and be aware of our thoughts and emotions, and we’re being able to do that in a way where we are curious and non-judgmental of our self, right, but most of the time we go out through the day and we’re on auto pilot. Those thoughts and emotions are running through us so quickly that all we’re doing is reacting, reacting, reacting to ourselves and people around us and the experiences around us. Mindfulness is pulling back for a moment, and actually looking inside ourselves and saying, OK, what am I thinking, what am I feeling right now, and what do I want to do with that, so in turn, I’m not reacting, I’m actually choosing to respond.

Jamie Martin

It’s so interesting because I recently wrote a letter about this for Experience Life about how I was trying to incorporate more mindfulness practices, and one of the things I’d been challenged to was stop before you eat lunch and take three deep breaths, and I, for that whole month, when I was supposed to be practicing this, I think I did it three or four times, and it’s interesting because really is just . . . it’s a moment. It doesn’t take a lot, but it was like if you’re just going and doing and never stopping, you don’t give yourself the space, you’re not going to build the practice, so it’s how do we begin to incorporate those moments, and I found since I’ve noticed that I’ve forgotten those moments, I’ve done it more, you know, it was like it took me having to like become aware, like, oh, I had to write it down and say, oh, I forgot to do that, and now I’ve been more consistent with it, but it does take just pausing and reflecting to a degree, and I think that’s an aspect, whether you do that through journaling or however you do it, but how do we just become aware, I think that’s the thing, like how do we help people even just to learn how to pause.

Jen Elmquist

How to pause. Yeah. Well, here’s one of the more motivating things when I think about learning how to pause or learning to want to start to pay attention in a conscious way to what’s going on inside you, is I think for all human beings, that’s our superpower. And if you’re not using your super power, you actually aren’t ever going to be as engaged and successful in life as you can be. So, your super power is being able to understand what am I thinking, and what am I feeling, is it working for me or not, do I need to shift it, because how do I want to experience the world, because the truth is, and this is universal, this is how the brain works universally in all of us, what you believe drives how you feel, how you feel drives what you do, what you do drives what you experience, what you experience loops back and helps you define your beliefs. So it’s a closed feedback loop, right?

Jamie Martin

Right.

Jen Elmquist

So, if we’re not interrupting the loop, we’re actually living out of the driver’s seat, we’re living in autopilot. If you want to drive your life, you’ve got to step inside and start to own your super power — that’s mindfulness.

David Freeman

When you say that it, it aligns to presence is the present.

Jen Elmquist

That’s right.

David Freeman

Right?

Jen Elmquist

Yeah.

David Freeman

So, that’s the gift that we actually give back to our self, right, and it’s not in a selfish way because like you need to give self that time to breathe, to be aware, to be present.

Jen Elmquist

Yeah.

David Freeman

So, it does go a long way. I want to touch on something that I feel a lot of our listeners want to understand and know — defining fear, and how that plays a role within the mindset. And a lot of times, we can say it’s the unknown, and usually that’s what it is that we don’t understand what it is, so therefore, we’re afraid of the unknown. Can you talk to how to handle fear and how does fear come about?

Jen Elmquist

Yeah. You know, we’re really motivated by two primary emotions, fear and desire, and fear is . . . I say I love the acronym false evidence that appears real, so that idea that we’re present, but we’re thinking about what might happen, and that moment hasn’t happened yet, so all we’re doing is projecting onto the future something that doesn’t exist, so fear ultimately is an illusion that we live in, but it’s highly motivating because it’s also primitive, right, and so we think about like a stress response is that primitive fear response in the brain of I feel like I’m being chased by a tiger, so all of our body physiologically reacts to that stress, and we have a fear response, and so one of the very first things, when dealing with fear — and this is a part of that mindfulness, of that self-regulation — is realizing that this is an illusion that’s not happening to me right now, and so now what do I believe about what I’m telling myself.

Jamie Martin

That goes a little bit to the whole idea of the fixed versus growth mindset.

