Colleen Wachob, THE JOY OF WELL-BEING: A Practical Guide to a Happy, Healthy, and Long Life

Colleen Wachob, THE JOY OF WELL-BEING: A Practical Guide to a Happy, Healthy, and Long Life

Moving away from the standard wellness narrative, Colleen delves into the concept of well-being with a holistic approach. Colleen addresses the pressures of modern wellness trends, the power of simple activities like walking, and the significance of breathing properly. Her personal tales, including a challenging fertility journey and her husband’s health issues, add depth to the conversation.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Colleen. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss your book, The Joy of Well-Being: A Practical Guide to a Happy, Healthy, and Long Life.

Colleen Wachob: Thank you so much for having me. Thrilled to be here.

Zibby: The first thing is that you’re changing wellness to well-being. You talk about that in the book. Tell us a little bit about that and how not only that word, but the book itself is a little bit of a mindset shift to how we’ve been thinking about everything.

Colleen: I’ve been deeply entrenched in the wellness world for thirteen years, one of the cofounders of Mind Body Green along with my husband Jason. We have a really complicated relationship with the word wellness. On the one hand, these tools have helped us both heal, my husband from two extruded discs in his back. I had a pulmonary embolism at thirty-two and was walking around Brooklyn with showers of clots in my lungs. Wellness was the tool that really brought me back to my center. Fast-forward now. We look at the wellness landscape. It’s a cacophony of voices on social media. There’s so much noise. There’s so much rigidity around routines and protocols. As a mom of two girls, I get a little triggered when I hear about these elaborate forty-minute routines. I’m like, I’m really happy when I get out the door marginally on time, hair brushed for my kids. I look at it, and it’s just not practices that I can relate to or integrate into my life at this current life stage. We wanted to shift the conversation to well-being, which we think comes from more of a place of abundance and joy, whereas wellness can be about restriction and protocols. I think within all this wellness, which is great that we’re all talking about this more, we’ve really lost sight of the important principles of connection and joy and making sure that that’s a staple in our lives.

Zibby: So true. In the book, you highlight first all the main categories of ways where we can bring more well-being into our life. You also take us in different directions, like reminding everybody about the importance of taking a walk by the water and how things like that, which by the way — you inspired me. This morning, I dragged my sixteen-year-old out. I was like, we’re going to walk on the beach. She went kicking and screaming. I was like, no, it’s even better to walk by the water. It’s not just the walk. Tips like that, which you might not have thought about, and just all these ways where we can not feel overwhelmed by the things that we’re supposed to do, like you were just saying, but integrate, what are some of these things that seem overwhelming but really, with smaller steps, we can all increase our own well-being?

Colleen: You brought up one of my favorites, which is walking, which is just one of the most underrated activities that you can do. There’s great benefits for improving cognitive performance. There’s such a host of mobility benefits too. If you’re overwhelmed by all of the fitness options and not sure where to start, just getting your steps in is the perfect place to start. When you can do it by the water, which lowers your cortisol, or do it with a friend or a family member, that’s even better. We start the chapter with breath, which is one of the easiest places to uncomplicate your wellness and your well-being routine. Breath is hugely personal to me because after my pulmonary embolism when I was thirty-two, it was the first time I really gave any thought to breath. I was riding the subways in my recovery process after having my pulmonary embolism. It was a journey to be able to breathe again. I remember looking at people on the subway and being like, I need that seat, and kind of eyeing for the seat and racing senior citizens to the last seat because I was worried about being able to breathe on a really steamy New York subway.

One of the opening chapters is about breath because we believe so much in the importance of nostril breathing. If you have someone in your family who snores, this could be a great place to clue them in. If you’re someone who runs a little anxious like me and you want to more tune into your parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and digest system, breath is just such a great place to start, breathing through your nose. While I’ve done and tried and see a lot of value in a lot of the different mediation and breathwork techniques, at this stage of my life, it’s really hard to make the time for a practice. It can feel really overwhelming to carve out twenty minutes. What I love about nostril breathing is you can actually do it in the moment. When you’re having that tense conversation, it automatically makes you go into this listening mode and listen, which is such a good skill that I’m personally working on.

Zibby: Amazing. I love that. What about sleep?

