Healthy Living the Expat Way, Part II: Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit


Healthy Living the Expat Way, Part II

Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

By Anne O’Connell

Global Living – Issue 10 | January/February 2014

You don’t have to climb a mountain to stay in shape, but it’s one thing that British expat Julie (Jules) Lewis has incorporated into her fitness regime and professional life to stay healthy and happy.

“I climbed my first mountain in 2002 for my 40th birthday,” says Lewis, founder of Mountain High, an integrated personal leadership organization offering speaking, coaching, corporate retreats and signature expeditions. She says she had a “light bulb moment at the summit – I am on a high, on a mountain – Mountain High – what a great name for a company!”

A year later Lewis led a team of 18 women on a trek to Everest base camp. Upon returning from the trip she finally had enough courage to leave her full-time job and start Mountain High in Dubai. Her mission is “to inspire as many people as possible (especially women) to take charge of their health, get into action, connect with new cultures and unlock their full potential though adventure travel,” said Lewis. She calls it “MAD LOVE – Making a Difference Through Lots of Valuable Experiences.”

She has since led over 50 expeditions to over 20 countries, which have included Polar expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica. In the process, she has trained multi-national teams of men and women in preparation for, what many have called, life-changing challenges.

“I was looking for adventure and came across Jules’ advert,” said India-born Sandi Saksena who has been an expat for 45 years, having lived in Kuwait and Bahrain before moving to Dubai in 1996. “I attended her intro session and was just drawn to her warmth and positive energy. I decided to sign up; that was it! I was on one of Jules’ first trips to Jordan in 2006 and, thanks to her, I got a taste of everything, including sky diving.”

Saksena was hooked and has continued adventuring with Lewis. “I went with her to Kerela and participated in the famous snake boat race, which we won in 2007. I thoroughly enjoyed my latest trip with her – 2013 horse riding in Mongolia and I am all set to sign up for the trip to whichever Pole – North or South!”

An adventure with Lewis incorporates not only physical but also mental and emotional health. The takeaways for participants vary dramatically and, in Saksena’s case, included a broadening of her horizons, literally and figuratively.

“I have learnt to accept the ‘discomforts’ and have become more open-minded, always looking on the brighter side, enjoying the moment, the beauty of nature and the new people I get to interact with, and appreciating what I have,” she said.

Aussie expat, Debbie Nicol, who also lives in Dubai and has been an expat (this time) for 17 years and lived in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, did the Cyprus ‘Go Red For Women’ in support of the global National Heart Foundation adventure as well as the Arctic trek.

“Both trips left me feeling invigorated on all levels,” said Nicol. “I do learn a lot about myself in group situations, and emotionally when some of the activities stretch me, that’s a real coup.” She recalled going sea caving and “slithering like snakes in total darkness.” Hearing the water coming in and out of the cave brought her back to the horror of experiencing the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. “But, I had nowhere to go. I was stuck in a three-by-three space with rock above and below, so I needed to find some ‘mental toughness’ to not panic and simply trust.”

A recent adventure to the Antarctic with 17 breast cancer survivors, all expats living in the UAE, has been turned into a documentary film called The Jewels of Antarctica Expedition, recently released in a special viewing in the UAE and soon to be distributed globally.

team of breast cancer survivors from the UAE did a trek to Antarctica with Mountain High

Image courtesy of Mountain High

Lewis’ philosophy encompasses what she describes as The Power of Three©.

“It’s a code for life I came up with back in 2003 when I first started Mountain High,” said Lewis. “It’s an anchor of three rocks that I have on my desk, in the bathroom, and in my handbag… to remind me to do something every day to free my mind, energize my body and nurture my spirit of adventure, which in turn enables emotional balance,” she said. “It’s a series of simple daily rituals – small changes, tools, techniques and activities that make a big difference.”

