Intro:                   Welcome to the #justaddgratitude podcast. Here you’ll discover inspiring stories of personal and professional growth, level three fun, marketing tips, business development and travel adventures from entrepreneurs, digital nomads and creatives alike. Now, sit back, grab a drink and take a 30-minute gratitude break with your host Shannon Kuykendall.

Shannon:           Hi, everyone. Thank you for being here. Welcome to our third episode of #justaddgratitude. On today’s episode, we will be talking to Mio Yokoi. Mio is dedicated to spreading the message that our mental and emotional wellness requires on-going care, just like our physical health. Mio brings her work as a registered psychotherapist, host of Life Stuff 101 podcast and supporter of growth to this big, audacious mission, bam. Let’s welcome Mio to the show today. Hi, Mio, thank you for joining us here at #justaddgratitude.

Life Stuff 101 with Mio Yokio

Mio Yokoi:          Thanks, Shannon. Thank you for having me today.

Shannon:           Absolutely. Tell my listeners a little bit about your background. You’ve also got a podcast and it’s called Life Stuff 101, and we’ve got a story from that, that we’ll share in a little bit. What’s your background and just tell us a little bit about what it is that you do.

Mio Yokoi:          So for the last 10 years, I have been working as a registered psychotherapist in private practice. I’m a consultant and coach. In that area, I call myself a supporter of growth. It’s something that a number of my coaching consulting clients liked, so I’ve adopted that. The idea of being a supporter of growth. I’ve been working in the mental health field for the last 10 years. Over that time, one of the things that I learned and noticed was that the majority of the people contact people who are helping professionals when they’re in distress, or in crisis, or in a very intense time in life, which is definitely something that people should be doing. I’m grateful that there are resources and professionals who are there to support people when they’re struggling. But, I also started to think that we don’t generally think about our mental or emotional health in the same ways that we do about our physical health, in that we know that to get regular exercise in and for us to eat well is a way for us to maintain our health.

Mio Yokoi:          When we do, unfortunately, if something happens to us, even the common cold or whatever it is, the reality is the better care that we take care of ourselves physically, the better we are able to manage difficulties in physical health when we have them. I started to think, “why is it that we don’t have those kinds of ways of thinking about our mental and emotional health?” That is the reason why I started the podcast, Life Stuff 101. The larger idea is that it would be really great if we learned some of this stuff in school. You learn-

Shannon:           Oh my gosh, yes.

Mio Yokoi:          -a lot of stuff in school that you never get to utilize in life. But there’s also a ton of other things that, it would have been really helpful to have known earlier in life. So that’s the idea behind Life Stuff 101, specifically around mental and emotional health and to try to have people think about these things in a more ongoing way than we do. We just wait until, or often anyway, find ourselves waiting until something happens.

Shannon:           Yeah. And it’s usually something pretty drastic, and there’s no going back from that once you get to that point. For you, was there anything going on in your life, when it came to your mental health, that for you, you just kind of looked at and said, “Okay, this is something I want to pay more attention to. I want to dive deeper into this.” Was there something like that in your life that sort of, again, I guess in a way becomes your why?

Mio Yokoi:          You know, it’s interesting because I had a previous career in advertising and marketing before I moved into this line of work. It was about 10 or 12 years that I was working in marketing, advertising and tech, and this is going back to the late nineties, early 2000s. I found that there was a lot of work that was interesting, but it was really stressful. And I live in Toronto, Canada, which is one of the largest cities in Canada. It’s very cosmopolitan. There’s a lot going on here. And I was living downtown, and having nice dinners, and doing nice things, and all that kind of stuff. Kind of checked off all the boxes of the things that I quote-unquote should be doing. But I wasn’t happy, and I was really stressed all the time.

Mio Yokoi:          I started to think that there must be something more to life than that. So it wasn’t so much that I was able to identify, oh, I have some kind of mental illness, or some kind of a mood disorder, or anything like that. Looking back, I’d imagine that I did have some level of depression, and maybe some difficulties with anxiety. But at the time it was more like, I’m just not happy, and I’m spending a lot of time and energy putting myself into things and doing things that… You know, at the end of the day, it wasn’t really particularly meaningful, and I just decided that I needed to change stuff up. I think that that is when I decided to do something that was outside my comfort zone, which ultimately led me to actually seeking out personal therapy for myself. Looking for, of thinking and feeling about things. Which then led me to want to pay it forward, and that is when I went back to school and did some training and decided to become a psychotherapist.

Shannon:           How long were you in school for?

Mio Yokoi:          For psychotherapy? It was three years. It was a private training program. It’s a master’s equivalent level, but it wasn’t through a college or, up here it would’ve been the university. It was a private training program, but it was three years and then practicums, and stuff like that.

