Last weekend, I was delighted to be back speaking at The Edinburgh Wellbeing Festival. This was my 4th year speaking and interviewing at the festival, which takes place at The Assembly rooms. As always, it was lots of fun and super inspirational. As the world is opening back up again, I am really looking forward to attending more much needed events like this.
I set the following intentions for the mojo injection session:
For the audience to leave with a desire to be more compassionate to themselves.
To remember that we are not alone with our struggles.
To provide lots of practical tips in terms of boosting our overall wellness.
I returned on Sunday to check out a few of the talks. I would have loved to have seen them all, especially the one with Professor David Nutt on cannabis and psychedelics. I gave a talk at Fringe by the Sea back in 2019 and this was the first time I had started speaking about the power of psychedelics due to the fact that during that year Denver, Colorado became the first city to decriminalise them. The key piece of research suggested psychedelics help to shrink our ego which is a huge cause of poor mental health problems. My passion has always been to find tools to get us back into that childlike state that I like to call mojo, very handy that it rhymes with my name. Of course we all have our names for it, you might use inner child, play, your spirit, soul or essence. You may call it that free spirit or the times you are fully present. I don’t believe that this state always has to be upbeat. Sometimes to me, being in my mojo means feeling calm, grounded and connected. As much as I love to sing and dance, it’s not always about that. I caught up with a couple of friends who had attended the session with Professor David and the key theme that stood out for them was the power of psychedelics when it comes to our ego.
Back in early 2019, I immersed myself in mindfulness training and again a key theme throughout was the damaging impact our ego can have on our wellness. I learned that it is important to be able to take a step back, observe, challenge and distance ourselves from our thoughts. I also found it useful to do the same with labels I may have clung onto. I think they call that the early stages of ego death. My challenge was to stay grounded throughout this training. I found that when you take intense spiritual practices to deeper levels, it can be very easy to disconnect from the body and to experience incredible natural highs. Boundaries are required.
I first learnt of the work of Paul Gilbert, the founder of compassion focused therapy, during my mindfulness training. I have since had him on my podcast which you can tune into here. I was delighted to hear him speak over the weekend. I love his definition of what compassion is. He said:
‘Compassion is the determination to address suffering’.
It can take courage to address the dark side of humanity. Studies show us that compassion focused therapy is one of the most effective treatments when it comes to our mental health and we must remember that we all have mental health. Studies also show that non compassionate organisations are less effective which explains the recent popularity of compassionate leadership. I love to hear stories from corporate clients I work with in the wellness space, of new habits that are put in place to improve communication. Some of my favourites:
No calls are allowed over lunchtime.
Everyone in team meetings gets to share openly in a safe space about one stress they have going on outside of work.
Team events that don’t always involve late nights drinking.
Motivational speakers being booked (give me a call if you need one 🙂 !
With compassion based therapy, there is often a process. This starts with awareness and acknowledging any past trauma and the emotions that are trapped in the body be they anger, sadness and a yearning to be loved. There are various breathing exercises and talking therapies that are used throughout, as well as mindfulness tools. We can see that transformational breathwork is receiving a greater spotlight, most recently with Wim Hof leading sessions on the popular TV show, Freeze the Fear. With such a rush of fresh oxygen going to the brain, it would suggest that we go beyond the ego and as a result many trapped emotions such as grief come rushing out. The majority would say they feel lighter after a breathwork session. I have also interviewed guests on my podcast who have shared that they experienced a greater sense of clarity and sometimes overwhelming breakthroughs.
It took 20 years for Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to go mainstream. The hope is that it won’t take as long for Compassion Based Therapy.
I also enjoyed a brilliant open panel discussion between author and podcaster Emma Gannon and Jennifer Crichton, founder of The Flock magazine. They discussed how we often show up online as the version of ourselves that we love the most. It is impossible for the virtual version of ourselves to give a complete picture of who we are. In a world where we are now encouraged to speak our truth and live an authentic life, it is important to remember that it is also healthy to be able to keep some stuff offline only. It can be easy to put far too much focus on the online world and become a little lost. We are not here to be robots and our brains need face to face connection.
Emma discussed the fears of increased screen usage and why a daily mirco detox could be more practical than a longer digital detox, which I agree with. Trying to shut ourselves away from the world completely can sometimes increase anxiety levels. At the heart of it, all we are trying to do is find connection when we go onto our preffered space online. This can be harder the larger your following online grows. I loved what was said about creating for joy and not always with the purpose of striving to build a brand, a larger following or to sell. It is so refreshing to be able to simply create with no expectations. To write words just for the love of it. Like we did as kids in our bedrooms, with a journal that locks.
In terms of productivity on the screen, it is felt that 90 minute bursts of creative time are best. It can be all too easy to plug away for hours at the desk. Take more breaks! As I wrote not long ago, having solid boundaries in place can help us to ensure wellbeing at work exists.
The final talk I attended was a panel discussion between Dr Emma Hepburn, author of A Toolkit for Happiness, & mental health advocate Poppy Jamie, author of Happy, Not Perfect. With Health in Mind. Hosted by Kylie Reid. Poppy shared her story of how she read an old diary she had written at 11 years old, allowing her to see where seeds of insecurities were born. We are taught from a small age to suppress our emotions, which causes more stress on the body. The key is to connect with them through the body and of course to talk openly. The quality of our social connections is the number one factor that impacts our state of mind. Dr Emma reminded us that our brain likes connection. We spoke about how our professional labels can hold us back from sharing. Someone in the audience shared how they were told to keep their experience of mental illness private as they work in the field. It was felt that patients would think less of them. The truth is, that this person would have even more to offer as they have lived it. Just because you work in the mental health and wellness industry, it does not mean you are immune from moments of poor mental health. We can all flourish and we can all struggle. As Dr Emma reminded us:
‘You can know all the theory in the world but you can’t stop life happening’.
86% of people by the age of 44 will have experienced some form of mental health scare. A huge shift in perspective is still needed. So let’s keep sharing and supporting. We are now on day 2 of mental health awareness week 2022. So let’s remember that our health and happiness matters. Show people who you are. It turns out it’s really good for us. If someone judges and lacks compassion, which is much more unlikely but of course it can happen, I have found through my research that those people clearly have their own journey and stuff to deal with and are perhaps not ready. Honesty can be triggering for others who are not being honest themselves. We can’t force someone to be ready, it has to come from that person. You can only meet people where they are at. You matter. Your health matters. You got this.
Jojo Fraser is an award-winning mental health researcher, author, podcaster and keynote speaker, dubbed as ‘the Queen of positivity and a kindness advocate. She is a Tedx speaker and a regular contributor on BBC radio. Jojo is known for normalising discussions around our mental and spiritual health, making it accessible and relatable to all. She has quickly grown a reputation for having a huge impact even on the most sceptical of people.
Connect with her across social @jojofrasermojo
Listen to her Tedx talk about the power of removing our masks.
Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org