This week we are feautring Julia Colangelo for Wellness Wednesdays. Julia Colangelo, LCSW is a speaker, educator, therapist, and consultant in NYC. Julia instructs Mindfulness at Columbia University, researches mindfulness, flow and burnout prevention at UPenn as part of her doctoral research, and consultants with startups, founders, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 companies on how to experience more ease, balance, and flow to activate creative genius to transform systems, communities and individuals. Julia’s work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, and The Washington Post. Personally, Julia is a surfer, writer, mom, wife, and the host of the Flow Surfers Podcast where she brings together flow theory, positive psychology, mindfulness, productivity, and surfing to help listeners live and work with more ease. For more information please visit: www.juliacolangelo.com or connect with her on IG: @flowbyjuliacolangelo

What are some actionable steps we can take to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines?

Start small with practices such as mindful eating and breath awareness. These exercises make mindfulness more approachable than you might think! Additionally building in self-compassion exercises is critical so as to prevent you from beating yourself up if you fall short of a goal or milestone. I suggest first envisioning your entire day, any obstacles that may come up and how you might overcome those challenges. This practice can be done silently before you look at your phone and start your day, or if you wake up and are rushed, try this during your walk into the office or at work.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness? 

It’s critical when discussing mindfulness that we honor the roots of mindfulness from Buddhism and Hinduism. While no one owns mindfulness, it is a specific practice that is derived from these religions and similar to any practice we would want to honor the roots in order to integrate the practices with honor, dignity, and respect. Another misconception is that there is only one way to practice mindfulness or if you’re mindful then you are passive. I really look at mindfulness in ways it can be integrated into acts of social justice and transforming the way our world works which is something often overlooked. But realizing that many mindfulness practitioners, including Thich Nhat Hanh began by using mindfulness in social justice formats is critical.

What is flow and how does it relate to our wellness?

Flow can be described as an optimal experience where we are focused, completely immersed and productive or moving clearly closer to our goals. One misconception is that its only states of being, but it’s actually possible to experience unified flow, or flow integrated into our consciousness on a deeper level. While we can’t sustain these very heightened states all the time, we CAN introduce a presence of flow into our daily lives which has been referred to as flow consciousness or unified flow. Mindfulness practices help us experience this sense of unified flow.

“I feel most confident when I am living in alignment and connected to my sense of purpose on a deeper level. For me this is when I am able to experience a sense of flow and ease in all areas of my life at once. This happens when I know I am contributing positively to support others in the way they are living and finding meaning.”

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about flow? 

There is a dichotomy with Flow that it only focuses on extreme high-intensity experiences when really, flow can be cultivated when we notice the patterns of behavior, thoughts, feelings, and reactions in our lives. Additionally, we can experience more flow by merging our values with our actions and then being intentional with how we engage in life, relationships, and work. Flow doesn’t need to be something we are chasing but rather something we are thoughtfully creating more of.

How can flow and mindfulness help manage stress and anxiety? 

First these practices help us recognize certain patterns for how we behave, react, focus, procrastinate, or push off certain tasks. Second, these practices offer tangible tools to bring us into the present moment. We will all experience stress and anxiety in some capacity or another. The goal of wellness is not to avoid having these experiences but rather to respond to them effectively and thoughtfully and ideally with skills. Flow and Mindfulness offer these skills and ways of thinking.

What are some of your favorite wellness practices and/or products related to mental health? 

Some of my favorite mindfulness practices are to really structure my minutes, hours, weeks, and months with as many simple joy-filling acts as I can. This means making sure I make intentional plans with friends and around my research, as well as be very authentic about where I am pouring my energy. I also tend to be someone who plans well in advance because my lifestyle and wellness means being a present parent. I am a fan of always setting myself up for success by having water, a chai tea, dark chocolate, a good journal, a few books around me to spark some creativity and to support my overall wellness.

What makes you feel powerful and confident? 

I feel most confident when I am living in alignment and connected to my sense of purpose on a deeper level. For me this is when I am able to experience a sense of flow and ease in all areas of my life at once. This happens when I know I am contributing positively to support others in the way they are living and finding meaning. Additionally, when I am able to model kindness and empathy even amidst being a human that makes mistakes helps me feel powerful and confident because humanity brings up vulnerability and vulnerability actually equates to alignment and our most authentic selves.