Plan a meal with someone. Sharing food is one of the best ways to be connected and seek solace. Just the idea of looking forward to provides a shared meal is an emotional joystick for my day. The happiest cultures and societies make eating and cooking together a daily celebration. I find cooking with someone is even more delicious than eating out. Whenever I visit my dear college friend in Washington DC, we always make a point to cook together. We even use her Tuscan dishes and platters collected from her travels abroad. It’s so heartwarming to cook and connect like this.
Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, unchallenged, and have nothing to look forward to? It doesn’t have to be that way. One idea that I always advise my clients is to “Get Out of your mind and connect with your spirit” Do your meditations. You don’t have to sit in an uncomfortable pose and do “om” all day long. You can start with easy, comfy poses- laying down in your pjs and listening to the guided meditations.
As a part of our series interviewing experts on how to live a “ravenous life” — a life filled with the passion, pleasure, playfulness and abundance that come naturally to those who dare to be authentic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Brooks. Mary Brooks is the owner and creator of Sustainable Nutrition and the FuelBetterFormula Community.
She helps people achieve high performance as well as recover from fatigue and auto-immune issues. She has a Master’s Degree in Health from the University of Virginia and has been in the health and performance field for over 28 years.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I believe food was woven into the strands of my DNA. My mother was Greek and she taught me a unique perspective about the appreciation of real food that most other kids in the 70’s and 80’s didn’t get. I also grew up in Pittsburgh, which has strong ethnic communities and access to all kinds of incredible foods and ingredients. The Pittsburgh produce and fish markets known as the Strip District cemented my food fascination. Now I believe that food has the power to not only change our genetics, but it can literally be the key to performance, athletic achievement, and improving conditions like anxiety and depression.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
Living on purpose to me means owning my unique gifts, talents combined with my setbacks and life challenges and shaping them into a rich and resilient human experience. For years I didn’t see myself as a creative person because I was not in the arts. Now I see that I too am innately and uniquely creative. Allowing those gifts to come through me as well as accepting failures, mishaps without presumption of defeat is a purposeful life. I try to see the lesson in everything as well as tell myself I am playing a long game which requires continual learning and adaptation. I like to think I am a combination of tenacity with agility.
Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?
In 2007 I discovered cancerous nodules on my thyroid quite by accident. I was a single mom of three young children at the time. Despite having a Master’s degree in Nutrition, I did not understand the impact of stress and digestion on the endocrine system. I had to learn what conventional medicine didn’t give me. That experience galvanized my commitment to help others navigate similar circumstances without the loneliness and lack of information and support I had experienced. I think I am playing a role in creating better awareness about how women can care for themselves beyond the confines of the traditional diet and medical system.
The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
I grew up believing that all success comes as a result of the hustle and the grind. Add to that the constant pull towards social media, and I find myself stressed and exhausted all of the time. No rest, no play, constant stress and comparison is a tonic of unhappiness. From a biological perspective we are staying in a sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) state all the time and neglecting our parasympathetic side (our rest and digest). Happiness can be found in these less culturally valued times of rest, recovery and play.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My greatest joy is to make clear the unclear and to simplify the complicated. I have helped dozens of people put conditions into remission, to gain a self of self-sufficiency, to lower their reliance on medication. I teach the interconnectedness of everything and to help people understand their unique blueprint and pathway. We are not all the same. I see relief when someone feels that their health story is being heard and navigated with them and they are not just a protocol.
What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. Remember your resilience. Not everyone is capable of feeling 100 percent fabulous all of the time. If I am going through a blue period, I don’t dismiss it or stuff my feelings away. It helps me so much to recall times when I have weathered rough times. I make a list of the qualities and resources I already possess. Then I visualize myself victorious on the other side of my current situation keeping in mind the whole time the feeling that I want to have.