Colleen: Gosh, sleep is another personal chapter for me in so many ways. I’m so glad that we have collectively started to move away from this sleep hustle culture and are really getting behind the power of sleep to transform your life. If you go without vegetables for a couple weeks, you’re going to be fine. If you miss the gym for a couple weeks, you’re going to be fine. Go a couple days without sleep, you’re not going to be okay. When I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t sleep for three nights in a row, ended up in the hospital where they gave me a Xanax. That was where my sleep etiquette started and ended. At this stage in my life, I’ve kind of become obsessed with the idea of sleep. One of the hardest lessons to learn, which the Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus, told me, was, the first thing you got to do is just let go of the stress of going to bed, which is so hard when you have anxiety that builds up.

One of the things I’ve learned is that your sleep day actually starts in the morning. How do you start your day with sunlight? How do you get that light exposure so that you’re automatically resetting the melatonin and the circadian rhythms of your natural body? We have lost our ability to just naturally fall asleep, a skill we used to have. Studies have shown that when you put campers back in the wild, they adjust. We, with all these screens, have kind of lost touch of that, so getting that sunlight expose, being mindful of the type of exercise modalities that you do and what time you do them and how they affect your sleep routine. To Dr. Breus’ point of, how do you not stress yourself out too much? we still watch TV in bed, which is something that none of the sleep experts will tell you to do, because it brings us a lot of joy. Keep your room cool. We put ours at sixty-five degrees. Every body’s unique.

Zibby: That’s really cold.

Colleen: It’s really cold. Be mindful of your screens. Just be understanding of what your triggers are so that you can ensure that you’re setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Zibby: I turned on the car this morning to go pick up my younger daughter. The guy talking on SiriusXM was like, “By the way, I have eight tips for a healthy, longer life.” I was about to change it. I was like, I’m going to move my hand away. He’s like, “This, this, and this,” one of which was, don’t be an opioid addict, so I felt like I had already accomplished one. He goes, “Sleep hygiene? I don’t know, what does that mean? You have to wash your pillowcase?” I was like, oh, my gosh.

Colleen: Probably a good idea every now and then.

Zibby: Good to get all of these things on everybody’s radar. You open up a lot in the book about your own journey. Obviously, you’ve mentioned multiple times, your pulmonary embolism. The scene of you in the subway, I felt so badly for you and also your husband not being able to stand up and getting back to walking a few steps and all of his pain and all of that. You also open up a lot about your fertility journey. You had some funny line like, okay, now that you’ve come with us this far along in the book, we’re friends, so we’re going to tell you all of this, which I thought was hilarious. You talked about that. Tell me about that decision. Have you had any regrets? How do you feel about it? How does your husband feel about it? All of that.

Colleen: We had such a long, circuitous fertility journey. One of the biggest parts of the story that we’ve been really open about is, men account for forty percent of fertility issues. We started this journey thinking that I was “the problem.” After doing two rounds of Clomid — shame on my NYC First Fertility center for not testing my husband. Then they finally tested my husband. It was a long journey of dealing with a condition called azoospermia, which involved surgery to extract his sperm before we could even get to the start line of IVF. That was probably a one-year journey. Then I remained this medical mystery. I had all the good markers and all the good data, but it took us a total of fifteen embryos implanted and nine IVF transfers to get to our first daughter. By the time we got to our second daughter, I had a feeling the day before the transfer that I was going to get pregnant. I called up the fertility center and told them not to transfer two, to just transfer one because I was going to get pregnant. I think they thought I was a little looney at that point in time. Sure enough, my intuition was spot on. I’m so glad that there is so much more conversation about all areas of fertility these days because it was so lonely when we were going through it. I think sharing these stories of resilience only helps women when they’re going through to be able to see women who have not just survived on the other side, but thrived through so many different ways of becoming parents. Those stories were hugely valuable to me to draw on hope and inspiration along my journey. I hope that in sharing our story there’s someone who’s maybe going through their darkest hour and dark days of the soul, that they’re finding some hope in their journey as well.

Zibby: I appreciated the vulnerability and the sharing. It was wonderful. I feel like I haven’t touched enough on the joy part of this book. A lot of it involves doing things that bring you joy, that you enjoy doing. None of this is supposed to be punishment. How can you bring in things that are fun for you into your life? Thereby, you’ll want to do them more, essentially. It sounds obvious, but it is such an important reminder when people feel like they need to slog through X, Y, Z class. For you, what are some things that bring you joy that also achieve well-being?

