“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama
This week’s Growing Happy ‘Inspiration of the Week’ is Lara Crowther.
Lara is the founder of Fill the Whole, which offers a holistic and ‘WHOLE’ approach to wellbeing. Lara’s passion for life and desire to help improve other people’s wellbeing is a direct result of her ability to overcome her own dark and difficult times.
For me, she is testament to the ideas that you can shape your own path and change is always possible. Lara is a glowing example of the famous phrase ‘you are what you eat’ and Obama’s powerful speech above about being “the change that we seek”. Authentic, kind, generous, well-educated and humble are all words that could describe Lara, but I think honest is the most important for me. Her psychology, neuroscience and medical background provide significant authority, but it is her balanced, honest approach to wellbeing that made me want to tell her story.
Hopefully, Lara and Fill the Whole’s new, portable wellbeing product and tool (not being disclosed just yet) will be part of the Growing Happy ‘Growth Box’ later this year. Growing Happy and Fill the Whole are also partnering on a charity initiative aimed at providing meaningful support to the UK’s over 250,000 homeless. If you want to get involved, please email us here.
We hope you are inspired by how Lara overcame significant mental health issues, and please get in touch, if you would like to tell your story. Talking about your own dark and difficult times is not easy, but once you take that first step, you can start building momentum, and just like Lara, you have the capability to create a different future.
Could you tell us a little bit about your struggles with mental and/or physical health?
Although I didn’t fully recognise it at the time as a mental health issue, when I look back I think I began to see the signs that there was a problem at around the age of 15. I began to withdraw from friendships, I slept a lot, I lost interest in activities that beforehand I thrived upon and I became less conscientious about school. Mental health awareness and the attempt to reduce the stigma surrounding it has improved massively since the 90s! Back then it wasn’t talked about in families, at school, within friendships.
I was first referred to my GP who was fantastic and had sessions with a Mental Health Nurse and eventually was referred to a Psychiatrist. Unfortunately this appointment was cancelled by a family member who was worried about future employment implications from having that on my medical record. It was an attempt to do the right thing but looking back that appointment could have started my journey to resolving issues that carried on up until my early thirties. Treatment has come a long way too. I was put on numerous antidepressant medications that took the edge off but never addressed what was really going on. I have no doubt that my academic choices were reflective of my life situation and a desire to try to minimise the same suffering for others.
Fitness was something that I embraced when I started University and something that I have carried on ever since and it has definitely positively impacted upon my mood, confidence, focus, commitment and dedication to things. I’d like to say that I have completely changed my life around in the last 5 years and am no longer in need of medication; I manage my health in a holistic way. I think it’s important for people to be open about their mental health in the same way that they would be about their physical health and I hope this disclosure can bring comfort to those that are suffering now. There is hope, your situation is not fixed, you can find contentment again and you are not a failure. In fact, you have an inner strength as a consequence of your situation that you can harness for great things. It’s just a matter of finding the right methods that work for you.
There have been some very dark times in my life but I have re-framed my thinking and now see those times as a necessary part of my path to where I am now and where I am meant to be. I created Fill the Whole as a consequence of both my professional background and my life experiences and I hope I bring a more human approach to both physical and mental health as a result.
What are the tools or tips that have made the biggest difference to you?
Don’t underestimate the power of good nutrition, for both physical and mental health. For me this means choosing whole foods wherever I can. You don’t need to cut major food groups out of your diet (unless you have a diagnosed medical condition that recommends it). Try to always opt for single ingredients; cook from scratch, pack in as many different natural colours as you can, try to minimise processed foods, especially sugar and simple chain carbohydrates. Be amazed at the change in your mood, energy level, condition of skin and hair, passion for life and renewed positivity - it’s not magic, it’s just nature.
We all know we need to move more but for many it’s a chore rather than a pleasure. Find something you enjoy. You don't need to run to improve your cardiovascular fitness, try boxing instead and add resistance at the same time. Mix up your training to prevent boredom. Try to be consistent and create a realistic habit you can keep. Gain motivation from others; social support is hugely important when it comes to adhering to exercise routines. Exercise is great not only for your body but your mood too.
