Leigh Winters // @leighmwinters
Where do I begin with our next BossBabe Q&A feature? First of all, she is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. The first time I met Leigh was at mbg's Revitalize, where she introduced herself in a breakout session by stating the oh so casual fact that she is a NEUROSCIENTIST. You can imagine the heads rapidly turning in her direction after this announcement. She is also incredibly generous and kind. Leigh is type of person who naturally attracts others through her positive attitude. This world is her oyster, as Leigh has spent time living all over the globe. She is a true light and I am beyond thrilled to feature her on the blog. xo
Tell us a little bit about yourself! My name is Leigh Winters! I recently moved to Palo Alto, California from my hometown of NYC. I spent much of my childhood living in both Tokyo, Japan and Sydney, Australia before moving to the United States. Ever since I was young, I was interested in integrative health and it wasn’t until I pursued clinical psychology and neuroscience that I realized I wanted to devote my life to better understanding the brain and behavior.
One of my primary interests is natural beauty and self-care product formulation, specifically focusing on our sense of smell and their effect on the physiological body. When I was in graduate school at Columbia University, I became increasingly interested in olfaction as an overlooked integrative therapy for anxiety and stress-relief. This obsession inspired a lot of my work (and thesis!) on olfaction (aromatherapy, essential oils, and more) and its therapeutic benefits.
What is your zodiac sign? According to western astrology, I’m a fiery Leo! It gets a bit more complicated than that though, right?
In my chart, I have a fair amount of water sensitivity, which I’m told means that I’m not a brash Leo (insert laughing emoji). I also have fairly strong Chiron (perhaps why I’m drawn to healthcare and healing?) and have all the fixed signs represented in my chart, which means I’m a patient but strong-willed person.
You're a neuroscientist, why did you choose that path? I was always interested in the brain and mostly the mind, but wasn’t always sure if the biomedical path was for me since I had no interest in being an M.D. After undergrad, I immediately went on to attend graduate school after eventually turning down a finance job that I had initially accepted.
I remember one of the final talks when I was an intern at the bank prior to accepting the full-time offer. It was one of the heads of wealth management research talking about how the future of business is psychological and that the most interesting work is not being done in finance, but in labs and businesses trying to better understand human nature.
After leaving that talk, I decided to start thinking about other opportunities that really aligned with what I wanted to do with my time on this Earth! This decision broke some mental models that I had developed in my mind throughout my entire life about what it meant to be successful, live a fulfilled life, and be secure and happy.
Tell us about your journey to starting Wise + Well! Wise+Well was born out of my time in graduate school. I began writing for some premier health sites and blogs that quite frankly were all volunteer and for “exposure.” After a month or two of that, the glory high wore off and I started contemplating what it would look like if I did my own thing.
So, I went ahead and started a holistic lifestyle media brand and multi-writer platform blog. My mission for Wise+Well was to combine the value of ancient wisdom with the most recent evidence-based research in holistic wellness. I reached out to some colleagues and friends whom I knew in the health arena with different areas of expertise, paid them to write articles for me (a principle of mine— because I knew what it was like to do so much good work for free), and it grew really fast.
Within half a year, Wise+Well was averaging 45 thousand visitors a month with no advertising or marketing!
After a year and two months of doing Wise+Well as a side hobby, I pivoted to make the site just my writing and focus on other media features and opportunities that were becoming increasingly abundant. To me, that was the ultimate success especially since I created the site with no intention to become such a resource! Nowadays, I just go by my name and write regularly for sites like mindbodygreen, Well+Good, Byrdie Beauty, Bustle, NBC News, and more.
What does a day in the life of Leigh look like?I like to wake up pretty early and enjoy breakfast with my fiancé. Typically, we bike ride or walk to grab tea (me) or coffee (him) on Stanford’s campus. Then we part ways for work! I always make sure to get a 45-minute or hour workout in during the day (usually at lunch or early evening), though I’m open to thoughts and suggestions from those morning workout people since I’m considering switching up my routine. Another big part of my day is meditation. I’ve recently been turned onto trying Muse— a wearable that helps give you real time feedback on your meditation using brain sensing technology. Sleep is a big deal for me— I’ve been a great sleeper my entire life (knock on wood) and always get eight hours, which means I’m usually in bed by 10pm at the latest. Something else about me is that you’ll never find me with my phone or laptop in my bedroom. My fiancé and I keep our bedroom a technology-free zone and I highly recommend trying this if you’re looking to cut down on screen or phone time.
What is the best part of what you do? The hardest part? The best part is feeling aligned about the work I do and having the opportunity to connect with so many inspiring, intelligent, and compassionate people through writing and my work in the healthcare space. I’m so grateful to wake up every day passionate about the work I’m bringing into the world and contributing to research and scientific advances that change people’s quality of life for the better!
The hardest part is learning how to manage my boundaries— emotionally and energetically, you name it, I’ve navigated it. Living in an increasingly interconnected world, I get a fair amount of e-mails and messages (thanks to Instagram!) and questions from those who come across my work. It’s a huge learning curve having to say “no” to media features and events and learn to manage my capacity to reply to all the messages that come my way (I do my best!). I help everyone that I can, but I’m always learning to manage my time better. I always say, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything!
My word for 2018 is thoughtful. I’m dedicating myself to being more present with loved ones and fostering more thoughtful relationships instead of spreading myself too thin.
Do you have a fitness routine? Yes! I’m an avid barre-goer. For years, I’ve been a daily visitor of Pure Barre. I am a big fan of low-impact, high-cardio isometric workouts. Growing up, I trained professionally as a ballerina in NYC and then throughout high school. I loved to dance and being at the barre reminds me of my passion for combining the art and beauty of fitness.
I’m also a huge biker and walker. I bike ride or walk everywhere—to work, to barre class, to the grocery store, downtown to dinner. Biking has been a huge part of my routine living in California.
I also really love trying new workouts. I’m signed up to try a new spinning and yoga class this week!
What is the biggest message you want to share through your platform? Beauty is not one size fits all. We have a complicated relationship with ourselves— our standard of beauty is skewed! For too long, we’ve looked at others around us or in the media and felt less than.
If you stood in the mirror and saw your soul, not your amazing contour job, or flawless spray tan, would you still be beautiful? Talking about beauty, makeup, and skincare is imperative if we want to change the conversation and paradigm around the toxic products many of us use and what it means to truly love another and connect.
For a long time, I thought beauty was defined by skinny and tan. Now, I think of beauty from a lens of health (mental health, too) and happiness— and I encourage others to take the leap of faith to do the same.