One Minute with Chelsea Pottenger | Internationally Accredited Mindfulness & Meditation Expert
Ambassador for The Gidget Foundation and R u OK?, Chelsea Pottenger is known for her great audience connection, warm energy and outstanding content as a thought leader in Mindfulness and productivity for the corporate world. An internationally accredited mindfulness and meditation practitioner, Chelsea has worked with big brands such as eBay, Uber, GrainCorp, Cook Medical, AON, Dexus Property and Mercedes-Benz.
How did you get started with Mindfulness and what has it brought to your life?
I was living a high-paced life in the corporate world, doing gruelling 12-hour days, then socialising hard with friends and clients, at the same time keeping up my triathlon training before running to yoga to decompress…after which I would drive home to belt out tunes on the piano with one hand, downing tumblers of Hendricks gin with the other.
Then a miracle happened. Two years ago, after dreaming of having a baby for four years, I got pregnant. This mind-blowing amazing event happened – giving birth to my baby girl – and then the most ironic thing happened, especially for a driven careerist like myself. I was slammed, hard, with severe Post Natal Depression. I spiralled out of control and landed myself and my daughter in hospital for 5 weeks of recovery. Fighting the biggest battle of my life.
The upshot of this adversity, I was now on a mission to work on my inside self. I enrolled back into University to study psychology and neuroscience, became an internationally accredited mindfulness and meditation teacher, a proud ambassador of R u Ok? Charity and The Gidget Foundation and launched my company EQ consulting co.
And the really great thing about changing career paths as I have is that I can coach people in how to live in the moment, develop coping tools for stress, and be more productive. A mum, lover of the outdoors, foodie, and newbie to surfing, I’m always searching for new ways to be in the flow.
How do you suggest others get started with Mindfulness?
Our life can quickly pass us by when we are not living in the moment. Here are a few easy tips to get started with Mindfulness and increase a calm, focused and happy brain:
Mindfulness teaches us how to draw our attention to the present moment and task at hand. An effective way to begin is to bring your full attention to one of your daily habits i.e. brushing your teeth, having a shower or drinking your morning coffee. Your mind will wander during the practice, possibly within a few moments, but don’t worry, just bring your attention back to your toothbrush, the shower gel or the flat white.
Breathing is a key mindfulness practice because it is something we do every day and it’s always good as an anchor to bring us back to the present moment. A simple breathing exercise: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat this for 2 minutes. This practice will make you mindful and also activate your parasympathetic nervous system which can help you calm down and focus.
Meditation has positive benefits that are clinically proven to decrease stress, anxiety and improve memory and creativity. There is even sound research supporting that meditation improves kindness towards ourselves and others. Check out my YouTube channel at Chelsea Pottenger or apps like Calm and Headspace if you want to learn mindfulness meditation as a strategy for overcoming your stress and challenges.
Harvard research suggests that practising 30 seconds of gratitude a day, strengthens and grows the part of the brain that builds resilience. Cultivating an attitude of gratefulness shifts your perspective from negative to positive and brings you into the here and now.
How can gut-health affect overall psychological well-being?
“Anything that affects the gut will always affect the brain.” – Dr Charles Majors
What does GUT health have to do with brain health?
More and more research is pointing to the human gut, or micro-biome, as our second brain. You may already be aware that leaky gut syndrome is linked to serious diseases. Research is now discovering the connection between our guts and our emotions. After all, 95% of our serotonin (happy chemical) we produce is manufactured in the cells of our gut.
The gut micro-biome is believed to be linked to depression and autism. For years, doctors and scientists have noticed that people with autism often have GI issues like food allergies or gluten intolerances. When something is wrong in the gut, its connection to the brain can make life extremely difficult.
Your vagus nerve is the most important route from the gut to the brain. It runs through the diaphragm, between the lungs, up along the oesophagus, through the neck to the brain. Studies have been done on humans when stimulating the vagus nerve by different frequencies it can make a person feel comfortable or extremely anxious. Since 2010, people with severe depression are now treated with stimulation of the vagus nerve. This nerve works as a telephone cord between your GUT and your brain. The GUT tells the brain how your body is going.
A 2013 study found that when people took a certain type of bacteria, some areas of the subject’s brains were altered. They became less anxious and reduced psychological distress.
According to Dr Guilia Enders, author of GUT: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ, there are a few key things you can do to improve your gut-brain connection:
1. Cut the processed foods
A whole foods diet leads to a gut with a very different makeup to one that’s fed mainly refined and processed foods. Processed foods are also laden with added sugar, and are responsible for a variety of health conditions, from obesity to type 2 diabetes.
2. Eat probiotic-rich food
Eating probiotic-rich foods, like sauerkraut or kefir, can help your gut and mood. Many probiotic-rich foods takes good care of our gut, they defend our gut from bad bacteria and they are good for our immune system. If you get sick often, it can be a good idea to try different types of probiotics.
3. Eat prebiotics
Prebiotics are fibre substances that humans cannot digest, but bacteria in our gut can. They are roughage that is digested by the good bacteria in our gut. For example, leeks, asparagus or artichokes. In a study, people were asked to take either a prebiotic or placebo for 3 weeks. Cortisol measurements were taken at the beginning and end of the study. After the 3 weeks, the results showed the participants taking the prebiotic food had significantly lower cortisol and showed a decreased stress response.
4. Eat healthy fats
Healthy fats are essential for brain function. Olive oil and coconut oil have a high level of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which improve cognitive functioning, protect your cells from damage and improves memory. Science doesn’t have all the answers on the gut-mood link just yet. However, this relatively new understanding on the gut micro-biome is leading to a shift within medicine and how important it is to take care of our healthy gut bacteria.
You surveyed over 95,000 Aussies and found 90% of us check our phones as soon as we wake up. How does this habit impact negatively on people?
When we first wake up, we transition from a delta brainwave of sleep into a theta brain wave – where the brain is more flexible and malleable. The theta brainwave is vital to becoming more emotionally intelligent individuals, creative and adept at problem-solving. But by waking up and scrolling through emails, checking Instagram and the news, people are skipping this important theta brain wave and heading straight into a beta brainwave of high stress which is having a significant impact on the physical structure of the brain, their ability to perform and their health and wellbeing.
Tell us about your work as an Ambassador for R U OK? And The Gidget Foundation?
After experiencing my own mental health adversity with severe Post Natal Depression in 2015 the passion for the rest of my life is saving people from suicide by increasing mental health awareness. My company has a big goal of a $50M public hospital build in Sydney for a Public PND unit so public patients have somewhere to go if they are admitted into hospital. Our current health system only has a private hospital available that has 12 beds, which is alarming since 100k women experience PND every year in Australia.