Shannon:           And so when you started moving in that direction, did you start to kind of feel a bit of a weight off your shoulders? I mean, granted you’ve taken on an undertaking, because this is three years of your life, lots of studying. But I know sometimes when people sort of step away from something that is not making them feel good, it makes them sort of feel heavy. Like they’re regretting going into it, or they, you know, it’s like when you wake up in the morning and you don’t want to go to work, all right. If you have that feeling, and you had that feeling every day, and you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, then that’s your body’s way, and that’s your emotions way, of telling you that you’re not on the right path. There’s something else for you. Did you start to feel better after you started to make that change?

Mio Yokoi:          Definitely, yes. The short answer would be yes. I definitely felt more full. It’s an interesting thing because I found meaning. I’m not sure that previously it was fun, and interesting, and cognitively challenging, and all that kind of stuff. There were perks definitely that were attached to that kind of work. I learned so much. We were speaking about gratitude. All the stuff that I learned over my previous career, I am so grateful for, because as it turns out, it also came in handy and I just started to start a private practice.

Mio Yokoi:          But to answer your question, I think that what it did was, what I found was getting into this work was more fulfilling. I felt more full. I would definitely say that that does feel better. What I am most grateful for is that I feel as though in my own small way I’ve been trying to support and help, and I know that it’s come from a genuine place of wanting to help and support. I feel that there is meaning in it. Whereas before, I can’t say that there was a whole lot of meaning that I took from the work that I was doing.

Shannon:           Very good. Very good. Well, and that again is, that’s your body telling you that you’re doing what your purpose is, I feel like. Those things that make you feel full, whether it’s giving back, or paying it forward, or following your passions, those are those things that make you feel good. I think that when people stifle those, they miss out on a lot of opportunities for growth.

Mio Yokoi:          For sure. What’s also been interesting though, and it’s something that I’ve learned through my own personal work, but also working with the folks that have been privileged to work with, is that there isn’t a ceiling or a top of the mountain. There isn’t a place where you actually get to the ultimate place and there’s Zen, or there are some kind of a higher place that you’ve achieved, that often who we are as human beings, which is pretty remarkable if you think about it, is that there is always room to grow. There’s always the lingo that you use in the modality that I’m trained in, which is relational psychotherapy, is that there’s a growing edge. There’s always an edge within us that can continue to grow.

Shannon:           Oh, absolutely.

Mio Yokoi:          That is one of the reasons why, after 10 years of being in private practice, that I decided to sort of want to reach more folks, or want to get more of a message out around having people think about their mental and emotional wellness in this way. So that people could live a fuller, more like holistically fulfilled, life.

Shannon:           I love it. I like that very much. When I was listening to your podcast, in your podcast, you tell a story about a bike rally. I love this story, one, because I love the ending, and I loved how you felt, and the fact that this person… Are you still in contact with the man that came back?

Mio Yokoi:          No, unfortunately, I haven’t actually seen him since. This is back in 2003, so we’re going way back there.

Shannon:           Oh wow. Wow.

Mio Yokoi:          It’s definitely been something in the back of my mind since then, to maybe try to get in touch. If anything just to let him know what an impact he’s had on me. Also, perhaps to maybe just let them know that it’s because of him that perhaps, not perhaps, all the folks that I’ve had the privilege of working with and supporting really stemmed from his generosity toward me, and in his helping me during this bike rally.

Mio Yokoi:          Just to give some context back in, I want to say it is 2003, I was working in marketing at the time and like I mentioned, doing well and had a nice career going for myself and so forth, but I was just not feeling satisfied, or something just felt missing. I was flipping through the alternative newspaper here in Toronto. It’s called Now Magazine. I came across this ad for this bike rally. It’s a 660 kilometer bike rally over six days, and I can’t remember exactly what the number is in miles, but it’s still a lot of-

660 km Bike Journey

Shannon:           [crosstalk 00:13:47] Yeah, you had it, I should’ve written it, I should’ve wrote it down, because you gave the context in your first episode.

Mio Yokoi:          Yeah, I wish that I had also written it down. In Canada we are in kilometers. So, I think about this is in kilometers, but you can just imagine that 660 kilometers is a long way from Toronto to Montreal. I guess what it is, is by train and by car it’s about six hours. But by bike it took six days, and every day it was 110 kilometers.

Shannon:           Oh gosh. More power to you.

Mio Yokoi:          It was life changing and a lot of different ways. And it’s something where, one of the things that I got out of that experience was about the mind, body connection, for sure. Because I have learned so much respect and gratitude for my physical body. A lot of the times we, especially, I actually don’t want to say this, but especially as women, I guess I could say that as a woman.

Shannon:           As a woman.

Mio Yokoi:          That critical thoughts and feelings at times that we have for our physical selves.

