THE WELL Q&A: Lia Avellino

The psychotherapist and Director of Head & Heart at THE WELL shares how she stays grounded, relaxes and reboots.

lia avellino
What does wellness mean to you?

Wellness is a continual process by which individuals and groups become aware of and actively choose practices and experiences that enable them to live freely in mind, body, heart and soul. 

Three non-negotiables in your life?

Radical transparency. Commitment to self-awareness. Allegiance and responsibility for advancing social justice through community organizing.

Book you own that is the most dog-eared?

Bluets by Maggie Nelson. If you love the color blue or want to better understand an aching heart, here is one of my favorite quotes: “The half-circle of blinding turquoise ocean is this love’s primal scene. That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it. To have seen such beautiful things. To find oneself placed in their midst. Choiceless. I returned there yesterday and stood again upon the mountain.” 

On-the-go snack?

Coconut everything and anything.

Early bird or night owl?

Early bird. I love my time alone in the morning before my baby wakes up and the city is still sleeping.

Top Beauty Secret?

My 80-year-old Italian grandma, who still walks around town in her kitten heels, taught me how to lather my face with Vaseline before bed. She glows and looks like Sofia Loren. 

Wellness travel essential?

A pocket-sized notebook to record what I see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

Key to a good night's sleep?

Addressing, instead of avoiding, the things that bring me stress and worry, so that I am not reminded of them in the middle of the night. As humans we co-regulate, so resting my head on my husband’s bare chest and feeling his skin calms and soothes me into slumber.

When you really need to chill out, you...

Head to nature (even if that’s just a local park in Brooklyn), take off my shoes and dig my toes into the soil, feeling the ground beneath my feet. 

Instant mood lifter?

Dancing with my friends in the Lower East Side.

Food philosophy?

I believe that my body is wise, it knows what it needs and that my hunger deserves to be honored. I value the satisfaction of the eating experience. I mostly eat for nourishment and sometimes for pure pleasure. I have learned over time that if I respect my feelings, I don’t need food to communicate them for me. 

Bedtime rituals?

Brushing my teeth, putting toothpaste on my husband’s toothbrush, reading a short story, sex and slumber!

Most used condiment?

Ketchup! On my first trip to Italy with my grandparents, I brought 50 packets of ketchup from McDonald's, so I wouldn’t have to be without it or feel embarrassed by asking for it.

How do you take your coffee?

Illy coffee with steamed oat milk.

In your salad?

Everything that hasn’t expired in my refrigerator, plus kale.

Hydration strategy?

A post-it on my desk to remind me to “drink water!” right by the one that reminds me “it’s ok to say no!”

Simple smoothie recipe?

I blend 1/2 cup of gluten-free oatmeal, tons of spinach or kale, fresh blueberries or mango, 1 banana, chia seeds, 2 scoops of almond butter and 1 cup of almond milk or water. YUM.

Inner issue you're still working on?

Just one!? I am working on honoring the child in me. As a kid who had to grow up too fast, I have struggled to see that underneath the very competent and independent adult that I am, is a little one that is both yearning for and deeply afraid of being truly seen.

Go-to wellness gift?

Reiki session! (Check out what we have to offer at THE WELL here.) 

Words to live by?

The wise words of bell hooks (lower case is intentional): "We know what it is like to be silenced. We know that the forces that silence us because they never want us to speak, differ from the forces that say speak, tell me your story. Only do not speak in the voice of resistance. Only speak from that space in the margin that is a sign of deprivation, a wound and unfulfilled longing. Only speak your pain. This is an intervention. A message from that space in the margin that is a site of creativity and power, that inclusive space where we recover ourselves." 

Preferred mode of movement?

I am inclined toward moving fast, so I appreciate the heaving and salty sweat of cycling and running. However, in my efforts to slow down, I am practicing yoga. It is a challenge.

What's sacred to you?

My relationship with entities that are so much greater than I am: The interconnectedness of trees leaves me in complete and utter awe. On the surface, trees appear to be independent beings. They stand, separate from one another, with one body. However, under the soil, they are linked to one another by a robust and tangled fungal network. They help one another out by sharing nutrients and information. Plants and fungi are in a mutually beneficial relationship. Plants provide fungi with food in the form of carbohydrates. In exchange, the fungi help the plants suck up water and provide nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. Fungal networks also boost the plants' immune systems and connect plants that are widely separated geographically. I like to think that humans are very similar. 

How do you reboot?

Every day I carve out 15 minutes for "dreamtime." Whether I am lying on the sofa in my office or sitting on a park bench, I let my imagination run wild and go wherever it wants to go without putting bounds or limits. I believe in finding ways to integrate imagination into our daily lives, so we don’t want to escape our realities as often.

Last time you laughed?

This morning when my one-year-old was getting down to Bob Marley. 

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