Dr. Zelana Montminy is a positive psychologist and health and wellness expert who has contributed to “Good Morning America”, “The Today Show”, FOX, E!, People, Redbook, Shape, PopSugar and more. Dr. Montminy is a member of the American Psychological Association, is a consultant for the Institute for Applied Positive Research, and serves on several boards, including the Pacific Region of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and the program advisory board of the Respect Institute.
She holds master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology with a specialization in health and a focus in positive psychology, and she studied nutrition at Cornell University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children.
Dr. Z took some time out today to speak with us and answer some key questions we knew that only she had the answers to. Let’s dive right in!
Tell us about your childhood
I’m first-generation American – my parents and sister emigrated from the former Soviet union in the 70s and I was born and raised in San Diego, California. My parents came with nothing to this country and were able to create a comfortable life for our family which is truly extraordinary. I straddled two very different cultures and over time came to greatly appreciate the texture and dimension they both give me. Being raised in an immigrant family gave me the tools for what it takes to persevere. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I was given from a very young age, the extraordinary education both through school and as a student of the world. I think the Russian culture generally values the arts so I grew up with a deep respect for music, literature, painting, dance, and any artistic expression. With my father being a graphic artist and my mother a linguist, communication and the creative articulation of our deepest selves always resonated with me. Traveling abroad and seeing the world was definitely a priority in my family growing up and that certainly gave me a broad perspective. It was truly a precious gift that I hope to give to my children as well. I have one older sister, she and I are very close, even with her being 12 years older than me. She moved to Paris when I was only 9 years old so we’ve nurtured our relationship from afar all these years and never skipped a beat. She’s been there for all important occasions physically, in spirit for everything else, and is truly my closest confident.
What led you to become a psychologist?
I was always fascinated by human behavior even in my youth. I was curious why people behave a certain way in various circumstances and what makes one person turn trauma into a triumph and another person, in the exact same situation, turns it into suffering. I was exposed to mental illness and instability from a young age and never shied away from it. In fact, I wanted to help and create lasting change.
What would you say is the greatest point of intersection between wellness and psychology?
I don’t think there is one point of intersection to be honest. The path to wellness is complex; psychology and wellness pursuits are completely intertwined. We are holistic beings. You can’t be well without nurturing your emotional and mental health, just like you can’t be mentally stable and thrive unless you are optimizing your well-being.
What was your inspiration in writing 21 Days to Resilience?
I’m a happiness researcher and as I started to study its benefits more and more, I quickly realized that our pursuit of it, our cultural obsession with it, is actually making us unhappier. The most successful, content people in the world are not striving for an elusive goal of happiness. They are resilient, at their core. I wanted to write a book not just about why resilience is so important but also about how to actually build it – which very few people are actually talking about. I wanted to provide a practical science-based toolkit to help you build this critical muscle that we so often neglect.
If you had to pick one practice to routinely perform to better your resilience in all walks of life, what would it be?
Meditate – but not passively, since that really hard to do for most people. Rather, be mindful at various moments throughout the day. Simply notice how you feel and what’s around you. Research has shown extraordinary benefits of mindfulness and meditation in all areas of life and relationships. This will help you take yourself out of whatever situation you’re in and when you come back to whatever is at hand, you’re refreshed and refocused. Perhaps you’ll see it in a different light. So much of resilience ultimately comes down to perception; mindfulness will definitely help create that shift.
Many of our readers are interested in learning about finance in addition to mental health – what advice can you give them about being smart financially?
Save strategically. Spend more on experiences than on disposable things; science has shown experiences make you happier than things long term. Invest using smart advisors who understand not just where you are today, but where you hope to get to. Think big picture, but enjoy your life today. Don’t be cheap when it comes to your well-being; you have nothing if you’re not healthy.
Do you have any other books in the pipeline? If so, what are you working on?
My book just launched two weeks ago so I’m really trying to enjoy the ride and focus on spreading the word. But I definitely have other books in my minds eye, so this is my first of what hopefully will be many more in the future.
You’ve been on a number of talk shows? Which one was your favorite and why?
Good Morning America was definitely fun, high-energy and exciting. I’d say being on The Doctors has been a highlight because I really value what they’re trying to achieve and the work that they’re doing. It was awesome to be on the show with Molly Sims that day trying to change the culture conversation to such an important topic such as resilience. And I always love giving things away so doing an audience giveaway with my book was pretty special.
If you had to compare public speaking to private practice/consulting which one do you like better?
I enjoy both for different reasons. I really love public speaking because I feed off of the energy in the room. People who attend my talks want to be there and want to grow, so for me their enthusiasm and my passion for the topic is my fuel during the event. My favorite part about it is the Q&A from the audience when I get to really dive deeper and get personal with individuals while the group reaps the benefits of hearing about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Private consulting is equally fulfilling in that I get to help guide and create lasting change on a deep and very personal level, which is profoundly moving for me.
If there’s one piece of advice you’ve given others but haven’t followed yourself enough, what is it?
Take tech breaks. Don’t let social media become your default past time. That’s so hard to do in this day and age especially when Social Media is such a huge part of our business lives as well. But it’s imperative to have tech free zones in your home and cultivate experiences that don’t involve technology or you can just be and enjoy real human moments.