Rugby icon Jonny Wilkinson, CBE, the former international fly-half, who kicked the last minute drop goal that would seal England’s victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup, is widely regarded as one of the sport’s best players of all time.
The 37-year-old hung up his boots almost three years ago but throughout his career struggled with self-criticism, anxiety and depression.
Here, Jonny, an ambassador for Puressentiel, a natural healthcare brand formulated with natural ingredients, tells Relax Ya Self to Health how he has found a life of balance and contentment since retiring.
WHY IS RAISING AWARENESS AROUND MENTAL HEALTH SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I’ve suffered from depression throughout my life. For me, there is no such thing as weakness or strength in talking about feelings or problems. In fact, there is only one thing that is important, which is living life to the full and being able to fully express yourself.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL?
For me, this means joy, peace, passion, connection, inspiration, spontaneity, challenge, opportunity, revelation, learning, and growth. If there is anything that is stopping me from living life this way or any time that I feel the opposite then I definitely seek help by talking about it and challenging it in order to find helpful perspectives and different interpretations that get me back to my best as soon as possible.
CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE JONNY WILKINSON FOUNDATION?
I am building a foundation that aims to reduce the negative stigma attached to the apparent ‘weakness’ involved in talking about feelings and support people in uncovering their true potential. Saying that, I know that, at its worst, it is in no way just as simple as asking people to talk about their issues and feelings. Sometimes that can make it a lot worse.
HOW CAN PEOPLE HELP THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING?
The key for me has always been a lack of judgement from others. When people have space in their own values and being they can offer pure unconditional support. In my eyes, offering your own beliefs from your own reality to ‘correct’ someone who is struggling so badly in theirs was and always will be a dangerous game. The Jonny Wilkinson Foundation aims to positively impact the cause, treatment, prevention, understanding, education and support of mental health issues and those affected. We are in the process of researching and refining the philosophy at the heart of the mission and developing the delivery strategy to ensure we make the greatest difference to as many people as possible.
HOW DO YOU RELAX?
An amazingly powerful relaxation technique I use is slow walking. I often head out into the countryside. Slow walking makes it almost impossible for the mind to work quickly and shifts my energy vibration. It’s a phenomenal way to rebalance and find a higher perspective. By relaxing joints and muscles and just letting the arms hang, I gain a sense of control and suddenly helpful solutions to any problems just seem to appear. I use the same state of being when I sit down to eat. This relaxation allows for greater digestion and cellular function. When I was playing I used to eat standing up or moving around whilst packing my bag, thinking about the game etc. I don’t think this brought out the best in me or my performance.
WHY DO YOU LIKE THE OUTDOORS?
I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors and sunlight is hugely important for me for Vitamin D production, boosting mood and for synchronising biorhythms throughout the body. It’s not surprising considering the role the sun plays in the survival of life on our planet that we should be connected in such ways. However, the risks of too much powerful sun exposure are well documented and need to be hugely respected.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER TECHNIQUES YOU’VE FOUND USEFUL FOR STILLING THE MIND?
Guided meditation. This simply means that you’re in some way talked through the process in a certain direction. Meditation can help better organise inner energies which can get a bit all over the place when you are not used to sitting quietly. Meditation takes me beyond my beliefs about myself and into the space of pure potential where I can consciously choose the way I prefer to feel and live in any situation regardless of expectations, desires and outcomes. In this space, there can be no such thing as stress.
DID YOU MEDITATE DURING YOUR CAREER?
I used to meditate before games but I was unable to embrace the difference between being at peace or trying to be at peace. As a player I probably allowed winning and other external factors, such as how others perceived me, to make being peaceful seem out of my control. I now understand that how I feel is my choice.
HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR DIET?
Very. My wife Shelley is training to be a naturopathic nutritionist and does everything from making her own yoghurt from compassionately, ethically farmed raw milk to soaking and sprouting nuts and grains, and making sourdough bread. Healthy concoctions including smoothies, juices and raw protein bars are commonplace around our home. There is so much to be experienced and learned from food and nature and preparing things in the most whole and natural way. We are, after all, just a result of everything we have eaten and drunk.
WHY HAVE YOU TEAMED UP WITH PURESSENTIEL?
I have a huge respect for nature, as does the family behind Puressentiel. The brand is a perfect fit for me. I think we might be well served by continuing to listen and learn from our bodies and nature. There is a place for medicine for sure but, for me, it needs to support and assist the body, not try to dominate it. Quick fix solutions in medicine sometimes scare me especially when they alter or disturb natural processes. I have found that essential oils have a strong role to play in maintaining skin, hair, muscles and vitamins and minerals through diet and supplementation are great ways to ensure balance. Nothing beats open stress-less living though!
Jonny Wilkinson is brand ambassador of Puressentiel’s Muscles & Joints range. The French aromatherapy and natural skincare brand is the official partner of World Rugby until 2019.