Colleen: We want to integrate this conversation of joy span into the vernacular. We started with this idea of health span where it’s not just about living to a hundred, but having a good quality of life. Now as we think about this idea of joy span, if you’re living until the Centenarian Olympics but you’re not connecting with others and having friends and being a part of the community, what is the point of all of these years of living? We made the decision to move to Miami last year, which was motivated both by our children’s school and also by our ability and desire to be closer to nature, closer to pursuits that we enjoy, like pickleball. It sounds super corny, but it brings us a lot of joy. We also have loved being closer to nature. We already talked about the cortisol-lowering effects of being by water. Just being by nature is actually a spiritual experience for so many people. I found that to be true in my own life. Part of it is, hey, we can acknowledge we’re all on varying levels of addiction with our phones right now. When you’re by the water and by the ocean, I definitely leave my phone behind. I hope everyone else does too for lots of reasons. That’s really enabled me to be more present with my daughters and to truly disconnect.

One of the leaders who we reference in the purpose chapter is Dr. Lisa Miller, who lives here in Coconut Grove in Miami. She’s also a professor at Columbia. She has this incredible statistic that I look to as part of my why right now, which is when mother and child are high in spirituality, the child is eighty percent more protected against depression. It’s not just within those child years. It’s throughout life. You can substitute mother for caretaker, for father. Really, just showing that when there’s a high spiritual connection, you are helping to develop a more mentally resilient child. That is so much of my why right now. What I love about Dr. Miller’s definition of spirituality is it’s so broad. It’s so all-encompassing. Yes, it can be religion or spirituality, but it can also be volunteering, helping your community, or spending time in nature, and really, this idea that we’re connected to something bigger than just ourselves. It’s not just, for me, a joyful connection, but it’s truly a spiritual connection when I spend time in water.

Zibby: I love that. Tell everybody about Mind Body Green and how you started it and where it’s going and who should take advantage of everything you have to offer. Just talk about all that great stuff.

Colleen: Awesome. Mind Body Green started out of our Brooklyn apartment thirteen years ago, our seven-hundred-square-foot apartment in Dumbo. My husband was going through his own personal health issues. I mentioned he had two extruded discs in his back. I was on this journey with my pulmonary embolism. We had this view of the world where we wanted to redefine the way in which wellness was portrayed. At that point in time, wellness was something you thought of as a European spa. There wasn’t people talking about health and well-being in a way that incorporated mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and environmental well-being. If you fast-forward thirteen years, those same pillars are still true. Those are the same values of the site today. We reach about fifteen million people on the site itself, five million across all social channels. In addition to the content that we have on the site, we also have a line of supplements and personal care products and also an incredible health coaching certification, which is part of our online education, so really, all things laddering up to helping people live a life well lived.

Zibby: Do you include reading in that bucket? Is that one of the ingredients for you?

Colleen: Absolutely. There are some great brain experts on not just the value to cognitive performance, but it all comes back to joy and finding what brings you joy from a reading perspective and how you incorporate that into your daily life.

Zibby: I hate this question, but when you’re managing your wellness and your family and your business and your book and all of that, what are the nuts and bolts of how you’re structuring your time during the week?

Colleen: I think it is all about integration for us. We have been very realistic. Right now at this moment in time as two parents of a four-year-old and a six-year-old, that are at very high-touch elements of our parenting journey as well as a business that’s still at a high-touch element, it has to be about integration. Our morning routines are basically getting out of the house in one piece, ideally on time, to school. Beyond that, I’ve realized, especially after I turned forty, the importance of evolving my fitness routines and how I move. I still love walking. Even though we moved to Miami, we still have a very New York state of mind in that we walk to work. We walk all the time within our Miami community. That, for us, is about integration, taking the stairs when it’s less than five stories. We’ve also added in resistance training because sarcopenia is real. Having better bone density as we age is something that is really top of mind for us, and building the body armor as our why continues to evolve. I think about not just my kids, but I want to be able to hold, if my kids decide to have kids, the thirty-pounder that’s going to come out and get off the ground and be able to play with them. That’s a big part of the biggest shift we’ve made about how we think about the movement piece of our equation.

It’s about being intentional about building community and making friends. Frankly, those were new muscles for us after living in Brooklyn for thirteen years and moving to a place where so many people ask us, do you have family here? We’re like, no, not really. We’re intentionally cultivating a community of people. We have to take that awkward first step a lot of times to ask people out, to ask another couple out, to ask another family member out or family over. That’s been a really important part of establishing a strong community here and new muscles that we’ve had to build. I’m always thoughtful about sleep etiquette and my caffeine curfew or the time at which I sunset and stop having caffeine during the day because sleep is really such an important pillar of life. I think being here in Miami at this moment in time, our why has evolved. We entered this through personal health crises. Now as parents, we’re really, frankly, freaked out by the mental health crisis that’s facing all humans. It’s particularly hard for boys and girls who are going through the teenage years. We’re really focused on building mentally resilient children who can help weather the inevitable ups and downs that life is going to throw their way.

