In the 25 years since singer-songwriter Jewel released her highly acclaimed debut album, she’s also proved to be a talented actress, best-selling author and passionate wellness advocate.
Today at 45, Jewel is co-founder of the Wellness Your Way Festival (wellnessyourwayfestival.com) presented by Kroger stores, where she spreads the message that being healthy extends beyond physical health.
In her book “Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story” (Blue Rider Press, 2016), Jewel recounts her struggles with homelessness, anxiety and depression and describes how she persevered to find happiness, peace and success. Through her website—JewelNeverBroken.com—the singer offers “an emotional fitness destination to help people create positive change in their lives.”
We asked Jewel to share her secrets for overcoming anxiety and achieving both physical and emotional wellness, and here’s what she had to say:
What does your own health and wellness regimen look like, and how has it evolved over the years?
Before I had my son, Kase, 8, I worked out religiously, but once I was a mom, I didn’t have as much time and my priorities changed. My current wellness regimen includes:
Meditating. I was 14 when I learned how to properly meditate, and I can thank my aunt for that because I know meditation saved my life. For me, it has allowed me to go from a teenager riddled with anxiety to a happy, whole human.
Sleep. I make it a priority to get eight to nine hours of sleep each night so that I have the energy to get up each day and live a life that I am proud of. This is something I still struggle with sometimes and am working to improve.
Hydration. I try to drink a gallon of water every day. I believe the first step to health is hydration, and I always carry a bottle of water with me.
Meaningful Relationships. Having deep, meaningful connections is important. Nothing fills my cup quite like time spent with the ones I love the most, and I make time to have meaningful dinners with my friends and go on trips together. Thanks to my friend, Adrian Hanauer, it’s become a tradition to go away in May to celebrate my birthday each year.
Creating. There’s something special about creating a piece of art. It’s one of the gifts of being human. For me, writing songs and poems is a way to heal and express the way in which I see the world.
Nature. I encourage people to go outside and sit under a tree or gaze at the sunset and see how that calms your entire nervous system. I’ve been spending a lot of time hiking in the mountains.
Get Moving. Exercise is so beneficial to both our physical health and our overall mental health. I like hiking because it combines nature with exercise and it’s something I can do with my son. I also love yoga and high-intensity circuit training, and I have been doing the online Tone It Up 31-Day Challenge.
How did the idea for the Your Way Festival come about?
The festival encompasses my vision to spread nutrition, fitness, mindfulness and music to the masses at an affordable price ($35 for the three-day festival or $10 to attend one day). This year, we started in Denver and in Kroger’s hometown of Cincinnati and had 75,000 people in attendance. In the future, we plan to expand and broaden our influence to reach even more people, and to also have an online presence for people who come to the festival to “check in” throughout the year.
In the past, fitness clubs weren’t always available or accessible. Now organizations like 24 Hour Fitness bring physical wellness to millions of people. I want to celebrate fitness while also adding emotional and mental health to the equation. Feeling great encompasses smart nutrition, great fitness, stable emotional and mental health, sleep science and creating connection. When it all comes together, then we are truly healthy. For me, music also has a place in wellness, and I’m overjoyed to bring all these passions of mine together in one festival.
What is the mission of your nonprofit Never Broken?
I founded the Never Broken program and foundation because I want to share with others the tools that helped me move beyond homelessness and anxiety to happiness.
The response has been incredible. I get so many emails from people telling me it “saved their life.” I never expected that response from this website. I partnered with the Inspiring Children Foundation in Las Vegas to co-create and run my foundation’s website and grass-roots program because they are healing children in the exact same way I healed myself. Our grass-roots program has become a best-in-class showcase for how to educate and inspire children to find peace of mind, confidence, entrepreneur skills and an incredible education in life. Just this year, 90 percent of our graduating class got into Ivy League–level colleges on scholarship for academics and tennis! To date, 16 cities are duplicating parts of our model, and we just had a showcase for five more!
We are in the midst of a mental health epidemic, and I’m passionate about solving this. Our foundation has had amazing results for 17 years, providing at-risk youth and all children with a skill set to be physically, emotionally and mentally fit. We have a mindfulness and social-emotional learning curriculum that we are providing the public school system to ensure they have the tools they need, as well. In my opinion, this is one of the most important issues our society faces today, and solving this will help resolve so many other problems.
What helped you overcome your own anxiety?
As a teenager with anxiety and depression, mindfulness and meditation saved my life. When I was homeless, it not only helped me to survive but to also get in touch with who I really was and wanted to be. As an adult, entrepreneur, mom and touring artist, it has helped me to create a peaceful and aware space between what happens in my life and how I choose to react to it.
For those who would like to try meditating, I would first suggest a simple 10- second mindfulness exercise on my website, JewelNeverBroken.com.
How big a role does nutrition play in your life?
I try to follow a “biblical diet,” which has nothing to do with religion but with eating things as they originally came out of the ground, before food was genetically altered. I’m also intuitive and listen to what my body needs. I’m a nutrition fanatic and get my bloodwork done every couple of months. This helps me know the areas where I’m deficient and the kinds of foods or supplements I need to add to improve my diet.
What health lessons have you taught your son, Kase?
I have my son meditate with me. We do a sensory meditation. At the end of the meditation, we tell each other what we heard, smelt or felt. It’s a great way to bring yourself back to the present and be aware of what’s going on around you. The way he takes deep breaths when he is struggling, gets curious about his emotions, or makes an effort to make amends blows my mind. It shows we can inspire mental health in children even at young ages, just like physical health. He plays soccer and tennis, skis, and loves to run.
What’s next for you?
I want to spread the messages of physical, emotional and mental health and for it to be free for those who can’t afford it. My website is free, and my foundation gives out thousands of tickets to the wellness festival.
I’m also in the process of recording a new album. It’s interesting to see how the chapters of my life have shaped the woman I am today and how that translates into my music. Singer-songwriters have traditionally talked about the challenges going on in society to inspire conversation and share solutions, and I hope to be a small part of that.
Photo credit: Matthew Rolston, Philip Macias