Carrie Leaf On How To Live With Joie De Vivre, Even When It Feels Like The Whole World Is Pulling You Down
Sep 9 · 14 min read
Social support system: Who are your strongest, most reliable, and healthy supports? Are you talking to them? Are you seeing them? Do they know how you are doing? Let them in, turn to them, be vulnerable and honest. Connect. Give and receive love. No one on their deathbed wishes that they had worked more…..they wish that they had spent more quality time with loved ones. Think on that.
It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie Leaf. Carrie Leaf is an author, mindset/executive coach & psychotherapist. She specializes in behavior change, identifying and releasing negative thought processes, and increasing self-confidence to help you get unstuck & achieve success and happiness.
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 was born and raised in a small town in central Iowa. My mom was a teacher and my dad a guidance counselor. I am the youngest of two girls. I was always involved in a handful of different sports and my favorite high school job was being a lifeguard. What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story. With my dad being a high school guidance counselor, I was raised with the language of therapy and healing. I was given an example of thinking deeper, self-exploration, asking questions, observing, and regulating my emotions (all of which I continue to work on daily). Because of this, I believe, I have known since middle school that I would be a psychotherapist of some sort and it’s been such a fun and exciting road to see how my career and niche has had twists and turns and come to where it is today. 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? First, my parents have always been very supportive and encouraging about furthering my education. Second, my husband supports literally everything that I dream up and let’s me be truly me, weird quirks, and all. Also, a former supervisor and friend truly encouraged me to take the leap into private practice which I believe has opened many doors in my life. I have so much gratitude for these people. 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? There have been many funny and/or interesting mistakes along my journey but there is one case that I talk about in my upcoming book, Therapize Yourself. I will make a long story short: I was fresh out of grad school and working with a young man that was struggling with moods, his mom reported he wasn’t listening to her when she would ask him to stop drinking 6–12 cans of pop a day. After running in circles in therapy with him, we finally learn that he was Type 1 diabetic. I learned a great deal from this case and the mind/body connection which has led me to dive into a holistic approach in my practice. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people? As I just mentioned, my upcoming book, Therapize Yourself, will launch this October 5th, 2021. I cannot wait to hopefully reach a wider audience about the importance of holistic health, mind/body/spirit integration and identifying our negative belief systems that are holding us back in life. Sylvester McNutt III, an 8x best seller author was kind of enough to write the foreword for the book. I have also taken the body portion of mind/body/spirit connection to another level with partnering with 3x4 Genetics and offering a genetic test to help you optimize your life through your genes. Our bodies are complex. 3X4 looks at how our genes work together in cellular pathways and functional systems to control processes such as inflammation, metabolism, and detoxification. Finally, as I dig more and more into the body and learn about gut health, the more important it has become to me to be using clean products in my life and this had led me to teaming up with BeautyCounter products so that I am not putting as many toxins into my body that will throw off my gut health and in turn, my mental health (https://www.beautycounter.com/carrieleaf). For more information on gut health and why the products that we use matter, check out this great article https://www.areyouunstoppable.com/post/gut-health-101. You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Mindset: Having a growth mindset is crucial for success. Believing that through dedication and hard work we can learn, grow, evolve, gain skills, and go to the next level leads us to taking action. Taking action propels us away from staying stuck. The belief that we can be more motivates us to be the best we can be.
Passion: Knowing and following your passion makes life more interesting and enjoyable. If you truly believe in and have a passion for what you do, then each day is something to look forward to and not just something to get through.
