Mental Health Champions: Why & How Matthew Donnachie Of Inner Balance Life Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

An Interview With Michelle Tennant Nicholson

Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Authority Magazine

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Meditation is exceptional for bringing calm and peace. It allows you to connect and explore yourself, but also deeper levels of consciousness. It’s been well proven for many years now that taking even a small amount of time each day to meditate has many benefits for our mental health.

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Matthew Donnachie.

Matthew Donnachie runs Inner Balance Life — which offers bespoke action therapy and coaching — which includes a combination of trauma informed breathwork, cold water therapy and shamanic/energetic guidance. Based in Llangollen, Wales, Matthew has built up client practices in North and South Wales and Surrey, UK. Fully trained in Breath4Life Breathwork, NLP, Reiki and energetic medicines, Matthew now helps men come back from the brink, and women process underlying sexual trauma through leveraging the power of their breath.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I was born in Chertsey, Surrey, and was the middle child of 3. Dad was a successful businessman, and my mother a traditional housewife. I was a lively child — I loved sports, cars, motorbikes, and had a strong social circle. On the outside everything appeared idyllic.

However, I experienced a lot of emotional and mental trauma as a child. Verbal insults and constant negative comments, frequently being told that I was stupid, and there was something ‘wrong’ with me. Even though I appeared confident and excelled at many things as a child and teenager, I had a deep rooted belief that I wasn’t good enough, that the things that were important to me and I excelled at, didn’t really mean anything. I was exceptional at many different sports, but I was discouraged from pursuing these talents because they weren’t sensible career choices. I struggled with academic subjects, and with sports not being an option, my only other passion was performing arts.

Even though my parents were unsupportive, I chose to attend Performing Arts College, and supported myself through working. Eventually I struggled to keep up the responsibilities of working and studying, and I was unable to complete the course.

This resulted in a lot of anger and disillusionment on my part. Like many young men, I seemed supremely confident on the outside, but what most people saw as confidence was really a mask I used to cover up the doubts and insecurities I was struggling with.

I eventually followed in my fathers footsteps and went into construction, running my own successful business. All the while, I was dealing with anger, low self-worth, and suicidal thoughts. I numbed this with recreational drugs and other addictions. These patterns continued until I found breathwork.

You are currently leading an initiative that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit more specifically about what you are trying to address?

We are not taught to deal or process emotions effectively, frequently we suppress and ignore them. Being emotional is often criticized. Yet it is our emotions that drive us as human beings, and our inability to express and release our emotions is the root cause of many of our mental and physical health symptoms.

How many times do young girls hear it isn’t OK to be angry, or young boys hear it isn’t OK to cry.

In so many ways we are taught suppression, rather than healthy expression of emotions. Therefore the emotions we encounter from others are often overspills they can no longer contain, that are expressed in unhelpful reactions. We are not simply feeling the anger, hurt or pain from that single moment but the build up of a lifetime of a person’s experiences.

Conscious connected breathwork, such as Breath4Life that I practice, helps you connect with these emotions and actually clear them out. It takes a lot of energy for us to hold and keep these emotions suppressed, this is what creates the mental and physical fatigue often experienced by those diagnosed with a mental health condition. It’s like carrying around a rucksack full with all your undealt with emotions. Using breathwork to release them and let them go creates expansion, and lightness that many have never experienced before. You then create space between the emotion you are actually feeling and the reaction you would usually respond with, enabling you to communicate your needs and desires in a far more helpful manner than previously.

Typical talk therapies certainly have their place, they help people understand a situation from a mind level, but do little, in my experience and those of my clients, to actually release the underlying emotion, or teach us how to express our emotions in a more authentic way. Understanding something can be very helpful, but doesn’t necessarily change the way you feel.

