Total Health: Angela D Coleman of Sisterhood Agenda On How We Can Optimize Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing
Prioritize chilling out. Restorative rest is the space, the pause that respects our natural rhythm, allowing space for healing and inner peace. Getting proper sleep is one example. Meditation, daydreaming, and playing with pets are also helpful.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing? As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Angela D. Coleman.
Angela D. Coleman, author of THE ART OF CHILLING OUT FOR WOMEN, is a holistic health expert who founded the global nonprofit Sisterhood Agenda in 1994 and later the for-profit business, Sisterhood Agenda Enterprises, LLC.
Coleman is the author of more than twenty books, including Girls Guide: How To Relax and Let Go; Girls Guide: How To Be Like Michelle Obama; and Girls Guide: How to Lose Weight Fast & Forever.
She grew up in Newark, New Jersey, graduating cum laude from Princeton University with an AB degree in psychology and African American studies. She was awarded the Student Achievement Award in Feminist Scholarship and the American Psychological Association Minority Undergraduate Student of Excellence Award.
Coleman later studied clinical psychology at Howard University, earned a degree in nonprofit management from Duke University, and received an MBA from the University of Phoenix. She holds certifications in trauma, psychological first aid, suicide prevention, and African holistic health. She divides her time between homes near Baltimore, Maryland and St. John, Virgin Islands. For more information, visit: http://www.angeladcoleman.com.
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 named after Angela Davis, born to very hard-working and successful parents who migrated to Newark, New Jersey from the southern United States. I grew up very independently and loved to learn. I was an avid reader who cherished animals and fashion. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian until I took an animal behavior course at Princeton. It was divided into two parts: biology and psychology. To my surprise, I was deep into the psychology part, much more than the biology part. Since then, I have been studying human behavior, even though I still have thoughts about medical school.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I had the opportunity to do independent research and write about issues facing women and girls as an undergraduate and for my thesis. I wanted to do more than write about the issues, which led me to engage in volunteer work as a Big Sister, diet and nutrition advisor, sexual health advisor, and domestic violence counselor. Ultimately, I was inspired to start Sisterhood Agenda, a nonprofit organization where I create girl empowerment programs, housing and community development projects, and holistic health products for women and girls. .
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?
My Aunt Beanie was someone who always helped me, as a child and as an adult. She really saw me, who I was at a young age. For example, she knew I liked to read and thought I was smart. She taught me how to play Scrabble, and it was an activity that we always enjoyed together. She was a straight-shooter, direct and honest, consistently super-supportive. She believed that I could do anything I wanted to do.
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?
The first time that I held a youth event on St. John in the Caribbean, our New Year’s Eve Youth Extravaganza at the local Youth Center, we served food that we thought was West Indian. It turned out that our food was not authentic local cuisine. Young people came, didn’t eat that much of the food, drank the drinks, and hung out outside. Afterwards, I was told that the lights were too bright for the dance party. Lesson learned! Always implement projects with local culture as the center of the activity, not as a side offering or afterthought. And make sure your local collaborations accurately reflect the values of the constituents that you are serving.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
In high school, I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It began my great admiration and respect for Maya Angelou. I have read all of her books. Her words were magical and she was courageous in telling all sides of her story, even the non-glamorous parts. She became the wise woman that we all need in our lives. Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider also had a great impact on me because it demonstrated the power of a woman who choose to be herself, unapologetically, all the time, both as an activist and in her personal life. Deepak Chopra’s Grow Younger, Live Longer expanded my mind around the concept of holistic health and what we need to live a long, healthy life beyond the standard medical lens.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” stated by Maya Angelou, of course. There is so much in that statement: how actions speak louder than words, how the way a person makes you feel is important, how values are represented in behavior, how to go beyond what someone says and even what your own mind might think to try to justify bad behavior, the necessity of trusting your own instincts, intuition, and feelings based on another’s behavior… I could go on. It’s important to see people as they are, not how we want them to be.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am very excited about Sisterhood Agenda’s PARKS Holistic Housing Project for women and families in Baltimore County. It will provide permanent support housing for those who need it most. I am proud of the unique whole-person, whole-system approach that we created. It provides safety, trauma-informed support services, and rent affordability for women and children while preserving existing eco systems with permaculture, utilizing eco-friendly building strategies, and harnessing the power of green spaces for therapeutic healing. I am also very excited about the SisterCamp summer enrichment program’s new implementation site in the Baltimore metropolitan area and my new books, The Art of Chilling Out for Women and Girls Guide: How to Cope with Social Media Addiction.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives: Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Love yourself. And when you think you do, love yourself more. Loving yourself means taking the time and making the effort to take care of yourself, in all ways, all the time. Self-love is the key to knowing that you deserve to have a great life. It is the key to prioritizing self-care and treating yourself well to be healthy.
- Start your day with peace, gratitude, and affirmation. For some, it’s prayer. For others, it’s meditation. Maybe you like reading affirmations from a sticky on your bathroom mirror. Some people like to go for a walk. I like combining all of these as a wonderful way to begin a new day. Whatever you choose to do, create a grounding ritual that can be easily incorporated into your daily morning routine.