Zibby: I’m actually going to be in Miami throwing a retreat in November. I feel like it would be really fun if we were to partner with you. I’m bringing all these, hopefully, book lovers. We’re going to go to the Miami Book Fair and have parties and all of that. We should talk about that. That would be fun.

Colleen: Sounds divine. Count me in.

Zibby: How was the process of actually writing a book? What was that like for you? Would you do it again? Major stresses involved? What did you think?

Colleen: It was definitely a learning process. We have over a hundred thousand pieces of content on Mind Body Green, but writing in one format is so different than the other format. It really became crystal clear for us in terms of establishing our why. One of the challenges is when you have so many pieces of content on the site, what is your actual philosophy can get a little bit lost because there is so much content. What it really helped us to do was to crystallize our why, to look back on the past thirteen years of wellness. What did we want to keep, and what did we want to discard from the conversation? The joy of writing a book is that you can have a little bit more of a POV. Content, especially online, there’s a lot of rules, whether it’s SEO, that you need to abide by. We could really get a little bit more playful, a little bit more fun with our tone and our voice, which was really exciting. For us, it’s about redefining what well-being is going to look like for the next decades.

Zibby: Do you ever feel like all this well-being is just too much and you just want to eat an ice cream sundae and lounge around and not think about it anymore, or not?

Colleen: I totally understand all the critiques on wellness because I have and share many of them. When we were thinking of the positioning and the audience for this book, it’s longevity for the rest of us. It’s longevity for the ninety-nine percent and the folks who are kind of sick of the rigidity and the routines. If we were to bring it back to especially this important ingredient of joy, absolutely, have the ice cream, but make sure that it’s a really good sundae or cone or whatever it is that you’re desiring. Don’t skimp on something that’s not going to really satisfy you. Food is something that should be enjoyed. Having those great rituals, whether they’re with our kids or with our family, is such an important part of life’s experiences. Through writing this book, we’ve become really aware that we only have four thousand weeks to live. When you think a lot about longevity, you think about it in very finite terms. We only have four thousand weeks on planet earth, so how do we make the best of it and have these really memorable experiences for us and for our kids and for our family?

Zibby: That really does not sound like a lot. Are you sure that number is right?

Colleen: fact-check me.

Zibby: Oh, man. Oh, my gosh. Then I’m like, what did I even do last week? I don’t know. What am I going to do next week? What do you like to read when you have extra time?

Colleen: I read a lot of business. I read a lot of wellness books. It’s kind of that fusion of the two which — our business has changed and evolved so much in the past thirteen years. Prior to 2020, so prior to COVID, our business was essentially all advertising. Twenty-five percent of our revenue was from events. That has changed significantly. Now we have a supplements line. Learning these new business lines has involved lots of reading of books, lots of reading of Twitter, and using a lot of resources to figure out the next stage of our business. I love reading lots of leadership books along those same lines. We are always looking for who is going to be the up-and-coming face in wellness. Who’s going to have something new that’s going to really break through? I don’t know if it’s work, if it’s pleasure, but we love reading books from so many wellness luminaries.

Zibby: What do you think the secret to being a successful entrepreneur is?

Colleen: Oh, gosh. I think it’s about putting one foot in front of the other and believing in yourself, believing in your mission. I think what’s given us the tenacity over the past thirteen, fourteen years is we are so passionate about health and well-being. We’ve seen these tools transform our own lives. We love diving in, making ourselves guinea pigs, trying it, talking to these super inspiring leaders within health and wellness. That gives us the fortitude to keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

Zibby: Love it. Any advice to aspiring authors?

Colleen: I think it’s about really taking the time, for us, to figure out, what was our why? What was our mission behind the book? What could we convey in a book that we couldn’t convey on social media, that we couldn’t convey in one of the hundred thousand blog posts? That led to a result that we’re really proud of.

Zibby: Amazing. Colleen, congratulations. The Joy of Well-Being: A Practical Guide to a Happy, Healthy, and Long Life, pick it up today. Joy of Well-Being. Start experiencing joy right away. Thank you so much for your time. Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished and the whole company and the book and everything else. It’s awesome.

Colleen: Thank you so much.

THE JOY OF WELL-BEING: A Practical Guide to a Happy, Healthy, and Long Life by Colleen Wachob

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