Laura currently studies and conducts therapy with individuals who have a variety of mental health issues (under supervision) in San Francisco, California. She was raised in Vancouver, Canada, and was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Also the creator of @themindhealthspot on instagram! Hi, my name is Laura! I am currently a graduate student studying clinical psychology, on the path to becoming a clinical psychologist. Right now I focus on delivering mental health services to those that struggle with mental health issues. I also conduct research in the effects of trauma, child mental health, and effective mental health treatments.

1. What does wellness mean to you?  Much like physical health, our mental health can also fluctuate over time and can be triggered by certain events or factors. We all have a range of health outcomes that vary, such as: chronic mental or physical illness, self-sabotaging behaviours, a day when you just feel down, or a cold that passes over time. Just like how someone who is usually 'healthy' can have a short period of illness, someone with a chronic illness or a mental health disorder can have times when they can flourish and be well. 2. How would you rate your current state of wellness 1-10 scale 10 being the best you could ever be? I would say I'm at a 7 or 8 right now, however that changes depending on the day. When I wake up, I like to check-in with how I'm feeling and ask myself what I need that day. It might be some self-compassion and rest, exercise/yoga, connection with others, a nutritious meal, or journaling. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected people's physical health, but also mental health.  In the midst of this, I'm feeling certain emotions such as frustration, sadness or loss, and uncertainty about the future. If you're feeling these too, it's important to realize that these feelings are normal and not to judge yourself for them. Instead, try asking yourself what you need and how you can honour yourself - even if it looks like having a good cry or speaking to a therapist. 3. What health focuses have worked for you and have continued to be positive in your life?  I'm a big advocate for mindfulness, although I know it's not for everyone. Through mindfulness meditation (and non-meditation mindfulness), I have learned to be much more aware of everything around me, and my internal thoughts and moods. Mindfulness has also helped my life greatly because it has taught me to be nonjudgmental with myself and circumstances, and to accept things as they come rather than allow things negatively affect me and subsequently make me feel out of control or upset. I also love practicing yoga because it offers physical and mental benefits. It helps circulate your blood flow, lowers your blood pressure, and regulates your oxygen levels in the body. Additionally, yoga helps me strengthen my mind-body connection and create awareness about what grounds me. It also offers me an escape into serenity where I can focus inwards on my intentions and how I want to cultivate those intentions in my life. Lastly, I believe that one's diet is so important. Eating nutritious food is important, of course (as doctors always tell us), and I enjoy making smoothies in the morning packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. However, eating delicious food is also vitally important to our wellness and mental health, and can be an excellent form of self-care. 6. Where would you like to continue to improve? What is something you are excited to try in the next months years etc.  As a recovering perfectionist and high-achiever, one thing that I would like to continue working on is being gentle with myself when I don't achieve certain goals or expectations. I'm learning that imperfections are beautiful, and being constantly critical of yourself will only make your mental health suffer. The road to self-compassion is difficult for those who have perfectionistic tendencies, but it will be worth it.

I'm also trying to do more things that bring me joy, whether that means dancing, cooking, going out into nature, or connecting with friends. Life's too short not to do things that you love - even amongst a pandemic. If it honours you, give yourself permission to feel joy this week - your soul will thank you.

7. Any personal advice to someone who is just starting to dive into their wellness journey? 

Celebrate the small victories. Even though they might seem small, they're important. Whether that means being able to exercise for 30 minutes, changing your self-talk from negative to positive, small steps in your eating disorder recovery, getting out of bed, remembering to take your medication, or having a healthy meal, be proud of yourself for achieving these small steps. Because big changes are made up of small changes.

8. How has your graduate degree in psychology changed your perspective/opinion on your own well being? What is one of the biggest take aways for you so far? 

I have learned so many lessons from my graduate degree so far, especially about mental health. For example, I used to think that some emotions were bad (eg. anger, sadness, fear). I have learned that feeling them without pushing them away can be so healing. When we stop suppressing and judging our emotions, and give ourselves the gentleness and permission to feel, something miraculous happens - they have less power over us. In many cases, the power of the emotion fades and that is when true healing begins.

Lots of love and light,