Jen Elmquist

Absolutely.

Jamie Martin

So, can you talk a little bit about that and how fear plays into that?

Jen Elmquist

When we look at what’s called neuroplasticity, which is our ability to actually shift what we believe, and oftentimes, that’s an important first step. I think we can believe that our beliefs are concrete, and because I believe it, it’s true, and that’s actually not true, beliefs are perfectly malleable, which is why education and learning is so important, right, when we learn something new, what we find is what we thought in the beginning is not what we think in the end, which means our beliefs can shift.

David Freeman

Yeah.

Jen Elmquist

Right? And that ultimately is what a growth mindset is, it’s believing that what’s happening to me right now is not permanent, what I believe about what’s happening to me right now is malleable, and so in doing that, things can become better than what they are right now. And so when we’re in a fixed mindset, we can tend to be definitely overcome by fear, we can become overcome by negativity because we’re in a rigid state of believing that what I have right now is all I’m ever going to have or all I’m ever going to do, the experiences that I’ve had previously are the only things that are defining me.

A growth mindset says no, I am actually in control of creating the experiences that I want to have and I believe something more is possible, and I can learn myself into that.

Jamie Martin

Well, that goes also . . . the whole concept of change, right, like change is inevitable. You said that just a few moments ago. I had read, and I’ll have to find and link to it in our podcast show notes page, about change and how we have these perceptions of like, if I look . . .  from right now in this moment, I think about from 10 years from now how my life is going to change, I don’t really think a lot is going to change, I’m probably going to have the same friends, I’m going to be doing a lot of the same things, but if I take this moment right now and look back 10 years a lot has changed.

Jen Elmquist

Yes.

Jamie Martin

And so, like it kind of comes down to this flexibility around what changes and how it’s going to affect our lives, and being really open to it. Can you speak to that at all, and how that can help or hinder us, I guess, again, if we’re stuck, nothing is going to change, I’m right where I’m going to be.

Jen Elmquist

I’m right where I’m always going to be. And I think change is often scary, which is why we don’t like thinking about it, right.

Jamie Martin

It goes back to fear, again, right?

Jen Elmquist

It goes back to fear, yeah. And again, it’s what we believe about change, but change is always happening to us, you know, everything in nature is constantly changing, everything in our body is constantly changing, we’re constantly recycling and turning over, and our mind actually is shifting and changing, too, but we often don’t see change because it is gradual, it’s gradual on a daily basis that change is happening to us, it is in hindsight that we see the accumulation of change, and David, maybe you want to speak to this, but I love change through the window of a physical transformation, right, because that’s something . . . and I think a lot of our members can relate to this, if they’ve come into Life Time and they’ve initiated a process, right, with a trainer, a nutritionist, and they’ve actually been able to see that physical change.

David Freeman

So, yeah, I called it a breakthrough moment because they came in with some type of feeling that they wanted to create a change, and that’s what we’re talking on, so when they hit this PR, this personal record, or they achieved this goal, we think it’s really about the weight they’ve just lifted or the pull up they’d just got, but it was something else, they actually did it. The sense of belief is so powerful, believing in themselves and then having all these other people cheer them on in that moment that they succeed, and I always say, it always was there, right, it always existed. Whatever sparked it, right, whatever created the moments that led up to it, the accumulation of all the support, but by the end of the day, it was you, you ended up making this special moment, so when we go back to six months ago when they came through the doors, and it was something as simple as a pull up, and when they achieve it, it was so much bigger than a pull up.

Jen Elmquist

Yeah.

David Freeman

Right, and those are powerful moments, and I mean, to say how many I’ve witnessed is amazing. But it’s also increased my belief and my mindset because sometimes I’m even shocked. Not that they ended up doing it, but it’s just like the determination is motivation and I tell all the people I interact with, I’m like, you guys motivate me, you’re thinking I’m motivating you and encouraging you, I’m like, you guys are walking testimonies, and I always am humbled whenever I’m in their presence, so that is powerful to see change over the years.

