Discussing and Defining Holistic Well-being with Kelly Ingraham
Kelly Ingraham, the founder of Inner Light Wellness, is a long-standing member of the WYLD Tribe. She’s an entrepreneur, health & wellness expert, mama of two adorable twin boys, and an all around fantastic human we’re lucky to call a great friend.
Since this month at WYLD is all about finding and defining holistic well-being - exploring career, financial, relationship, mind-body, and environmental well-being - we wanted to get Kelly’s thoughts on the subject.
So Kelly, tell us what “well-being” or “wellness” is all about for you. What does it mean?
Wellness is a grand experiment to learn what works best for your body, mind, and spirit in order to grow and evolve into the most whole, authentic version of your Self. It’s the science and art of self-discovery. It encompasses anything that improves your quality of life – health, exercise, nutrition, relationships, and spirituality. This wide breadth of what constitutes wellness can seem dilutive to some, but I truly believe that anything that helps you feel good, feel loved, feel whole, falls under the umbrella of wellness and well-being. So in a sense, it’s part of our life’s journey, but I believe that wellness is a conscious pursuit.
With regard to my own journey, becoming a vegetarian when I was in college marks the start of when I consciously began pursuing my own wellness. I have my sister to thank – she had been a vegetarian since middle school, and one summer, I started to read the books on vegetarianism around our house (The China Study, Eating Animals, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and shifted my diet to being plant-based. This pushed me to learn to cook for myself, and ignited in me a deep passion for food and nutrition, which led me into the world of “wellness.” Ever since then, I’ve been learning and experimenting with what makes me the happiest, healthiest version of me. In the past year, I have shifted the perspective of what has been an internal, personal pursuit into an outward mission to help others on their journey to wellness. My shop Inner Light in Darien, CT, is all about bringing the community tools for self-care, and ultimately self-love.
How has your definition evolved or changed (if at all) as an entrepreneur? As a mom?
Now that I am an entrepreneur in the wellness world, I feel as though I have to walk-the-walk when it comes to taking care of myself. My business is about providing space and tools for your self-care journey, and so I feel a duty to make sure I am taking care of myself as best I can. Before babies, this meant exercise, eating a plant-based diet, meditating, journaling, walks in nature, baths, to name a few. Self-work is the most important piece of wellness for me – this has taken different forms over the years from a therapist, to meditation guides, color coaching, reiki, and coaching with WYLD, all to break down my limiting beliefs and become the most expanded, authentic version of my Self. Kristin is my friend and coach, and doing my strengths with her a year ago was incredibly helpful for me to gain more insight into my Self, which has led me to increased self-love and a deep spirituality.
Now that I have twin baby boys, my definition of wellness has become even more about self-compassion and grace. Even on days when I have help, it is a struggle to get anything into my body let alone a healthy meal. I have learned that priorities are everything – I have to be extremely discerning with my time. When I get a moment, wellness for me is eating vibrant fruits and vegetables, meditating, taking a bath, doing an acupuncture or reiki session, or writing. I set very realistic expectations for myself and I try to fit in just one moment a day for my own wellness. Nothing gives me more joy that spending time with my babies, so well-being for me is also being as present as possible in those incredibly joyful moments. All of this gives me the fuel I need to get through the fussy, exhausted, tough moments!
Are there any misconceptions around the topic that we should be aware of as we design our own unique paths towards well-being?
One misconception is that wellness is a long list of things you should, or shouldn’t do. As you (WYLD) stated in your newsletter, well-being has a unique, evolving definition for each person. Over the past few years, there has been a flood of new tools that have come into the public consciousness around wellness. This has led to a misconception that there are certain things you should do or need to buy to increase your own wellness. The nonstop information on nutrition, new fitness trends every couple of months, an opening up to alternative modalities of healing like acupuncture and infrared saunas, a remembering of ancient practices like shamanism and reiki, it can be overwhelming. You don’t need six different superfoods, and five mushrooms and ten adaptogens in your morning smoothie, followed by your morning alkaline lemon water, before your meditation and spin class, to be well. I believe it is a very good thing that wellness has become so pervasive – wellness isn’t a trend, it is a basic human practice of taking care of our minds, bodies and spirits. But we need to learn to filter out what works for us and what doesn’t work for us. That’s why I say wellness is an experiment. It’s about playing with all these amazing tools and modalities to figure out what works best for you. It’s not about “should” and perfection, it’s about play and your unique needs. The only thing any of us needs to do is what feels good for our bodies, what energizes us, gives us life and makes us happy.
