What does it mean to live a good life? Wellbeing can be a difficult concept to define but if it’s lacking in your life, the absence is undeniable. Perhaps it feels like disillusionment with everyday routines or frustration with basic challenges, expectations, those of others and your own can become overwhelming and maybe it feels like you’re simply just trying to survive.
In the new book, The Theory and Practice and Wellbeing, Lee LaMee has created a comprehensive process for identifying patterns that are holding you back and are increasing awareness for improved wellbeing. He examines the intersection of mental, physical, and spiritual health, exploring the components necessary for being and staying balanced, healthy and empowered.
Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with, Lee LaMee author of The Theory and Practice and Wellbeing: Your Comprehensive and Actionable Guide to the Good Life. Lee thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Lee LaMee: Thank you Drew and thank you for having me.
Drew Appelbaum: Lee, help us kick off the podcast. Can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
Lee LaMee: I am a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and what that means is that I diagnose, treat, and prescribe for mental health concerns, full spectrum, anything that you could find in the, what we call the DSM, the diagnostic and statistic manual, that’s a reference book for mental health diagnosis.
Also trained in therapy, trained in experience and doing that as well. Before that, I worked great many years as a floor nurse in mostly med search floors in the hospital and then before that, I had an interest and studied humanities.
Drew Appelbaum: Why was now the time to share your story? You’ve been in the industry for quite some time, you’ve clearly seen a lot of things, you’ve dealt with a lot of things, you’ve cared on a lot of things but did you have an “aha moment?” Did enough people tell you need to write your story down?
Lee LaMee: Absolutely, and thank you for that question. I think as you mentioned, the years and years and years of experience in different settings and accumulating experience and knowledge and you know, getting to a place where I felt like I had something to say. And then, you know, with colleagues, you go to lunch, you spend time with colleagues and then those sort of trend or pattern of the colleagues saying, “You need to do something more with this.”
I heard it enough that I really started thinking about it and I was like, “Well, I feel like I’m doing a lot with helping patients right now,” but then it sort of occurred to me, like, “Huh, I could probably consolidate this and get it all together in a framework and see what that looks like in a book.” That was the “aha moment”, that was close to two years ago and then it’s, that process of sort of testing yourself, getting the ideas out there and on there and then refining and refining and refining and then wanting to present a lot of what I’ve experienced and what I’ve learned over the years.
Drew Appelbaum: So when you started the book and when you decided to finally put pen to paper, I know that you’ve been doing this for such a long time but when you were making that framework and when you actually had to, you know, again put those words down, did you have any major breakthroughs or learnings along the writing journey or the editing portion of the journey?
Lee LaMee: Absolutely. You know, having experience in a lot of different fields, this is some would say a sort of steep learning curve because it’s a new area for me and it’s I love to read. You know, I have tons of hooks and I’m always like, reading but this is like now, when I look at a book, I look at it much differently because now I understand.
I understand the process and the process, you know, it was said to me at some point, like, the first time you write, your first draft, that’s writing for yourself and then after that, you have to go through it again with all of your ideas and you have to think about writing for the reader and that really focuses the mind and you know, what it is that I understand and what it is that I sort of, at this point kind of take for granted and how do I convey that.
How do I convey the power and the importance and the difference that it will make to the average thoughtful reader?
Drew Appelbaum: I want to clear this up because just by seeing the theory in practice, I think people might be concerned. This is not a large medical thesis with thousands of references, right? This is a book that anyone can pick up and have meaningful takeaways.
Lee LaMee: Absolutely. The theory and practice is not in any sense meant to be some dense arcane academic tome where the references at the end take up half of the book. This is meant for the general population. I wanted to make it as accessible as possible. The theory in practice is really referring into a framework. That’s why you need to take away from that, it is just a framework of thinking about wellbeing.
Wellbeing, I think, you know, it’s a larger concept than just mental health or just physical health or just spiritual health. I think it encompasses all of these and I wanted to do something that was really comprehensive and really thorough and something that looks at wellbeing from birth through death, from the womb to the tomb. So it’s just a framework, it’s very accessible and very comprehensive.
What’s Holding You Back?
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s dig into the book and I thought you really kicked it off well as the first line of the book in the intro is, “Many people I’ve known ultimately come to the realization that they, despite their best efforts, feel like they’re being held back in life.” It’s a pretty strong statement right there. Can you break that down for us? What were you hearing over and over again and really, from whom?