Discipline: Having the discipline to stick to routines, take care of your body, and maintain your overall well-being makes life flow easier. Discipline and routines allow us to cut out anything in life that we are tolerating and gives us more time and energy to replace those things with systems that work for us, not against us.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy? I am a mindset/executive coach, psychotherapist, holistic healer, author and expert in the well-being and mental health field. My entire practice is dedicated to systems and processes that lead to being a happier and healthier person. Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US? There are so many different reasons for this but with everything in life, there are pros and cons. So naturally, the more pros we have, the more cons we have as well. It takes discernment and effort to learn how to maximize the pros and minimize the cons. For example, due to the many privileges of the US such as fast internet, easy travel, Amazon, streaming, etc., etc., we by default become accustomed to instant gratification. Therefore, when instant gratification is our norm and what we come to expect, delayed gratification may seem not worth it or anxiety provoking. I also believe that social media plays a huge part in some of the spikes in depression and anxiety we see. There can be positives to social media, of course, for example when it connects us with friends and family we may not otherwise get to see or hear from as often and as easily. However, this is where the discernment comes in. If you are using social media to connect and foster meaningful and healthy relationships, then that is a great thing. However, if you are using social media without filters and either comparing your life to others or consuming negative content that you don’t’ even realize that you are letting in, we may lead ourselves down a depressing or anxiety provoking path. Our thoughts lead to our feelings. Our feelings lead to our behaviors and our reality. If your thoughts are being inundated with unhealthy content from all the readily available sources on the internet, how much control and choice are you implementing over your joy? This also comes down to materialism as well. When we can click a button and have amazon drop a package off at our front door the very next day, we learn that we can get that dopamine hit from purchasing an item we like and that dopamine comes so easily and quicky, we can overdo it. Suddenly it’s like Christmas every day instead of gifts being something special or earned. We take the joy out of life this way. All these privileges complicate and overwhelm us. I believe in simplifying our lives if we want to find true and lasting joy. What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples? I believe we fall into societal or familial traps on an unconscious level even if we recognize they are myths on a conscious level. On some level, conscious or unconscious, whether from our family, TV, advertising, schooling, social media, etc., we learn messages about who we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to look like, and what will make us likeable or successful. We fall into these traps and believing them to be true. This leads us further and further away from our true selves and the only person that truly knows what will make us happy; ourselves. Some of the common traps that we fall into are the timeline traps such as I am supposed to graduate high school at 18, college at 22, be married with kids by 25, be making a certain income, own a home and nice car by 30, etc. The truth is, that this timeline isn’t for everyone and to assume that it is or should be is all or nothing thinking, a common thinking error and dangerous to our mental health. It creates unnecessary pressure and confusion as to if we do it “right”, why aren’t we happy? Another common trap is that we will be happy when we do this or get that. The idea that happiness is right around the next corner. The truth is happiness is always within. We create happiness from the inside out and from our perspective. No thing or person will make us happy. So many people want to hit that point where life becomes easier, and they can coast. This will never happen. So much in life is beyond our control. What we are in control of is getting to know ourselves and what makes us happier, what makes our life function more smoothly, and learning and setting up systems and coping skills that work for us. It’s a very individualized thing. In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples? Much of this question was answered above but I can expand on another trap of believing other people such as a significant other will make us happy. When we believe that someone else will bring us complete happiness, we are handing over a lot of our power to them, we are risking our own happiness and mental health in someone else’s hands, and we are selling ourselves short. Getting to know ourselves, being our own best friend, learning to like and loves ourselves, and exploring our likes, dislikes, passions, and joys gives us so much more control over our emotional state. If we put the work into ourselves first, we then have a better chance of finding someone who aligns with our lifestyle choices, our belief systems, and our morals and values and therefore likely adds to our level of happiness but does not create it for us. We create our happiness by putting in the work and picking and therefore then being better at picking healthier and more satisfying relationships. Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?” (Please share a story or an example for each.) Hhhhmmmm, well this is an interestingly stated question. When I read it, I hear you asking me, personally, what things I need to live a happier and more joyous life during turbulent times as opposed to what the public needs. If so, that would be the correct way to ask it as it is a very personal thing for the most part as to what is going to make each person happy. However, there are some basic areas to attend to that will help anyone, and everyone have a stronger foundation in well-being that can lead to happiness their own specific kind of joy and happiness. In fact, I lay this foundation building out step-by-step in my upcoming book, Therapize Yourself. The areas to take care of to experience more joy and happiness in general but also in these turbulent times include the following:
Attention to your mind, body, and spirit balance.
