Words by: Jackie Harrigan

Speaking to the Dairy Women’s Network conference in May, wellness coach Rachel Grunwell said that wellness is like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces.
“I want to stop the overwhelm – you don’t have to work on all the pieces of the puzzle – don’t walk away from here thinking you have to work on a hundred different things. Just choose one thing that resonates with you and work on that.”
In her Youtube presentation Grunwell encouraged viewers to find the one thing that lights a fire in their hearts and if they don’t need all of the tools in the toolkits outlined below, she suggested the tools might be good to be shared with their husbands or children.
“Given that one in four people suffer from mental health issues in NZ, we all need those skills.”
A trained and experienced journalist, she says when offered a role writing a wellness column she embraced it and transformed herself from ‘busy, hassled working mum of three sons into discovering a better way of achieving and building wellness’.
Later she trained to be a wellness, yoga and lifestyle coach.
Her scientific approach to wellness is based on the findings of 30 global experts, which she details in her book Balance.


Fitness is the foundation of your physical and mental health, says Grunwell.
“It’s not just about the bodywork, it’s about the mindwork.”
Movement is crucial not only for improving health outcomes – increasing lifespan, reducing the risk of disability, guarding against diabetes and heart disease, building strong bones – but also for happiness, managing anxiety, preventing depression and for boosting productivity, creativity and brain power.
“Being fit is crucial to you living well and being productive.”
However, just walking doesn’t cut it, she says. “You have to get your heart rate up.”
Grunwell made herself embrace running, saying she used to get puffed just pushing the pushchair but now runs marathons.
“Just show up – start small, 20 minutes walking will get you started.
“You don’t have to be good at fitness – you just have to start and get a bit better each time. I went from walking around the block for 10 minutes twice a week to now being a multimarathon runner.”


“How you fuel yourself reflects how you think and how you perform,” Grunwell says. Trends that she says tend to pop up:

  • Eat enough PROTEIN – 1-2 servings at each meal builds muscle power and provides satiety – the feeling of being full so you are less likely to snack.
  • Drink enough WATER – for an average build, drink up to 2 litres/day. Try drinking a glassful on getting up, have a big bottle of water on your desk for drinking all day, at tea breaks drink a couple of glasses of water, and avoid snacking because “you might just be thirsty, not hungry”.
  • Eat REAL FOOD – eat like your grandmother – avoid packets, preservatives and hidden sugars – eat anything that grows in the ground, grows in trees or moves.
  • Eat MORE GREENS – imagine three quarters of your dinner plate filled up with the colours of the rainbow – different plants full of micronutrients and fibre.
  • HEALTHY SNACKS – try water in case you are thirsty, a glass of milk, some raw nuts, full-fat yoghurt and berries or tin of fish, cubes of cheese or healthy blissballs.


“A lot of us are working on a speed setting, mindfulness can be super helpful to help let go of the past, turn a fresh page rather than living in the future. Concentrate on how you are feeling now.
“The key to living your best life is to make the most of the moment right now, right here and enjoy the magic of the moment.”
Mindfulness is attention training, Grunwell says, and it helps with regulating emotions and controlling stress.
“Too much stress is not good for your health – it increases your blood pressure and you can’t think straight – and you can’t make clear decisions.”
Responding to stress requires a pause – slow your breathing. Deep belly breathing helps you reset and calms the nervous system in a matter of moments. Yoga practice is really good to reset, Grunwell says.
She also recommends letting go of judgement of others – it’s self-inflicted stress and it’s a waste of time.
Self talk is hugely important and needs to be role-modelled to our children.
“We are so hard on ourselves in this day and age – we should talk to ourselves like we talk to our best friend, be kinder and be positive. Don’t worry about what we think other people are thinking of us”.


Grunwell says listening well makes you a better friend, parent, partner and generally better person.
There are five levels of listening – listening for words, tone, body language, feedback and heart level listening.


Sleep is a powerful tool for better performance – Grunwell says it powers how you think, feel and react.
Adults need a minimum of 7.5 hours, eight hours is the best to aim for, including the most restorative time of the golden window, between 10pm and 2am. Children need even more than adults.


Helping others is a massive key to happiness – it helps them and it lifts you up too.
“Choose a group that interests you and make a commitment to getting involved and helping them.”


A – Acknowledge the stress – I feel stressed
L – Link the trigger – why do you feel this way? Why do you have this trigger? Helps understanding
L – Let it go – process the stress, breathe out, relax shoulders, let it go.


  • Boosting brainpower – eat blueberries
  • Avocados and almonds , and vitamin C rich foods to boost skin quality
  • Too much sugar – makes you moody, irritable and sluggish
  • Coffee – has some great benefits – just 1-2 cups per day, but not after 3pm because that can impact sleep, cause anxiety


  • Walking
  • Deep belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing)
  • Yoga / tai chi
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Meditation body scan
  • Gratitude practice
  • Journaling to train your brain towards positivity
  • Daily list of good things in job, career and life
  • Chase oxytocin – through loving touch, exercise, gratitude, giving.