Lee LaMee: Well, thank you. I appreciate that question and you know, thinking back, like, working on med search floors for a long time and being with people in some of the most difficult times that they encounter and then moving on to psychiatry. So you know, that’s an occupational hazard of hearing people being held back and then over the years, realizing that most of us, if not all of us are held back by aspects of our habitual conditioning that it’s not in our awareness.
That’s something that we can choose whether or not we want to bring more into our awareness and then figure out these things that might be holding us back. They might be holding us back mentally, they might be holding us back physically, they might be holding us back spiritually. For people, you know, that that’s an important part of their lives and it doesn’t take very long to sort of look out into the world and you know, hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear something about somebody being held back in one of these areas or in life trajectory, in work.
That’s just intriguing if you think about it, like, if you were to ask an average person like, “How does that work? What is it that’s holding people back?” So that’s really what I really wanted to address in the book.
Drew Appelbaum: I want to go back to something you just said a moment ago. I would love to get your definition of what someone living well or having or in general, in a state of wellbeing. I think that’s putting it better. What is your definition of both of those?
Lee LaMee: Well, for my purposes, purposes of this book, I would say that somebody who has wellbeing has had the courage to bring their habitual conditioning into their awareness and then I talk about processes in the book. I use acronyms for that, exactly which steps to take somebody if you’re bringing that into some greater awareness and then deciding what it is they might want to keep and deciding what it is they might want to not only discard and disown but to allow to replace with more helpful beliefs and values and attitudes and assumptions and rules, it’s one of the acronyms in the book.
Then having to work through that and working through their impeding patterns, knowing what kind of personality characteristics they’re looking at, having a greater understanding of themselves and having, using that clarity to work through some of the fundamental concepts towards the end of the book that I talk about, like appreciating self-worth and having agency or a sense of choice and in these are sort of sequential and then having a sense of autonomy and when you have these things, you have a sense of ability and then very importantly because I talk to a lot of people about this is having aim in life, which is you know, that’s really about purpose and meaning.
Then when we have these things that’s foundational when we, our day-to-day, we deal with what I call entropy, which is the weight of life, which could be adversity and it’s a counteracting force with which to approach life and be able to enjoy things more, be able to function more confidently and have more clarity.
Drew Appelbaum: You did mention this before as well but the book is broken down to three sections, mental, physical, and spiritual and I kind of want to dig into something you just said about the mental portion, which is that you really ask folks to step back and evaluate themselves. So what questions should they be asking themselves and what traits should they really be looking for just to start before any real work can be done?
Lee LaMee: What typically happens is people present with a concern and very often, that’s a sort of the tip of the iceberg. It might be masking or there’s typically something underneath that or behind that that’s driving that but that’s where we would start, like, when somebody presenting with like, what’s challenging them and what’s causing them psychological pain? What are they dealing with day-to-day? And then we trace that back.
We start tracing back. Usually, you know, first visits, it’s talking about what they can expect, what’s the way this framework works, and then it’s tracing back. It’s tracing back from that thing, which often reveals more and we trace back to the beliefs and the values and the attitudes and the assumptions and the rules and we go through that process of exploring and discovering and recognizing and acknowledging and articulating and evaluating and then deciding. It’s not overnight, it’s not fast. It does require effort and I would say that it’s worth it.
Drew Appelbaum: Do you find that people are able to be honest with themselves when they ask these questions or ready for it? I read a chapter on defense mechanisms and asking yourself and I ask myself and I was like, “Oh god, I see them now. I don’t think I want to dig in” so it is pretty concerning. So are people willing to focus on these and actually admit that there are issues or do you need to work on at least that is the first step is, letting it out?
Lee LaMee: Yeah. Yes and no. Yes, you know and usually people wouldn’t change either because of pain or because of insight and part of my job is to nudge and ask the right questions gently but not too gently, so that people have an opportunity to probably in their own time and in their own space to look at those things in a non-threatening way but to really to look at, right?
One of the things that I say in the book is that psychotherapy is also called cyclo-therapy because what we know is, is that say somebody doesn’t have the courage to be really honest right now. Whatever that challenge is, whatever that defense mechanism is, it’s probably going to come back around at some point and they might be more ready at that point as well. So you know, a lot of it is timing, knowing the cycles of therapy as well.