Shannon:           Yes.

Mio Yokoi:          We often don’t think about the fact that, if it wasn’t for our physical selves, we wouldn’t be able to do anything. There’s so much that we wouldn’t be able to live life in the way that we have and do, if it wasn’t for our physical bodies, and the ability that it has to take us where we need to go.

Mio Yokoi:          And yet we have, most of the time, this critical view of ourselves. Or even sometimes a full on, to some degree, rage or hatred toward our physical selves. But one of the things that I learned through doing the bike rally of the 660 kilometers, over a six day period, I’ve also done half marathons. I’ve done-

Shannon:           I’ve done a half a marathon.

Mio Yokoi:          Yeah, and other kinds of these sort of physically taxing things. Me being who I am though, I haven’t been very good with process-oriented things. And that’s something that’s changed over time, so 2003 was a long time ago. It’s one of the things that I have actually focused more on, is the journey, being more about the process than the outcome. But at the time, I was more about just getting through this bike rally, and I didn’t focus too much on training or having necessarily the best equipment.

Mio Yokoi:          I had a mountain bike as opposed to a road bike, and all this kind of stuff. And so it was quite the journey, but I decided to do it on my own. I asked a few people in my life at the time if they’d be interested in doing it, and no one was was up to it, and so I decided to do it on my own. But there was a big group of people who were participating in this bike rally.

Shannon:           Did you do any sort of training prior to that?

Mio Yokoi:          So to the credit of the of the folks who organize the Friends for Life Bike Rally, is that they do have mandatory training rides that you’re supposed to do. But, I think the idea also is that we’re supposed to train in-between, which I really didn’t do. I’m a bit of a procrastinator that way.

Mio Yokoi:          I did the mandatory training rides that qualified me to do the bike rally, but I was really in no shape to be, well, it turns out I was in shape enough to do it, but nowhere near the optimal shape to do it. There were times that I was really, really struggling, and because I didn’t have anybody, or any people around that I knew, it was also a very lonely experience. And the only people that I was really in touch with, apart from sort of casually talking to the other people who were participating in the bike rally, were my parents who were in Japan. They went back to Japan. [Crosstalk 00:18:21] Canada. And so I would get these long distance phone calls at the end of the day. But it was, it was really, really challenging. I think it was day three when I was really, really, really struggling.

Mio Yokoi:          But there are all these other people who are really having a great time, and they would have noisemakers and whistles and they’re really celebrating this experience that they were having. And they would be on these really speedy road bikes, and they would just zoom by and I would just have my head down, just trying to get to the [crosstalk 00:19:03].

Shannon:           I just want to get through this.

Mio Yokoi:          Just this trudging along. There was this one group of guys that rode by, and one of them as he was riding by turned back and smiled, and it was one of the first people I felt that acknowledged me during the ride itself.

Shannon:           He saw you?

Mio Yokoi:          Yeah, just being seen was something that was really, really powerful for me. The fact that he just acknowledged me and smiled, but just kept going. But that meant something to me, and it just gave me a little bit of an umph to keep going. I probably had another hour or hour and a half, or something like that, to the next stop, and I was super tired. I was just so sore, and all kinds of exhaustion mentally, physically, emotionally, all that stuff.

Mio Yokoi:          But, as I was riding along that day, that guy who had smiled back at me, he actually rode back. My understanding is that he got to the finish line, I guess remembered seeing me, and he rode back, and said that he would ride with me to the finish line. He was just really supportive, and it was just this amazing experience of just the power of someone seeing me and supporting me.

Shannon:           And you didn’t know him. I mean, that’s-

Mio Yokoi:          No, that’s right.

Shannon:           You know, that’s an angel. That is an angel. That’s what I classify somebody that you don’t know, that does something out of pure and utter kindness and compassion. They’re an angel. And I don’t even think he probably even knew that he was your angel that day.

Mio Yokoi:          Oh, he may not. I mean, I remember talking to him after the ride, the official ride, was over. And there was sort of the after party on the sixth day, and me just letting him know I, I believe that’s at least my recollection. I hope I did. I do remember being, I think in a pub or something like that, and just letting him know of the impact that he had had on me. And he asked if I was going to do it again [crosstalk 00:21:45] next year and at the time, adrenaline and all that kind of stuff running, and I’m like, “Yes, I’m going to do it again.” Turns out I didn’t.

Shannon:           Have you ever?

Mio Yokoi:          I haven’t gotten back to do it again, because it was really grueling on a lot of different levels. And there’s also the challenge of raising $2,000.