My dream is to see Breath4Life breathwork, and other emotional tools available on the NHS, and taught in schools. I strongly believe, and have evidenced in my own life and those of the people I work with, that when we understand and gain the knowledge around what we are and how we work on an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual level we are able to gain clarity around the root cause of our challenges.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I learned from a young age to put a mask on and pretend everything was OK, but the time I reached my late teens, the abuse I experienced as a child was causing a lot of anger and depression. My brother was going through a similar experience, and he chose to find help in the medical route. I witnessed him being prescribed medications and sent on his way. The medication didn’t seem to be helping him, just subduing him until he became a shadow of his former self. He said himself that “it’s great that I don’t feel the bad stuff, but now I just don’t feel anything at all”. Given his experience I didn’t see the medical route as an option for me.

I tried talk therapies, and anger management, but they didn’t help me deal with the underlying feelings. I spent the next 10 years in survival mode, deeply depressed and hiding it from everyone. I developed many addictions to suppress and cover the pain I was feeling but, like band aids over bullet holes, they never held! I continued to spiral, partying and using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and lose my inhibitions.

One day, while working on a roof, it all came to a head, and I shouted “I had enough, I can’t live like this anymore”. My colleague, Dan Hall, heard me and asked if I would do anything to change it, to which I had answered “I’ve tried everything”. Two hours later I was in the office of Penny Quaile-Pearce having a Breath4Life breathwork session.

From that first session a massive change happened within me, and a whole different perspective emerged. After regular sessions the true power of Breath4Life became clear. I was able to deal with deep rooted traumatic experiences, and feelings with respect to self and others.

This not only allowed me to heal these but also to see through my own unhelpful behaviors that I had formed as a way to protect myself. I started to realize that a person’s behaviors directly represent how they feel inside about themselves.

People are not born bad, and often the worse a person’s behavior the more pain and suffering they are hiding. This was the pivotal moment where I decided that this was why and how I wanted to help people.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I’d had my own Breath4Life breathwork practice for a few years, and had seen several clients prove the impossible is in fact possible.

Some had come off antipsychotic medication, drugs for depression and anxiety. One client even reached a point where her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that had kept her in bed for nearly 10 years, had improved so much she was showing no symptoms and had started her own business, running a ‘Doggie Day Care’, walking up to 5km a day without pain.

On the other side of things my brother who had been in treatment with medication for almost 20 years, gave up, and committed suicide. Ben had felt condemned to a life of medication that left him feeling lost and unlike himself. Aside from the feelings I had around my brother and this situation, I was overtaken and enraged with how much the system, society, and myself had let him down. There was a part of me that wished I had pushed him harder to get alternative help, but he wouldn’t entertain anything holistic because if it worked, then surely doctors would recommend it.

I felt like we were living in a world where people’s health is not good for profits; why help people find a cure, when you can sell them a symptomatic treatment that they will take for life?

That was the final trigger for me, to help people find the root causes of their challenges. I feel like everything has its place, and alongside medication, if we offer holistic and alternative treatments and medicines, we have a more comprehensive approach that actually has a chance to cure people rather than covering up their symptoms.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Not long after I started my business I was on a trip to the US for a conference. The subject was very much around identifying niche markets, your perfect client, and how to connect with them. At the time I really believed that helping men who’d experienced similar mental health issues to my own was the pathway I was drawn to. I put my energy and focus into manifesting helping men to process their suppressed emotions.

Although I did have male clients, I actually found more and more women were reaching out to me and becoming clients. The more I spoke about helping men to deal with their emotions, the more women turned up.

At first I wondered how women dealing with this type of trauma could even be comfortable working through it with a man. Most of the women said they needed a man who felt emotionally safe, to get through to them from a masculine standpoint, that what happened to them was not OK. That they were not broken, it was the men that were wrong to behave that way. I have been told several times that it was more impactful to hear another man saying it, than one of their female friends.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Pennie Quaile-Pearce is the reason I do what I do now.

Her training , guidance, support, and teachings have not only allowed me to completely transform my own life but the lives of my clients. Pennie earned my respect early on as she would always tell me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. It is incredibly helpful to have someone who will tell you the absolute complete truth. We’ve had so many hilarious experiences from wild training and retreats, conferences in the US, and many hours of radio shows on Om Times Radio, it has been one big rollercoaster of hilarity, but also huge change and depth. I think you need that balance, to take the work very seriously but not take ourselves or life too seriously. The depth of Pennie’s teachings and training are exceptional and I’m proud to now stand beside her and carry on her teachings.