Drew Appelbaum: What can someone expect to happen in their life when they decide to put in the work and they actually find that clear sense of their boundaries and their identity?
Lee LaMee: Well, if you think about it like, you know, a provocative way of setting that up would be to say like maybe you’re not who you think you are, right? That’s like, “What? I think I know who I am” but I mean in the sense of clarifying your distortions — and I talk about it in the book about schemas, your impeding patterns. I think what somebody can expect is greater confidence, greater clarity and I would expect — I would predict — more courage and that confidence and clarity and courage and facing the day-to-day with enhancing your functioning and your sense of aim like, “Who am I and why am I here and what am I doing?”
Pillars of Wellbeing
Drew Appelbaum: As I mentioned, you break the book into three larger pillars and the next one after mental is physical health. Do these two go hand-in-hand? Can you really do well in one and not the other?
Lee LaMee: I think for me there is no question of the mind-body connection and having worked in both, you know, the physical environment like in hospitals and then working in the mental health environment and often there’s a barrier between the two culturally but having worked in both of them, I can tell you like the physical world, people almost always talk about mental health and in the mental health world, people almost always talk about physical health.
I talk about that in the book, in the section of the physical with this idea like I would contend that our habitual conditioning, these habits of the heart, we project them inwardly onto our body. That can be the challenge as well. You know, one of the things is we all have the information. We hear stuff every week about what’s physical health and we also hear probably every week of like how many of us are not reaching that and then it’s what are the barriers to that. I would look in the habitual conditioning to start with that.
Drew Appelbaum: When you dig into the physical health chapter, you break that down into what you call the four pillars of health. Can you mention what those four pillars are and maybe which one would be the most important to you?
Lee LaMee: That’s going to be sleep and in psychiatry, sleep is a huge one for us because that can drive a lot of what we see from disorders to depression or anxiety and the way that that interacts with one another. So sleep is hugely important and I spend a lot of time talking to people about sleep and the other thing that we look at is moving or exercise. That’s what we’re meant to do, that’s what our body is meant to do is to move and that movement helps us to maintain our health.
The other thing that I talk about is food intake and I am careful about saying diet because that has some negative connotations for people. I talk about inflammation in the physical section and this has to do with the connection of what kind of foods we’re bringing into our GI system, our gastrointestinal system and is that creating a sort of a metaphor called garden or is that creating a sort of metaphor called back lot that’s been abandoned for decades?
Those things have consequences, right? If we have the back lot, then we could have leaky gut, we could have dysbiosis and that can expand into the rest of the body including the brain and that affects mental health, that affects our mood, that affects our anxiety, that affects how we think, our cognition. The final pillar is about right attitude and this goes directly to our conditioning and our beliefs and our values and our attitudes and our assumptions and our rules of working through that habitual conditioning in these areas, right? They’re going to put our physical health in an optimal place.
Drew Appelbaum: What impact do you hope the book will have on a reader and while they’re going through it or after they finish, what are some of the first steps that you hope they’ll take?
Lee LaMee: Well, you know, I think I can safely say that mental health systems are overwhelmed nationally and probably internationally, so people are having a hard time getting access. You know, my book is a substitute for mental health treatment but I think it sort of, we’ll give some people some ideas about where to start where they can start with that. My hope is that it is going to help a lot of people sort of in the mild to moderate range.
If people are having mental health challenges, wellbeing challenges in the more moderate to severe that’s usually requiring some sort of intervention or treatment, that can take a while to get in but I hope that I can at least create a start, create some work to get started and stay along with some of the more serious things or at least, help in the way.
Drew Appelbaum: Lee, we just touched on the surface of the book here. We didn’t even get to the spirituality section and there is so much more in the book. I just want to say that putting this book together and it is just a way for folks to live better lives is no small feat. So congratulations on having your book published.
Lee LaMee: Thank you so, so much.
Drew Appelbaum: Lee, this has been a pleasure and I am excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, The Theory and Practice of Wellbeing, and you can find it on Amazon. Lee, besides checking out the book, is there anywhere else where people can connect with you?
Lee LaMee: You can connect with me on LinkedIn.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Lee, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today and best of luck with your new book.
Lee LaMee: Thank you so much.