According to Lewis, the lack of emotional well-being is directly tied to many health-related challenges associated with physical well-being. “The body speaks to the mind and the whole new science of psychoneuroimmunology is gathering more impetus – the mind-body-spirit health connection,” she says. “In the paradigm of holistic wellness there is no separation between our emotions and physical body, which is all the more reason why emotional well-being is so important to our overall health.”

Her techniques are effective and attainable for anyone, even if you’re not ready to climb a literal mountain. A recent newsletter shared these nine tips to improve productivity:

1. Get up early; smile and say thank you for another day on planet earth

2. Exercise; get the endorphins flying

3. Have an energy shower – hot and cold water and body scrub

4. Have an awesome high-energy breakfast and nutritious meals/snacks through the day (small and often).

5. Eat that frog; focus on your primary tasks first – usually the most difficult ones!

6. Work in blocks of 90 minutes; it works

7. Spend time alone in silence – zero technology

8. Do one thing a day that scares you!

9. Drink more water 

“To me a healthy lifestyle means taking care of one’s physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health, eating well, spending time in nature and having a positive social network of family, friends and colleagues, doing work that you love and that makes a difference, and varied interests to nurture one’s spirit,” says Lewis. “I work out every day (swim, run, bike, kayak, yoga), meditate, read, listen to music, connect with friends and family, enjoy solitude and silent reflection … and never stop exploring.”

For anyone in a rut, Lewis has this advice: “Get up, get out and get walking. We spend far too much time sat down, indoors and stationary, so something as simple as getting up (out of bed, off the sofa or the office chair), getting outdoors and taking a brisk walk shifts one’s energy; when we move the body we move the mind and when we move our mind we move our emotions. Feel and express the entire range of human emotions you are experiencing – through talking them out and writing them down (journaling); through drawing (art therapy); singing; anything that allows you to control them as opposed to being controlled by them.”

She also recommends trying new activities like dancing and swimming, eating well to boost the immune system, and drinking more water. “There are so many simple things we can do to shift our energy and move towards a more resourceful state of being. Connect and reach out to people (do not suffer in silence); we are social beings so I believe it’s important to balance solitude and personal space with time with friends, family and pets – connection – getting out of our own way!”

Lewis says that travel and exploration are like food and water for her. “It keeps you ‘neurally’ alive in terms of stimulating all your five senses … and the sixth sense too, of course. I love new places, new people, new cultures, and diversity – learning and growing from each and every experience.”


Image courtesy of Mountain High

Her approach to ‘healthy living’ was sparked from day one, and she calls it her ‘dharma’, as she was born on April 7, World Health Day. Her childhood was filled with outdoor adventure. “I loved being outdoors as a child, playing at explorers, going on active vacations with my family,” she said. “I loved sports at school and was fascinated by the human body, so I loved human biology and physiology.”

She focused on this passion and studied sports science at university, and worked in the health and fitness industry for 18 years before starting her adventure travel and personal leadership work.

Her thirst for knowledge didn’t end there. “I studied neuro-linguistic programming in 2006, fascinated by the power of the mind,” said Lewis.

Studies in ‘mindfulness’ followed in 2012 and, in 2013, she took a course in Holistic Stress Management in Boulder, Colorado through the Paramount Wellness Institute.

“I believe I now have an integrated knowledge around optimal health and well-being,” said Lewis.  “I’ve always been big on health and active living, and will continue to do so until I pass over to the next big cosmic world-adventure!”

Lewis is recognized globally as one of the finest educational, inspirational speakers and a catalyst for positive change for individuals as well as companies.

“Companies that make the workplace the well-place and take a pro-active interest in the holistic health of their employees (mental, physical, spiritual and emotional) perform and produce more, have better staff retention and engagement, less absenteeism and more creativity,” says Lewis.

As soon as one adventure wraps up, Lewis begins planning for the next. Upcoming Mountain High Adventures include an Omani Desert crossing in January 2014, a return to Kilimanjaro in July, and a sacred trek around Mount Kailash in Tibet in September, to name a few.

For more details on upcoming treks, go to www.mountainhighme.com.

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