So, let me ask you this question. It’s always these different backgrounds individuals come from, and you’ve heard the saying maybe, a product of one’s environment, so when you come from places that do not have the resources or come from this pretty much a bad situation, and you see people come out of it, so I’m curious to if you’ve worked with any individuals that say, yeah, I’m a product of my environment, this is a cycle, right, how would you coach somebody that’s saying I’m a product of my environment, this is just what it is, and I know it’s just they are accepting it, and that’s the easy way to say they’re just accepting it, they don’t want to change, but how do you break through that?

Jen Elmquist

Yeah, and you’re right, acceptance is a piece of that, but it is so much more, and really, you’re talking about one of the larger, more difficult changes to make is often to overcome our nurture, that origin place, our origin story of where we come from, and if that story isn’t a story that has been healthy and positive, and pushing us to our potential, and filling us with belief, and self-esteem, and self-efficacy, right, then the challenge is greater. However, here’s the beautiful thing about the mind, and this is where neuroplasticity plays a role, is it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can always change and train your mind to move in a different direction. And so this is where I would look and say, across the board, if I look at three critical elements of a human being — our spirit, our mind, and our body — we are all capable of taking any one of those elements and shifting them and growing them into a place that we’d like them to be. It is going to take more effort for some because of the origin that they come from, but that does not mean it’s not possible, and I think that’s the important place to start, always the important place to start is possibility.

The next piece is it is work. It’s important for people to understand with mindset or with working with your mental performance that we need to work out that aspect of us as much as we have to work out our body, and it is small shifts consistently over time where we put in that discipline of practice that ultimately brings about great change, and the mind is not any different than the body.

So yes, when I have worked with people that come from a difficult origin story, what we’re doing in those moments is, we’re setting up first the fact that we accept this is where we are, we’re defining where is it we want to go, and then we’re working, we’re making daily practice change to shift the mind to the life that that person wants not the life that they have.

David Freeman

That’s powerful. I guess it’s in the moment that they’re with you, that’s the light, but then the reality is going back over and over. So, let’s say they see you one or two times a week for an hour, right, that’s two hours out of 168, so 166 hours of their life in that week is in the trenches, the not so good place, and then they have that light for two hours. I always was curious of . . . don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen it happen that people actually break out of it, but I was just like, wow, I’m always like in amaze whenever I see that.

Jen Elmquist

Well, I think we have similar businesses in that way, right, is you’re working on physical transformation with people, and I may be working on the mental transformation with people, and I often tell people when they come to see me, it’s a 90/10 rule, 10 percent of what we do is here with me, 90 percent is out with you, and I can’t control your 90 percent.

David Freeman

Right.

Jen Elmquist

But what I can do is give you skills and I can give you tools, and if you use those skills and tools you will start to see change, right. So, in similar fashion, you can give people workouts, you can give them a nutrition plan, you can even walk them through it step-by-step and show them that it’s possible for them to do that in the moment with you, but it is the effort and the work outside of it, using that plan, and using those tools where the success comes, and that’s also where the increased self-esteem and the increased self-efficacy of I can do this, and I can do it on my own that is really important for people to know that they’re capable.

Jamie Martin

I think that goes right back to the idea of there are no quick fixes in any of these aspects of health and fitness and wellness, whether it’s physical, emotional, social, any of those pieces. It takes effort, and it takes work, and it’s going to take time. These changes are going to take time, and sometimes it’s so gradual you’re not even going to notice until something happens, you’re like, I handled that situation in a way that’s 180 degrees different than I would have six months ago, you know, and that’s an awareness in and of itself, so it takes that practice. It’s making that day-to-day commitment, and how do people begin to train themselves to do that? So, one thing in terms of mindfulness and its connection to mindset, I often think that mindfulness gets confused with meditation, which I want to touch on that because I think meditation has its place, but that’s not the whole story, and it’s not the only way to practice mindfulness, so can you talk a little bit about that and other ways that people can start to incorporate mindfulness, whether it’s moving their bodies, that kind of thing?

