Do you believe you are worthy of living a free and fulfilled life?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely experienced at least a season of putting off making changes in your life because a) you didn’t think you were worth it or b) you didn’t know where to start.
But Jesus didn’t come for us to have a mediocre life, one where we shrug off unhappiness, unmanageable health problems, overwhelming busyness … fill in the blank. No, Christ came “so that [we] might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
Whatever is holding you back from living a fulfilled, well-integrated life, I invite you to consider for just a few minutes that you are worth more than that. You are worthy of a whole and holy life.
Want more Radiant? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Jackie Mulligan, foundress of Reform Wellness, along with Dr. Bridget Vander Woude, Reform’s Chief Wellness Officer. If you’ve never heard of Reform, it is a Christ-centered wellness apostolate and functional health practice. Through in-person and online programs, they have helped over 10,000 people globally recenter their health and wellness around Christ and his abundant desires for their lives.
Here are some of the highlights of our conversation.
We are body and soul
Often when people consider making changes to their life, the categories are separated between body and soul, health and faith. But that’s not what Christ desires for us.
“Consider [your] health as both the state of [your] body and the state of [your] soul together,” Dr. Bridget shared. “We are not bodies without souls and souls without bodies, and so … both need to be a part of our efforts in being well.”
In my own experience, people of faith sometimes fall into the trap of prioritizing the spiritual to the neglect of their bodies. While our soul is eternal, we are also promised to be reunited with our bodies in the end for all eternity. So, it would make sense that honoring the body God gave us, learning to be a good steward of that body, is an important task that should not be ignored.
This integration of body and soul, both centered on Christ, is at the heart of Reform’s ministry through their nine pillars: faith, nutrition, sleep, stress management, community, personal growth, space, functional movement and play. Jackie explained that, “our nine pillars, it’s in the shape of a monstrance. … One is not more important than the other, and all of them are connected to Jesus at the center. And that’s very intentional in that when we allow the Lord to inform all the other pillars, the lens changes. So we’re eating now to nourish our bodies in a way that is Christ centered, we’re moving our body in a way that is Christ centered.”
Because the truth is, “Wholiness™ is for everyone,” as they state on their website. What is holding you back from pursuing wholiness (wholeness and holiness) in your life?
Stress is the root problem
While everyone has their own struggles, I was curious if Jackie and Dr. Bridget have noticed a trend among women. Is there something that we all struggle with?
“Across the board, stress, we have seen, is really the root of all disease,” explained Jackie. “[Stress] can disrupt our bodies functioning in the way that they were intended to. And so it’s really hard for the body to heal, for hormones to stay balanced, for to have a healthy gut, which are all things that then affect energy and mental health and now metabolic state, etc.”
Stress, she continued, often keeps us from taking the steps we need to properly nourish our bodies and incorporate healthy practices that rejuvenate us. Add that to the stressful world we live in, and it’s no wonder we are lacking a holistic life.
“The pace of the modern world is really crazy and chaotic,” Jackie continued, “and so some people will learn about the Reform way of life and say, ‘Wow, that’s really radical,’ and Dr. Bridget and I often say, no, this is how we were intended to live; what’s radical is the way that the world has taught us that we’re supposed to be everything to everyone and live at a pace addicted to technology. It’s just unhealthy, and so we’re returning to a daily rhythm where we’re nourishing our souls through prayer, our bodies through nutrition, and our minds through sleep consistently.”
Where to start
When it comes to finding a starting point, Jackie and Dr. Bridget both pointed to the pillar of faith.
“The truth is that if we really want to live Christ centered lives, we have to give the Lord at a very minimum — and I truly mean minimum — 30 minutes of prayer every day,” Jackie shared. “For busy moms, especially, or for women who are stressed and tired, it’s very unlikely that they are really getting 30 minutes of prayer in a day. St. Francis de Sales says that if you don’t have a half an hour a day to pray, that you need an hour. That’s a pretty big gut check.”
But it’s not simply prayer for prayer’s sake. “Many of the saints remained at the Lord’s feet before they took any action. … Those 30 minutes [in prayer] will truly inform all the other pillars and all the things that we are trying to accomplish in our days,” Jackie explained.
She also highlighted how crucial this is for the feminine heart in particular.
In prayer, she said, “we get to really share our hearts, [which is] a desire for women in our feminine needs to be able to connect and to have an intimate relationship with the Lord.” Fostering a deep relationship with God helps us move away from self-reliance and, instead, cultivates greater surrender, trust and virtue in our lives.
Having a prayer routine and spending time in silence daily often leads to the next step: becoming aware of the things you are experiencing.
“We become very accustomed to experiencing symptoms, both physical and spiritual, and we feel that they’re just normal,” shared Dr. Bridget. “It’s just normal for me to be tired and stressed and anxious and to have hormonal imbalance and gut issues, because everybody else around us does. But we do like to encourage people to think about … what are the things that I’m really tolerating on a daily basis that, though they might be common or though they might be around me, aren’t necessarily normal.”
From there they offer a very simple framework to live from: “Simplify your day to consider: when am I going to pray, when am I going to eat, and when am I going to sleep,” said Dr. Bridget.
Jackie noted that many people skip over this step of awareness because there’s a lot of judgment connected with not being where you want to be. “So we always invite people to approach it as an observer and not the judge, and just to solely say, OK, from a 1 to a 10, my soul is at a 6 and my body is at a 3, and now I know that I need to make these changes.”
One big problem Jackie and Dr. Bridget run into is when people try to do too much at once. Instead, we need to decide what is realistic for our season in life.
“Sometimes we set intentions or goals when it comes to our health that just simply don’t align with the season of life that we’re in,” shared Dr. Bridget. “Maybe we just don’t have enough time for these expectations. … That doesn’t mean we don’t do what we can … but often if we find that we’re kind of falling out of our habits and efforts to change behaviors when it comes to physical practical things, we might not be setting very realistic expectations or goals to begin with.”
“I think the truth is that the Lord does give us certain duties, that he entrusts certain vocations to each of us, and also certain gifts and charisms. But I don’t think we’re supposed to do everything we’re capable of all at once,” noted Jackie. “I think we’re supposed to do a few things very well and in particular seasons, and then have the prudence to discern what those things are very carefully to support our primary vocation, which is to love the Lord and and and one another and then to live out the vocation from that primary vocation thereafter.”
Jackie also mentioned how women and mothers — whether working in a career or not — often put themselves last. However, as the saying goes, we can’t pour from an empty cup. So, a balance needs to be found between taking steps to prioritize their own well-being so they can serve those around them better.
Difficult but worth it
This invitation to live more simply in every aspect of our lives is certainly not easy, Dr. Bridget noted, but “we do see over and over again that it’s possible and it’s worth it.”
To those feeling discouraged, Jackie offered this advice: “Begin anew, rise and begin anew each day. Begin badly if you have to, but begin. … The Lord does not want us to overhaul our lives all at once; he’s asking us to invite him in, and it’s with him that we’re going to make these changes simply and consistently over time.”
Learn more about Reform at their website where you can find details about upcoming events and seminars, such as
- “Reform Your Inn Virtual Summit” (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1): Prepare the way for the Lord during a two-day summit led by the Reform team and a panel of guests. Their speakers will help you find practical ways to combat December’s hectic pace and reclaim the fullness of the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas. Participation in the summit is donation-based.
- Reform Online Body Image Cohort (January 2024): Join in the Reform Online course with a special focus on body image beginning this January. Throughout the Body Image Cohort, you will focus on fostering a healthy and holy relationship with your body supported by the framework of the Nine Wellness Pillars.