Jewel, the genre-busting, award-winning singer/songwriter has touched millions with her music, but now she hopes to spread the message of fuller living through mindfulness.
What inspired you to be so open about your mental health journey and your father’s history of addiction?
Every human must go through life and face some sort of adversity, loss, and pain. We are often taught many skills in school. But for some reason, we are not taught the most essential skills; to learn to convert pain into resiliency and happiness. Nothing that I have gone through is that different from what almost everyone goes through to one degree or another. If we don’t share, then we often feel alone, isolated, and have no access to new tools. I vowed at a young age to never use my part as propaganda to make myself seem more perfect or more happy than I am.
How did you father’s history of addiction affect you as such a young person?
My dad’s struggles with addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) made much of my childhood difficult. It also taught me that you can’t outrun pain, and that the only shortcut was facing things head on. I vowed never to drink or use drugs; I began to develop tools to help me covert pain into something more useful. It took me years of practice to rewire my habits. But with time, I learned to be happy and trust my ability to overcome any obstacle. Amazingly, my dad has become not only sober, but worked on rewriting his brain; we have an amazing and authentic relationship now. I feel so blessed for this.
How were you able to eventually make peace with your father?
I did a lot of my own work. Forgiveness is a needle that knows how to mend. Forgiving came easy but it doesn’t earn a relationship back, changed behavior does. You can change your own behavior for yourself, but for many dad and I, it was his willingness to be on his own path of recovery and changing that has led us to a beautiful place in our lives. Also, my son gets to know an amazing man who has survived abuse, trauma, and faced PTSD and lives a happy life with tools he found that work for him to feel connected, calm, and happy.
What are things that you do to alleviate your anxiety?
I posted many of my exercises up on my free charity website JewelNeverbroken.com , so that others might benefit from what I have learned. An amazing scientist Dr. Judson Brewer has explained why they actually rewire your brain! They are all very simple practices that only take a few minutes and some focus. Basically, any time we can be present in a curious or observant state there is a bio-chemical reaction that gets sent into motion that causes a dilation of our entire system. So, breathing and observing thoughts and feelings with curiosity can help. Gratitude is an amazing remedy for anxiety. You can’t be grateful and anxious at the same time!
How has music played a part in you coping with anxiety?
Whenever I wrote in an observant and curious state, I noticed my anxiety calmed down. I also learned you could not be genuinely observant and curious and worry at the same time. Because those states of being forced me to be present. Worry and anxiety happen when \ our mind runs amok in the past or future. Being observant and curious forces us to be present. It causes our whole biological system to become in an expansive or dilated state. So, I began to expand upon that and find other ways besides writing that would take me from a contacted (anxiety, fearful, jealous) to an expanded state (observant, curious, grateful, forgiving, loving, kind). If I never had writing in the first place I don’t know if I would have happened on something that made my body so calm, and use it as a road map for how to expand upon it as a homeostatic state of being.
Is there a go-to song, album, or artist that you listen to when you’re feeling anxious?
I tend to read things, as I was raised with books. I believe if we surround ourselves in beauty, authenticity, and courage then we mirror it and use it as a bar to strive toward.
What advice do you have for someone or a loved one of someone struggling with addiction?
For anyone struggling with addiction, all I can say is that I understand the pain and why someone would want to do anything to not feel it. Emotional pain and physical pain are processed in the same part of the brain. Our brains don’t know the difference between a broken leg and a broken heart. But no one can outrun pain, and if you’re willing to face it, it’s the best investment of self-love you can make. There is a lot of life waiting on the other side. And you can learn tools to convert pain into resiliency that you may not have been raised with.
How do you hope to use your platform to help others?
I hope to create connection in all things I do. In a world of disconnection and anxiety, the antidote is connection. And reminding people that they can take refuge inside their own hearts and find health and happiness and satisfaction and comfort. With my charity I share what has taken me 40 years to learn, so that others might benefit earlier. When we share our skills, tools, and experiences we can change our emotional way of relating to ourselves and others.
And with all aspects of my business, my goal is to help people do what I am still on the journey of doing: learning to go from being a human full of holes, to Whole Human.