Jen Elmquist

Yes, and first I’m going to say meditation is extraordinarily powerful, so if I was to look at kind of a core exercise, you know, if we were to look at a core physical exercise as being cardio or strength training, right, our two cores, we need those two cores, meditation is a core when it comes to mindfulness. So meditation and . . . actually, one of my favorite, favorite books, you want to read something that will blow your mind around meditation, mindfulness, and true awareness of self, Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul.

Jamie Martin

Jotting that down.

Jen Elmquist

Amazing. And so, this is actually a definition that he gives of meditation, but meditation is strengthening your center of consciousness, and in strengthening your center of consciousness, you have greater access to awareness, and mindfulness is awareness. Mindfulness is awareness of my thoughts and emotions, and that’s what we need to adjust our mindset, which is our thoughts and emotions that lead to action, so there is a trifecta there.

Jamie Martin

It’s all connected, it’s not going anywhere.

Jen Elmquist

All connected to me. And then we have the beautiful research Sara Lazar has done out of Harvard with MRIs and meditation and using Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindful stress reduction program. And actually looking at before and after MRIs of people that have never meditated and then doing an eight week program of meditation and seeing actual shifts in the brain, in the prefrontal cortex growth and gray matter, and that’s your executive function center that’s actually helping you make strategic decisions and self-regulate, and then a reduction in gray matter in the amygdalaor the emotional center, which is actually helping you not react in such a fast way.

So these are important centering and strengthening things, that it’s not just doing to, let’s say your internal experience, but there is physiological proof that it’s actually shifting your brain. So meditation, which obviously has been around for eons and always seen as a spiritual practice, and it is a spiritual practice, also now is being so rooted in what we understand on the physiological side of the benefits to the mind and emotional regulation through meditation, so there really isn’t a replacement for it. We do use that in our Life Time performance coaching program, we have meditation, and we teach that, and actually you and I talked about this, Jamie, so I’m bringing it up right now, the idea that it’s mental hygiene.

Jamie Martin

Yes, I love this idea.

Jen Elmquist

Yeah, that meditation . . .

Jamie Martin

It’s like brushing your teeth, you said . . .

Jen Elmquist

Yeah, it’s like brushing your teeth, it’s that good mental hygiene of taking care of your brain, and yet it’s not the only way to be mindful. So I think that circles back to your ultimate question is, what else is there, and mindfulness, there’s a variety of ways to be mindful, but understanding that ultimately mindfulness is bringing awareness to yourself in a curious and non-judgmental way, and that can be done. Simple things that I talk about is, it can be done in the shower, right, of mindfully actually bathing in the morning and really thinking and being present about the fact, I’m not thinking about my day, I’m actually thinking about the fact that I’m in the shower, and I’m washing my hair right now, and I’m thinking about what I’m doing. It can do wonders when you’re just focusing on breath.

One of my favorite ways of being mindful throughout the day is taking my pulse. So I will actually take my fingers to my wrists, and I’ll close my eyes, I’ll breathe, I will feel my pulse, but I like to think about it metaphorically of I’m taking the pulse of my life right now, and so I’ll ask myself, how do I feel, what do I need, and I’ll check in with myself periodically throughout the day by taking my pulse. It connects me to my body and it connects me to my mind.

Jamie Martin

It’s a great connection tool for both of them though, right.

Jen Elmquist

Yes. 

Jamie Martin

Like you get to look at it in both aspects? I love that.

David Freeman

So, I’m curious now, I mean, everybody who’s listening, I’m pretty sure wants that quick access step guide to how do you meditate, so do you have to be still to meditate, right, I mean, like can you give us the insight to this is the easy way to meditate because people might think they’re meditating and might not be meditating, so I want to know personally, how do you meditate?

Jen Elmquist

Well, so, I started meditating about 20 years ago.

David Freeman

OK.