Shannon:           Yeah, that’s probably the worst part sometimes for me is the fundraising piece. Is going and asking people for money. I’m not opposed at all to doing the work as far as, I’ll do the walk, I’ll do the ride. But it’s when you’ve got to hit people up for money. There’s just something about it. Because everybody’s kind of got their own thing that they want to support. And so for me it’s just easier, I’ll just come up with the two grand myself, and I’ll do the ride.

Mio Yokoi:          Right, right. That in itself was also a challenge for me, because I’m someone who has been able to figure out a lot of different things on my own. I’ve been quite independent and like I mentioned, my parents had gone back. I’m an only child, and we all immigrated to Canada because my parents wanted to raise me in a… So my background’s Japanese, and Japan is a country is still quite patriarchal. And my father, when he had a daughter, decided that he wanted to raise me in a place where I had as many opportunities as possible. In terms of gender roles, there is certainly, there is inequality, but in Japan there are still women who work as elevator girls. I mean [crosstalk 00:00:23:40].

Mio Yokoi:          And not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, or to put down any way, but there is still quite a difference in how men and women are seen in the society, and specifically around I think work, and career, and that kind of thing. There’s still more of an expectation that women will marry and become mothers.

Shannon:           And stay at home?

Mio Yokoi:          Yeah, that kind of thing. That’s not necessarily, at least the setup, that my father had wanted. Very fortunate that my parents wanted me to have as many advantages as possible. It turns out, though, that once they went back, I didn’t have any family here in Canada. Part of the challenge in some doing something like the bike rally was, if I ever do want to do some fundraising and stuff like that, hitting up family was never an option.

Shannon:           No, you’re on your own.

Mio Yokoi:          A lot of it was a huge uphill battle around those. Yeah, so that particular bike rally, and the experiences I had, and specifically as a result of just being seen and being supported by that guy, is really what was behind me…just having this sort of epiphany going like, I could be doing more. I could also be someone that could be paying it forward, too.

Shannon:           Absolutely.

Mio Yokoi:          It is because of that experience that has led me to doing exactly what I’m doing today.

Shannon:           So he was the catalyst. That’s fantastic. So what are you, do you have any books? Because I always like to have a book that gets recommended. With the psychotherapy practice for my listeners, is there any particular book that you’ve read that really is a great, that talks about our mental health and wellbeing? And I’m sure there’s probably a ton of books out there, but for you, what would be a favorite and a must read?

Mio Yokoi:          One of the things that I actually do recommend as a resource, it’s not a specifically a book, but there is something called The Five Minute Journal, which is really focused on a gratitude practice.

The Five Minute Journal – Google it, you can find it anywhere.

Shannon:           Oh nice.

Mio Yokoi:          Have you heard of it?

Shannon:           No, I’m going to, I know we’ll have this information in the show notes, so I will further look into this, because I really liked that idea.

Mio Yokoi:          It’s really, really great. I think that it was, my understanding is that it was invented, because it’s not really written, even though that there is a bit of a practice around it. It’s pretty much a journal, but it’s printed out, and there’s a page a day, and it asks you to answer some questions at the beginning of the day. And at the end of the day it asks you to think about the good things that have happened that day, and what your goals were, and whether or not you had accomplished them, that kind of thing. I find that putting that kind of a practice and, it’s one thing to say to somebody, “A gratitude practice could be useful”. It’s another thing to say, “Here’s a book that already has all the prompts for you.”

Shannon:           I love that.

Mio Yokoi:          It also gives you some instructions around, make sure that this is something that you do for X amount of days, so that it becomes a habit. And once it creates a habit, then you have the ability to be able to get what you will out of it. It’s a really great little system that they have that is part of that Five Minute Journal. So that’s definitely something that I would recommend in terms of a resource.

Mio Yokoi:          I think that if your listeners are looking to maybe put a specific practice in place, not just saying, “Think about five things that you’re grateful for today”. It’s more of a step by step kind of a process. It’s something that I definitely would recommend.

Shannon:           Well, thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it. So we’re going to go ahead and wrap this up. So why don’t you tell my listeners where they can find you?

Mio Yokoi:          My podcast is called Life Stuff 101, and that’s something that you would be able to find anywhere you would find podcasts. But if you’d like to just get a list of episodes that I have so far, it could be found at solidwellness.org/ls101. You can find out more about me, and specifically my support of growth work at solidwellness.org

Shannon:           Oh, thank you so much. That’s really great. Thank you Mio, for taking the time today and being a guest on my show.

Mio Yokoi:          You’re welcome, Shannon. Thank you so much.

Shannon:           Well, that’s the wrap for episode three of #justaddgratitude. Thank you for joining us today. If you have any questions for me or Mio, please leave them in the comment section below. You can also find #justaddgratitude on the following subscription services: Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher. Please share, subscribe, and leave a review. Remember, if you want to make positive changes in your life, just add gratitude.

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