Jackie Cantwell is a sound musician, artist, meditation leader, and mental health advocate. She has facilitated sound globally for mass meditations and worked on tours with Oprah Winfrey. Jackie has experienced abuse growing up which she openly shares in her Power Story on Chopra.com. Through these life experiences, she has learned a lot including the importance of her mental health.

Recess: Has fitness always been an important part of your life? If not, why is it important now more than ever?

Jackie Cantwell (JC): I’ve participated in competitive sports as an athlete since I was about 7 years old, so fitness has always been a part of my life. “Health” back then looked like fat-free yogurt and red Gatorade, so I’ve learned a lot since then. My real journey with health and mental well-being started when I was 21 years old as a result of chronic trips to the ER for gastro issues. Now, focusing on health and wellness is my top priority because it’s what keeps me connected to the best parts of myself.

Now, focus on health and wellness is my top priority because it’s what keeps me connected to the best parts of myself,”

-Jackie Cantwell

Recess: What does your week-to-week workout routine look like?

JC: Every morning I meditate for 20 minutes and journal. I write about whatever comes up. I work out most days for at least 30 minutes, which includes at least 3 minutes of just shaking my body, usually to James Brown. I talk to myself all day long. I say, “I love you Jackie” out loud every night before I go to bed.

Recess: What are some of the daily routines and movements that support your mental health?

JC: I take walks most mornings, either to get a coffee or to walk with one. I call them discovery walks, where I actively look for things I’ve never seen before. I cook almost every meal at home to help me stay connected to my food and slow down the day. Before I eat my first bite, I always take 3 deep breaths and practice a moment of gratitude for all the things and people that brought the bite to my plate. I love riding my bike through the neighborhoods in Brooklyn and feeling the energy change as I pass through each.

Recess: If someone was just starting on their fitness journey (and needed a pick-me-up!), what would you say?

JC: This is not something you have to be good at. It’s about sitting there and being yourself. It’s in that, “being” that we get to connect with the most authentic parts of ourselves so we can be that out in the world. Sometimes that can feel uncomfortable and that’s ok.

Recess: What do you do when you’re feeling burnout coming on?

JC: I do whatever I can to slow things down and take things one step at a time. I speak super kindly and gently to myself. I remind myself that there are no rules, we made them all up. I carve out time in my schedule (literally on my google cal) for walks and deep breaths.

Recess: Why is destigmatizing mental health personally important to you?

JC: I spent so long thinking I was alone and that everything I thought in my mind was true. The more we talk about what we are going through loud the less alone and more connected we feel. When we relate to one another in this way, the hard stuff tends to lose its power.