Jen Elmquist

And if I look at my journey of meditation, my journey of meditation started as a spiritual practice.

David Freeman

OK.

Jen Elmquist

It started actually in prayer and often walking. It moved into a mental practice of starting to understand breath and actually falling into a centered space mentally, and it’s actually also moved then to a physical practice for me of really understanding the physical benefits of it and looking at meditation that way, so I love to say you can enter into meditation wherever you are.

David Freeman

Awesome.

Jen Elmquist

Right, whether it’s spiritual, mental, or physical for you. Enter into the space that makes sense for you to start with, and then finding actually a way to practice that connects for you. You know, there are some people that love the connection of meditation through yoga or actually doing a meditation course and learning from someone how to meditate. We use a tool with our performance coaching at Life Time called Muse, and there’s a lot of apps out there, meditation apps out there right now that actually walk you through meditation practice. I mean there’s never been a better time to meditate because there’s so many resources.

Jamie Martin

There’s a ton out there, there’s so many.

Jen Elmquist

There are so many resources, yeah, but Muse, I love. Muse actually pairs an EEG reader with an app on your smart phone. It walks you through a meditative experience, and it gives you real time data feedback on your brain states, on whether or not you’re in an active brain state, a neutral brain state, or a calm brain state, so you actually see direct feedback on are you meditating because that’s ultimately the question, David, right?

David Freeman

Right. Right.

Jen Elmquist

So many people say, well, I’m trying, and I’m breathing, I’m focusing my breath, and I’m really distracted, but I don’t know, am I really meditating? Well, this is one of those tools that’s going to give you actually real-time feedback.

Jamie Martin

If you’re a data person, right?

Jen Elmquist

Oh, yeah.

Jamie Martin

Like that can be super helpful, and so many people are.

Jen Elmquist

Super helpful. Super helpful. So, Muse, people might wonder what are we talking about Muse, Muse, the Muse technology tool for meditation, great tool. And then I think the most important piece with meditation is for people to understand, because we tend to think, you know, I tend to think it’s like very Zen, you know, and it’s a very practiced monk that has given so much time of their life to it that they are, you know, like elevating off the ground while they’re concentrating, but the biggest thing with meditation is it’s the constant practice of working with your mind.

Jamie Martin

It’s that bringing yourself back to the present and the moment.

Jen Elmquist

It’s bringing yourself back. Yeah.

Jamie Martin

I remember when I first started practicing yoga, and they would say, notice your breath, come back to your breath, and that’s what I love about yoga, it combines the physical and the spiritual and emotional, but it was like, come back to your breath, and I would be amazed sometimes, like whoa, I didn’t even realize I wasn’t paying attention to my breath.

Jen Elmquist

Yes.

Jamie Martin

But like if you can keep coming back, and I feel like the breath and often a mantra is something for me that works in terms of coming back.

Jen Elmquist

Very helpful.

Jamie Martin

To kind of just say, OK, here I am again in this moment, and it’s okay that I went over there for a little bit, that my mind went there, but I’m going to come back again, and I’ll go back over there again, you know, who knows when.

Jen Elmquist

And you will. Yeah, and I think the movement of the mind in meditation, I liken it to strength training. It’s resistance, you know, so actually, sometimes, the busier my mind is, the stronger it’s getting.

David Freeman

Yeah.

Jen Elmquist

You know, because I’m pulling myself back, and pulling myself back, and pulling myself back, and I’m building that resistance every single time. One of the really interesting things out of meditation research is out of that eight-week program not only did they see brain changes, but people report feeling less stressed. They report being able to react in calmer ways. They report being more compassionate and more loving to other people. I mean, those are real-time benefits that you feel in your real life if you start to use meditation.

Jamie Martin

Yeah, your day-to-day experiences begin to shift, even in really subtle ways, sometimes. The way you react in traffic can be different, you know, like OK, I’m going to take a breath here, and I’m going to wave instead of maybe doing something else at somebody, so who knows, I mean. it changes how we react and show up in the world, I think.