A lot of people find that as they begin to change, their circle of friends and influences change. I’m lucky to have a group of friends and fellow practitioners that have supported me in many ways over the years. Having like minded people around you is vital when you are on a path like this.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

I think there are several reasons there’s still a stigma attached to having a mental health condition. I don’t know if it’s similar in America, but in the UK, the word ‘mental’ has a lot of negative associations. It’s often used to describe people as being somehow insane, crazy, or somehow unhinged. People are scared of what others may think, and being judged as weak.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

As individuals it’s about speaking out honestly about mental health. Taking responsibility for our own issues and challenges. Rather than telling other people what they should be doing, leading by example, and not being afraid to admit when we do have a problem.

As a society we are all so consumed within our own lives, we forget that we are all connected. Stand together with passion and empathy for all, we are all pink on the inside, and it’s about time we treat everyone with the same love and respect we would like to receive.

As for the government they could introduce more holistic and natural practices to and alongside modern medicines. Encouraging better education for children would be a simple place to start. For instance meditation is widely proved to benefit our mental health, and would be something that could easily be introduced into the education system. Some schools do offer this but it is nowhere near enough.

If we want a balanced and happier society we need to provide more of what is needed to support that.

What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own well-being and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Meditation is exceptional for bringing calm and peace. It allows you to connect and explore yourself, but also deeper levels of consciousness. It’s been well proven for many years now that taking even a small amount of time each day to meditate has many benefits for our mental health.

Breath4Life Breathwork helps me to connect with all parts of self and helps you to experience and expand all levels of consciousness. It helps you to deal with emotional traumas, and reverse and heal related pathologies.

Time in nature gives you space to connect and reflect. It doesn’t really matter if you are white water rafting or sitting quietly by a stream reflecting being in and tuning in to nature often gives a person perspective on their own lives. You don’t see nature getting stressed out and beating itself up because it isn’t perfect in every single way…so why are we?

Physical Exercise, regular exercise as well as having physical benefits releases endorphins into the body which helps reduce stress and anxiety, improves sleep. Physical exercise often gives you a sense of power, a rush of feeling your own life source.

Mindfulness. We should all practice mindfulness. The mind is like a computer and is running on programs that have been put into place, and you can have positive and negative programs running depending on your life experience. We can have programs running within us that stem from our childhood, and more relevant to what our parents and peers were going through a the time. If you’re running on a program of ‘Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees’ and that you have to work hard to get anywhere in life, these are not necessarily relevant to our experience but to other peoples and yet we take them on board and this then plays out in our life. We need to look into what programs are running and begin to change the,, it can be that easy. Repetition and continued effort will bring changes within limiting beliefs and negative thought forms.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

I personally like Huberman Labs, and Fearne Cotton’s ‘Happy Place’. Another good resource in the UK is Mind. I would also highly recommend everyone read A little Light on Spiritual Laws by Diana Cooper, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, and Psychology and Alchemy by Carl Jung — all of which have helped my understanding of what is necessary to look after our mental health.

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Do it. We need more people making an impact, even just making the smallest decision can bring a huge change. Smiling at somebody in the morning can completely change their day, saying hello to strangers and having more conversation, random acts of kindness brings a huge amount of joy. Find your passion and follow it, and never forget as one door closes another opens, never give up if you believe in it. At times this can be hard but it is so worth it. You will never regret having done something positive but you will regret never having started it.

We all want a more connected, peaceful society, and that takes everybody.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website is www.innerbalancelife.co.uk and you can find me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mjdonnachie and https://www.instagram.com/donnachiematthew

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About the Interviewer: Inspired by the father of PR, Edward Bernays (who was also Sigmund Freud’s nephew), Michelle Tennant Nicholson researches marketing, mental injury, and what it takes for optimal human development. An award-winning writer and publicist, she’s seen PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. Michelle co-founded WasabiPublicity.com

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Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Authority Magazine

A “Givefluencer,” Chief Creative Officer of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., Creator of WriteTheTrauma.org