- Learn The Art of Chilling Out. Being able to relax and let go is necessary for rest, restoration and balance. This is how we successfully manage stress, prevent burnout and disease. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
I like doing #2 above. I light incense and a candle, pray and meditate in a seated position to start my day each morning for grounding and expressing gratitude for health, wealth, and wisdom.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
My book, The Art of Chilling Out for Women, is built around 101 good habits. Here are three of them:
- Discover Your Body Barometers: Understanding the flight or fight survival response and being able to detect what your body is telling you to do. Don’t run away from what you are feeling. Don’t ignore the physical sensations to what is happening to you. Write it down to remember it. Tap into it for self-awareness and insight to act in your best interest.
- Take Time for Timeout: Doing nothing feels bad and wrong for many of us but doing nothing is actually doing something important for your health. Stillness allows your mind to stop spinning so that your spirit can guide you. We can all take five minutes to breathe.
- Beautify Your Life: Beauty and wellness go hand-in-hand as beauty evokes strong, positive energy vibrations that enhance our well-being. Surround yourself with items that you love. Your pens, your napkins, your floors, your clothing… take this opportunity to carry beauty with you everywhere you go.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
The psychology of food can be very confusing. As much information as there is promoting healthy food choices, there is at least twice as much information promoting unhealthy food choices. When we desire unhealthy foods, it creates a conflict because it makes us feel bad about the fact that we still want it, even when we know that it is unhealthy. Because it’s difficult to shield yourself completely from unhealthy food promotions, I think it’s best to be gentle with yourself, be consistent in treating your body with love, and think in terms of moderation. Detoxing your body, moving your body regularly, and eating high-quality, nutrient-dense foods are ways that we take good care of ourselves. If you can do this on a regular basis, you are doing pretty well!
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Prioritize chilling out. Restorative rest is the space, the pause that respects our natural rhythm, allowing space for healing and inner peace. Getting proper sleep is one example. Meditation, daydreaming, and playing with pets are also helpful.
- Bond with Mother Nature. Nature is full of gifts that we can use to optimize our health and emotional well-being. Try forest bathing and hiking. Make an herbal spray using roses and thyme. Baptize yourself in the ocean.
- Having a grounding ritual helps you stay firmly rooted in who you are, your present reality, and who you are becoming in the most emotionally stable way. It keeps you tethered to the earth with self-awareness, affirmation, and gratitude so that you don’t fly away and get lost in your feelings.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
I think there is power and benefit in the expression of all emotions, not just the emotions that we typically classify as “good.” Smiling usually conveys inner joy, but not smiling does not indicate a lack of inner joy. If smiling makes you feel good, then I say go for it. But there is magic in authenticity and being true to yourself. Most of us realize that one’s outward appearance does not always accurately convey the inward emotion. Just like many of us say “I’m good” when asked about how we feel. Is that really how we feel? If you are not feeling good at any given moment on any particular day, I say give yourself permission to feel that too. As I explain in the chapter called “Feel Your Feelings” in The Art of Chilling Out for Women, all of your feelings are good, important, valid, and… usually fleeting. Processing and working through your feelings for emotional stability is healthy.
We smile when we feel like it. Thinking of something that makes you smile can help you feel good in the moment but smiling while you are in pain to try to feel better makes no sense for most people. Instead, we can focus on joyful activities that make us smile, sometimes in the inside, which is really where it counts. Security warning: tell a woman nowadays that she should try smiling more and you are risking life and limb!
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
- Tune Into Peace: This is the inner peace where you can create, do, and be your best. I liken this to Savasana in yoga. This is the final resting pose that allows your mind and body to settle after activation. You are encouraged to lie down on your back with arms stretched out, let your body sink into the earth, let your thoughts fade, and just be. You can get to this dark space between fully conscious and not here at all.
- Find Your Spot: You can find that special place where you can just be and feel a higher power at work. Maybe it’s a large boulder on a cliff overlooking the river. Maybe it is a spot on the grass between two trees. Perhaps your spot is yet to be discovered.
- Access Joy: Our spirits need joy. Joy is wealth. When we increase joy in our lives by chilling out, prioritizing fun and expressing love, we are preventing depression and choosing spiritual wellness. Just as we schedule meetings, some of us need to schedule joy — until it becomes something that you remember and look forward to each and every day.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
When we are in natural environments, we have the opportunity to connect to a force so powerful, so great, and so vast that we can barely understand it. The air, the sights, the sounds… Mother Nature is amazing. We have to understand that nature is not something we go to. It is not outside of us. It is us. We are nature and nature is us, part of the same, mighty and majesty, simple and complex, soothing and destructive. Nature helps us see the dichotomies within ourselves, the light and the dark, the yin and yang. This is helpful for self-awareness, balance, spiritual enlightenment, and health optimization. With Nature, with Culture, with Spirit, we are always learning to live in destiny for our highest good, and we never walk alone.
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 inspire a global sisterhood movement for women where we uplift and support each other, like the organization I created, Sisterhood Agenda.
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 :-)
Venus and Serena Williams: they are superstar sisters, remarkable athletes, and successful entrepreneurs.
President of the United States (POTUS)
First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS)
I would also like to have lunch with the board of the McArthur Fellows Program because they are really good at identifying talent and brilliance in people.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.