Jen Elmquist

One of my favorite meditation breathing mantras, and I’ll teach people in performance coaching, I’ll teach a variety of different just two word phrases because we can breathe in a word and we can breathe out a word, and one of my favorites is breathing in the word “pass” and breathing out the word “through” — “pass through,” you know. And as you seek to have life become more meditative, you’re always going to be confronted with emotions that want to rile you up, it’s your choice whether you engage with that emotion, and you can always invite that emotion to just pass through you, it doesn’t have to stay and keep you stuck, and life becomes a more meditative practice if how you live in your emotions is by inviting it just to pass through.

Jen Elmquist

I love that.

David Freeman

Love that.

Jamie Martin

So, when you are working with your clients that you’re working with, you’ve worked through, you’ve kind of established that, OK, you’re going to go home and these are the things you’re going to do 90 . . . you know, you’re in charge of the 90 percent, what are some simple ways that our listeners can begin to bring more mindfulness into their lives? I mean, are there two or three things that are pretty consistent in your recommendations for people in terms of, you’ve got to start somewhere, here’s a place to start?

Jen Elmquist

Yeah. I’ll offer three things, and these three things really do mirror how we do mental workouts with our team members at Life Time. So, we built our coaching program off of a mindfulness-based cognitive coaching model. We call our coaching mental workouts, right, and that we’re working with mindset and shifting mindset, and we always utilize three components, and these are three components I would recommend anybody has in their day-to-day.

The one component is some form of meditation, and I recommend just even five minutes a day, and that’s not a hard thing to do. And often done first thing in the morning really sets your brain right for the day. And again, we’ve talked about a variety of ways that you can do that, right, apps you can get, if you want to take a class, if you want to just sit quietly and breathe and focus on your breath and center yourself. Start your day centered rather than distracted.

The second thing is shifting your mindset, and, like I said, that’s your superpower. You get the privilege of doing that. You don’t have to allow what you think and what you feel to spill out into the world without you first examining that. And I often say to people the best way to get started is when you’re not feeling great, so if you’re really frustrated about something, before you have a conversation or take an action, sit down and ask yourself, what am I telling myself about this, is it true or is it false, is it helpful or not, and what do I want to do about it before I take an action? It’s a really simple way to reset your mindset.

Jamie Martin

Yeah. It goes back to some of the work we’ve talked about previously with Byron Katie’s, The Work.

Jen Elmquist

The Work. Yes.

Jamie Martin

The questions we ask ourselves, like is this true, is this really true, and beginning to question the thoughts that we are having in our mind about a circumstance, whether it’s an interaction with someone we know or some other story we’re telling ourselves.

Jen Elmquist

Absolutely. Absolutely. And then the third component is that mindfulness component and doing those check-ins. And again, you know, I love the exercise of taking a pulse. Some people love the idea of taking three breaths. There’s very simple ways of just pausing in your day and even eating more mindfully rather than rushing through your lunch hour, actually taking 15 minutes to yourself, really thinking about everything you’re eating and the fact that it’s nourishing your body, and that it’s very important to fuel yourself, and just bringing more awareness to small moments of your day —and everyone is capable of doing that. That’s actually not a difficult thing to do. It’s just slowing down enough to do that. So, I recommend those three things every day. It does make a difference. Yeah. Make that your workout.

Jamie Martin

I love what you mentioned about mindful eating because that is one thing, I know a lot of people are guilty of, like I’m just going to rush through this, whether it’s at home or we’re rushed after getting home from our days or whatever. I had read a story, and I’m not sure if it was in Experience Life or not, but a woman shared this story of how with her kids, a way that they practice mindfulness at the dinner table is they’ll talk about where their food came from, you know, how is this food grown, where was it grown, and they’ll talk through that as they’re eating their meal. They put their devices away and they sit there, and I thought what a simple thing to do, and you know, it creates this additional level of awareness about our world around us and that things happen that we are not in control of, but I thought that was such a beautiful way of bringing that into like the family dinner in some ways, like one small example of how people can do things in their lives.