The mind, body, spirit connection is real and if we ignore it, it will catch up to us. If your body is not feeling/doing well, then your mental health will be affected. If your spirit is lacking or lost, you will feel lost and down. If your mind is caught up in anxiety, you will stress out and wear your body down. For the body, I encourage clients to tend to the basics: their eating, sleeping, and exercise. Start with baby steps. For the mind, watch for symptoms of mental health disorders, talk to your supports, or get in to see a therapist. For your spirit, this is much more individual but it may look like going to church, finding and practicing your passion or your purpose, or exploring or having gratitude for your belief system on how the world works. 2. Coping skills and self-care practices. If you know your coping skills, use more of them more often. Be preventative with your self-care routines whether you are feeling stressed or not. If you do not know your coping skill and self-care practices, it’s time to start exploring or getting into therapy so that a therapist can guide you through this process. It is one of trial and error and it takes time. Try your best not to get discouraged and remember that one coping skill, one time will not change your life. But many coping skills every single day, will change your life. 3. Social support system. Who are your strongest, most reliable, and healthy supports? Are you talking to them? Are you seeing them? Do they know how you are doing? Let them in, turn to them, be vulnerable and honest. Connect. Give and receive love. No one on their deathbed wishes that they had worked more…..they wish that they had spent more quality time with loved ones. Think on that. 4. Passion and purpose. Do you know what your passions and purpose are? If so, are you tending to them on a regular basis? Make sure that you are. If you don’t know, it’s time to start digging in and exploring. Again, a therapist can help guide you through this. 5. Gratitude. This could be tied in to a positive or growth mindset as well if wanting to expand but for now, focusing on gratitude is a great start. Numerous studies have been done on the numerous benefits of gratitude. To name a few they include: more positive emotions, choosing to improve health, building stronger relationships, enhancing empathy, less aggression, better sleep and better self-esteem. What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed? Check in. Ask how the individual is doing, ask open-ended questions, truly listen, and invite the person to get out and about and doing things. You could also share your own struggles and be vulnerable about them to model that opening up and talking is OK and so that the person that is struggling may find something relatable and feel less alone. Be careful not to commiserate though. Sharing our struggles is relatable but then it might be a good idea to shift to some solution-focused discussion after the person has had an opportunity to share and feel heard. Try not to be dismissive of their thoughts, feelings, and struggles. Gently suggest therapy as a positive place to address and process these more difficult feelings. 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 to spread the message of the concept that every single one of us struggles and we are all learning and growing. We all at some point in our lives need help with our mental/emotional well-being. I would like the collective to see “Therapize Yourself” (the title of my upcoming book) as important as going to their primary care physician for check-ins and when something doesn’t feel right. What I mean by “Therapize Yourself” is the idea that we are all our own best healers, we all know intuitively how to heal and take care of ourselves, and I would like to see people tending to their mental/emotional well-being in the same way that we are ideally attending to our physical at the doctor and at the gym and with what foods we put into our bodies. Remember, just as we may need a personal trainer or nutritionist to guide us through this process, we still know our body better than anyone else. This is the same way that we may need and see more progress with a therapist to guide us even though we are the experts on our own mind and soul. Let’s make “therapizing ourselves” mainstream. 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 :-) YES! However, as I think about this, I just cannot choose between Ben Angel and Mark Manson. The things that Ben is talking about with gut health, biohacking, and taking care of our physical to help with the mental as well are fascinating and crucial. I can’t get enough of learning about gut health and biohacking. Why wouldn’t we choose to optimize what we have been given? Treat your body like the fascinating piece of “machinery” that it is. Help it to perform it’s very best. Mark Manson just has the very best way with words and really puts some deep thought-provoking concepts into a powerful punch with a sentence or two. I highly doubt that I could keep up, but I would absolutely love to try having a conversation with these great minds. How can our readers further follow your work online? I can be found on (forgive me, social media is not my forte) Instagram: @carrieleafcoaching (https://www.instagram.com/carrieleafcoaching/) Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carrie.leaf.39/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carrie-leaf-26896a8/ And my website: www.carrieleaf.com Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!