What are the key ingredients to your own well-being? Any recommendations that might work for us?
Right now, the key ingredients for my well-being are very simple. One is quiet time for reflection. This is not easy for me to come by, but whenever I make the time to be quiet I am deeply rewarded. Whether it’s a bath, mediation, or journaling, I find this time deeply relaxing and rejuvenating for my body and soul. I also tend to get pings or downloads of information when I make time to be quiet – for example, I had the download to start my blog during a massage this winter.
The other key ingredient to my well-being is grace. Throughout my life, I was very hard on myself – I used to hold myself to extremely high standards, I was never proud of myself no matter what I did and achieved, and I always felt like I was not enough. Through my self-work, including my dialogue with Kristin, I have unlearned this programming and these limiting beliefs. I have learned to treat myself with loving compassion and I have remembered that I am enough just as I am right now. My babies have taught me this – seeing them, perfect at birth in their very essence reminded me that I too am enough in my own essence. The experience of motherhood has also knocked me on my butt so hard – physically, emotionally, mentally – that I have learned to give myself more love, more grace, more space than ever before. Being loving with myself, not judging myself, giving myself a ton of space to make mistakes and be emotional, and most of all, rest, has been key to my wellbeing in the past year.
Sometimes I feel like I’m so on top of what I need - mind, body, and soul - but then life can throw me off so easily! If I have to travel or my workload picks up for the week, I find it so difficult to follow-through with my healthy routine. Do you experience this as well? What advice do you have for those of us that struggle with consistency?
I am incredibly inconsistent! I was before babies and now – forget about it. I am learning that this doesn’t matter. Take each day at a time and practice as much self-compassion as you can muster. If you do your best in every moment to be present, to care for yourself, to be kind to others, that is all that matters. If your amazing routine gets thrown off course by a vacation, or an illness, or just life, don’t beat yourself up for it. This is normal, you are doing amazing, and you are enough. Don’t judge yourself. Who cares if you missed a day of meditation? There is no one out there watching your or marking your score – it’s just you! Give yourself room, give yourself grace, and don’t be so hard on yourself. Trust yourself, you’re doing your best! For some people, they need the routine and regimentation, but I have learned that I need space and flexibility. For me, taking things day by day and staying in the present helps me create that grace to be okay with not being perfect. It has been the only way for me to survive these past six months of having newborn twins. It has allowed me to not just survive but thrive, and live in deep joy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
One incredible piece of advice I received from my friend, who’s a mama coach and part of the WYLD Tribe, Alicia Assad is this: treat yourself like a professional athlete. Treat your body, your health, your mind, like it is your job. You need to be operating at your full capacity to show up in all the ways you do for all the people you do every day. Your friends, family, children, partner, co-workers, they all deserve the best version of you. Fuel your body with the highest quality food, drink, exercise, energy, self-care, everything you need so that you feel your best. You deserve it, and so does everyone else around you. Putting self-care and wellness in this lens helps me see how deeply important it is and how it affects everyone around me.
Any resources or additional thoughts you’d like to share with us on well-being?
For a long time I practiced wellness from a place of perfection, and I often see others doing the same thing. It is important to examine our inner dialogue and be very honest with ourselves. Are you drinking that green juice because you know that it will make your body feel amazing and deeply nourish you? Or are you drinking that green juice (and going to that spin class, and doing that dry-brushing, and so on) so that you can lose those last five pounds? I only recently admitted to myself that for a very long time, I was doing it for those last five pounds – for a picture I had in my head of how I thought I should look based on the perfect images of extremely thin and toned women that bombard us day in and day out. It’s kind of like the idea of the angel and the devil on your shoulder – which one is driving your wellness vehicle? The light or the dark? The Self or the Ego? We are all conditioned to listen to the dark, to the Ego, and our minds are physiologically disposed to repeat thought patterns over and over again. A key to wellness is to break out of these negative thought patterns, and create new, positive ones in their place. This takes time and effort, and working with a coach can help – working with a variety of healing modalities was what has helped me. I am finally operating from a place of self-love and not self-improvement. But it took me a long time to be completely honest with myself, own that I had been operating from this place of Ego and perfectionism, and begin to make a change. I think being honest with yourself about your intentions and that voice inside your head, and working to make sure that you heal any limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns is the most important thing anyone can do to promote their own well being and create a wellness journey that is truly fueled by self-love.
Beautiful, love that closing thought. Thank you so much Kelly for your wisdom and advice here. You’ve certainly given us a lot to think about!
For more helpful health & wellness related information from Kelly, check out her blog here.