Jen Elmquist

And what a wonderful thing to teach your children, you know? I think everyone that’s listening today, they may be thinking about themselves and how they might be able to shift their own mindsets, but there is nothing more powerful than a well-regulated adult raising children.

Jamie Martin

Oh, my gosh. That’s the truth.

Jen Elmquist

Because that passing on to your children that ability to be present, to be aware of themselves, to be aware of how they relate to others in the world around them and that they actually have control over that, and to be able to learn how to control their own emotions because their parents are modeling that for them, set your kid up for the greatest amount of success they could possibly have.

David Freeman

I’m already mind blown, no pun intended, with all the content. 

Jamie Martin

How do you personally incorporate mindfulness and all of like awareness of your mindset into your own days, and what’s like one non-negotiable habit that you have?

Jen Elmquist

So, actually you and I had this conversation not long ago, Jamie, because we were given this exercise by Molly.

Jamie Martin

Lovely producer here.

Jen Elmquist

Lovely producer here . . . to actually write out our daily routine.

Jamie Martin

That was a really interesting experience that we did.

Jen Elmquist

It was so eye opening.

Jamie Martin

Yes.

Jen Elmquist

Maybe we can actually . . .

Jamie Martin

We could share that.

Jen Elmquist

Caption this podcast the questionnaire of writing out your daily routine. This was really insightful.

Jamie Martin

Yes.

Jen Elmquist

I actually, before I did it, thought I don’t know that I have that much of a routine. Oh, I have a routine. I do. And then I said to my daughter, I said, yeah, I had to write out my daily routine, I didn’t think I had one, and she looked at me, she laughed, she goes, oh really, mom, yeah, I’ve been watching you for 20 years, you have a routine.

David Freeman

Wow.

Jamie Martin

You’ve got this thing down. She knows.

Jen Elmquist

You have a routine. But you know, I think ultimately what it showed me is that I have learned ways for myself that keep me feeling healthy, happy, and engaged in life, and that ultimately continues to be my goal on a daily basis of how can I show up today, first in a good relationship with myself so I can be in a good relationship with others in the world around me — and some days are easier than others.

You know, they’re simple habits, like how I get myself up in the morning. Everything from how I set my mind in the morning using meditation and mindfulness to what I eat in the morning that actually sets off my metabolism and my energy for the day in the right direction to the fact that I always move in the morning. I’ve got to move in the morning. It’s really important to get my body moving. All of those things are connected, and when we do our performance coaching at Life Time, we’re looking through that lens of the healthy way of life. Your mental performance is not just how you set your mindset, it has to do with exercise, it has to do with nutrition, it has to do with how well you’re sleeping, it has to do with how you’re taking care of your physical health. All of those things contribute to you being optimal in your mental performance, and so I know that I have to do those things to keep myself on my game.

Jamie Martin

Well, and that really sets the stage for the rest of the episodes in this first season because we’re going to be covering off on all of those foundational elements. So, thank you, Jen, for being with us, for being our first guest on Life Time Talks, we really appreciate it. This was awesome.

David Freeman

Yeah.

Jamie Martin

So fun. Thank you to both of you. I’ll talk to you anytime.

Jamie Martin

Come back. You’ll be back.

[Music]

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life, what works for you, where do you run into challenges, where do you need help.

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life or reach out to us on Instagram @lifetime.life, @jamiemartinel, or @freezy30 and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at experiencelife.com/podcast.

David Freeman

And if you’re enjoying Life Time Talks, please subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. Feel free to write a review and also let others know about it, too. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it on social or share it with your friends, family, work buddies, life coach, you get the gist.

Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks.

[Music]

Jamie Martin

Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time — Healthy Way of Life. It is produced by Molly Schelper with audio engineering by Peter Perkins and sound consulting by CoyLarson. A big thank you to the team who pulls together each episode and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

Back To Top