2. Catch some rays. Sometimes feeling off is less about my circumstances and more about my own biological rhythms being off-kilter. Keeping my thyroid happy means keeping my adrenals and circadian rhythm in check. Lack of sunlight especially in the winter months can be a big joy robber for me. I make a practice to spend my first minutes of my day in natural light. I open my blinds or I stand outside for a few minutes. I am almost always growing something inside or outside my home. Since my plants love light, I remind myself that I need that too. It changes my attitude in such a gentle and simple way.
3. Plan a meal with someone. Sharing food is one of the best ways to be connected and seek solace. Just the idea of looking forward to provides a shared meal is an emotional joystick for my day. The happiest cultures and societies make eating and cooking together a daily celebration. I find cooking with someone is even more delicious than eating out. Whenever I visit my dear college friend in Washington DC, we always make a point to cook together. We even use her Tuscan dishes and platters collected from her travels abroad. It’s so heartwarming to cook and connect like this.
4. Pay it forward: It’s very easy to get caught up in our own troubles or ruminate about the future. Being of service brings my focus beyond myself and lightens my load. I might Venmo a buddy $5 and say “Congrats for getting through the week: coffee is on me.” My pay it forward practice is to do one simple thing for someone in my life. I call it “Great by Eight.” I love starting my day with sending off love to someone in a handwritten card. As I walk out to mail it I feel that I am sending love out into world.
5. Feed your senses. Disconnection is so easy when I am overworked and focused on cognitive tasks. Studies show a tendency to overeat when you do cognitive vs physical work. I get my creative juices flowing by doing something one-hundred percent sensory and just for me. I pick something lovely from my garden and bring it into the house. I give my two dogs and generous petting and thank them for being such magical creatures. I book a quick getaway to an art store or plant store. I listen deeply to a favorite piece of music. When I go deep into my senses, I feel much more relaxed and inspired to serve myself and others. And none of these things cost any money.
6. Create Sacred Space: My physical environment is super important to me to feel good about my life and my work. Each part of my home has an area that’s super nurturing to me. I work as much as I can on my screened in back porch where I am surrounded by plants. I invite nature up close to me. I use beautiful dishes and vintage napkins because it makes me feel like everything is worthy of a bit of celebration and deliciousness.
When I chose very carefully what I bring into my house just as what I chose to eat or cook, it brings my attention fully into the present and allows any anxiety to settle or lessen. I feel loved and connected to my spirit and to my environment.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
I love what Liz Gilbert has to say about creativity and life without fear. I love her Magic Lessons Podcasts and am somewhat addicted to her kindness and use of vocabulary. I attended an incredible retreat with her in Arizona this past year. I also really like what Rob Bell has to say. The book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch had a profound impact on me. I think the War of Art by Steven Pressfield should be required reading for all adults.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Make it a playground not a battleground. Allowing yourself to have fun with something and play mad scientist helps deal with the days of making no progress. When I get frustrated I think about how I can turn something into a game. It allows for a bit of magic and inspiration to come out to play.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on a concept called The Beautiful Life to help entrepreneurs stay connected, energized and allow them to care for themselves. Helpers often get burned out and lonely.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I want to create a movement called SoultoTable where story-telling and food are merged. Food is an aspect of life we can all love and celebrate. I would give anything to make pastries with my Greek grandparents. Bringing back this kind of heritage and curiosity would improve the quality of life for a lot of the discord and disconnect we have. I want us to engage around everything that is food: growing it, harvesting it, making and preparing it, serving it, enjoying it. Even cleaning it up. I think this “gathering” has immense healing power.
About The Author:
Dr. Marina Kostina is a life and business fulfillment coach. She uses research and energy work to help professional women find their purpose and turn it into a profitable business. Dr. Kostina incorporates innovative marketing strategies and the creation of engaging, lucrative online courses to scale their businesses. As a result they enjoy what she describes as a “ravenous life” — a life filled with the passion, pleasure, playfulness and abundance that come naturally to those who dare to be authentic. Her book “Find the G-Spot of Your Soul” is available January 2018. Download a free gift from Dr. Kostina- an MP3 Meditation Album “Find The G –Spot Of Your Soul” and get unstuck.