I group these together because for me they are one. Yoga can sometimes be purely associated with Asana (the physical postures) but as you delve deeper and develop your practice, the opportunities yoga open up for you from a mind point of view are profound. Taking time out for stillness is so important, especially in such a busy modern world. Granting yourself the time to explore ( or re-discover ) yourself can have a massive impact on your mental health and outlook on life.
Unless you’re very lucky to have a job that allows you to work outside, a lot of our daylight hours are spent indoors, usually being sedentary. Find rare moments to get outside; whether it’s simply sitting in the garden with a good book taking in the fresh air, going out for a walk to clear your mind, taking your exercise routine outdoors or growing your own produce. Just immersing yourself in nature is one of the simplest ways to reconnect with yourself, your environment and re-discover your place within the world.
Give for no reward.
In business. In relationships. In life in general. Cultivating an attitude of service rather than a focus on receiving can seem counterintuitive when it comes to making a living but there is immense reward from giving. This does not mean allowing yourself to be taken advantage of, but generosity comes in many forms and we can all do something for nothing without it being detrimental to ourselves. Altruism also improves self-worth, makes life more meaningful and helps us forge deeper relationships which can help us both professionally and personally.
Although compassion and forgiveness are two separate concepts I have put them together here because in order to encourage the growth of both in your life it requires similar qualities. In order to be authentically compassionate or forgiving towards others we must be prepared to offer that to ourselves. Both rely on a softening of self, a less judgmental view towards ourselves and a gentleness. By opening our hearts to our own suffering and being accepting of ourselves, our faults, our weaknesses we can then transfer these personal skills to those we come into contact with on a daily basis.
Book Recommendation and Why?
It was very difficult to choose just one! But a book that I think everyone, irrelevant of background, education, profession could take something valuable from is ‘Talk Like Ted’ by Carmine Gallo. It’s pitched as a guide to public speaking, but I would say it’s an inspiration for anyone with an idea that they feel passionate about and are looking for that push to instigate changes and make their idea into a reality. I have read this book multiple times, it’s covered in highlighter (which means it impacted me enough to want to remember it).
It is very much a book that embraces and empowers the individual and whether you are looking for a personal boost to confidence or wish to develop your ideas into making a living, it’s a great motivational tool.
Tell us about what you're doing now?
Leading on from embracing uniqueness, I don’t have an official job title, I’ve simply created a job that supports my beliefs towards the way I feel healthcare needs to go in order to bring about much needed change. With an academic background in Psychology (BSc, MBPsS), Neuroscience (BSc, MRes) and Medicine (Pre-Med/BMedSci) and also as a Yoga Teacher, Personal Trainer, Nutritional Advisor and self-proclaimed Nature enthusiast, I created Fill the Whole to blend traditional healthcare and lifestyle healthcare to bring a whole and coherent, holistic approach to wellbeing. I use a ’10 spoke’ Wheel of Wholeness, adapted for modern life which addresses what I consider to be the most important aspects to work upon to re-connect with the self and use Mindfulness techniques to help people implement the necessary changes needed to cultivate a full and ‘Whole’ life.
Life is pretty busy and exciting at the moment. In addition to offering 1:1 coaching sessions at home in Rutland, I’m currently developing a product that incorporates the full Wheel of Wholeness for those that perhaps can’t commit to 1:1 coaching, something portable that people can refer back to when they need to. This is due to launch in June which also coincides with The Mindful Living Show in London where I will be exhibiting and also taking a speaking role. I will also be speaking at The Om Yoga Show in London later this year.
In the future I hope to move towards working with children and taking my concept into schools. I am passionate about each individual unlocking their potential and would like to reduce as many barriers to this as possible. I believe the change we are all desperate for is absolutely achievable if we work together as a society to generate opportunities for our young people, embrace their uniqueness and resist the temptation to put people in boxes and this is the direction in which I wish to proceed with Fill the Whole.
My general advice, be it for love, life, career, health is primarily re-discover who you are. I believe we are all born whole but over time external influences can make us question who we truly are. Take the time to explore yourself, even if that means tuning out from the world and feeling lost for a while, it’s all a necessary process that eventually will lead to you living the most authentic, free life that you can. Learn to listen to your intuition, it is more powerful than you would ever believe. Find your purpose. We all have one.
Here’s to your Whole journey,
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