Me and one of my gorgeous fur babies - Lyla - after one of our lunchtime walks :-)

Interview with Zeena Hicks

Hey there! I'm Zeena Hicks, originally hailing from the enchanting city of Dublin, Ireland, but now happily settled in the vibrant UK. My journey across borders brought me here in my 20s, and since then, I have been so fortunate to live in the scenic Cotswolds countryside, with my gorgeous husband, two lovely (yes actually!) teenage sons, and our two adorable furry companions.

My diverse career has seen me in various roles, including an international fashion model, actor, marketer, communications professional, and perinatal educator, each of which has offered me an unparalleled perspective on human perception, both its potential and limitations and contributed to my current vocation as a positive psychologist, accredited coach, trainer, author, and mumtrepreneur. Through my work, I firmly advocate the power of positivity to foster lasting and transformative change, a belief rooted in my personal and professional experiences.

In early 2023, I had the privilege of publishing my debut book, '28 Days of Positivity,' which seeks to empower individuals with a practical blueprint for thriving. Grounded in positive psychology, neuroscience, and mindfulness practices, the book is accessible, easy to read and offers a transformative journey towards self-improvement and growth.

Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, I am proud to have founded two impactful ventures. The Art of Perception Ltd, dedicated to helping individuals take back control of their mind, disrupting embedded behavioural patterns and encouraging sustainable positive change, to unearth their latent potential and break free from self-imposed constraints.

Similarly, Positive Education UK and Ireland, my second endeavor, has pioneered a groundbreaking approach that helps parents, educators, and students create a shared language for positive mental health. Through the infusion of positive psychology practices, my organisation establishes a strong foundation for improved mental wellbeing, enhanced relationships, and elevated academic achievements, fostering an innovative paradigm in the realm of education.

My passion for transforming lives is deeply intertwined with my extensive background in education. Witnessing firsthand the profound impact of labeling on young minds, this awareness intensified when I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and watching both my sons facing challenges within the existing education framework. Such experiences reinforced my commitment to championing inclusivity, promoting awareness of our inherent biases, and fostering a kind, accepting society that celebrates all types of human diversity.

Beyond my roles as a coach, author, and speaker, I perceive myself as a catalyst for change, a beacon of hope, and a guiding light for those seeking a more fulfilling existence. With a desire to unlock the true potential within individuals, I am devoted to embracing the extraordinary, creating a legacy of positivity, and inspiring others to be their best selves and spread happiness all around.

What’s something you’ve been pretty consistent at doing that has led to a favorable outcome for you?

Meditation and positive affirmations! These have been a constant stable in my life over the last two decades, that have enabled me to stay relatively sane and always moving forward. They have also helped me overcome some challenging adversities and connected me to the truth that we can influence the trajectory of our lives, both positively and negatively. The mind is so incredibly powerful and in the words of Henry Ford “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right!”. We therefore owe it to ourselves to get to know what our mind is saying and challenge it regularly.

Being aware is the greatest gift you can give yourself. This alongside knowing exactly what you want and staying focused on those goals is a great recipe for success. As we all know though, life throws lots of curveballs along the way, so having a positive psychology toolkit to dip into when things get tough is a wonderful asset to have and great for enhancing my ADHD strengths and getting into the manifesting zone.

Which habits or goals are you currently working to make progress on daily?

I’ve been working on a daily personal mantra of ‘Change’. Anytime I catch myself doing or thinking something that might keep me stuck where I am, I audibly shout out ‘Change!’ and do some burpees or star jumps. Luckily, I am in an office on my own, as it might appear a bit odd in public circles! Thankfully my family have always supported my new endeavours, although, my two fur babies have not quite got used to the disruption yet, but we are working through it 😊

This process aims to disturb natural subconscious automation patterns to interrupt the neural pathways in the mind to implement change. In other words, it brings awareness to the belief or pattern of behaviour and over-rides any instinct to continue doing the same thing over and over again. For example, it stops me in my tracks when reaching that chocolate biscuit when I am in a rush and encourages me to reach for fruit instead.

Einstein is reported to have said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, yet the human mind is susceptible to that very thing, repeating the same thing day in, day out, which can seriously hinder change. To get a different result, we need to do different actions, and that requires awareness and purposeful intention. Thankfully the brain is able to change throughout life. This is called neuroplasticity. Through persistent focus on positive habits, we can re-right things that we might have been stuck doing for years and enjoy sustainable change.  

Despite my best efforts however, I do occasionally drop the ball on my morning routine, with changes during holidays and other slight life shifts. It is usually my husband who notices first that I have might have slipped on my routine, when he kindly observes, “how is your meditation going”, as I momentarily slip into a minor panic over spilled milk 😊, and allow over-thinking set me into a spiral of catastrophizing. It doesn’t take long though to get back on track thankfully. An ideal morning is 20 mins mediation, affirmations, journalling and gratitude, to set me up for a positive intentional day. On good days, my family often get a surprise cooked breakfast so its win win for everyone!

How do you deal with times when you struggle or get stuck?

When I find myself stuck, nature becomes my refuge and guide to disconnect and reset. I am very lucky to live in a very green and beautiful part of the world with beautiful forests and fields and be able to break free from any lingering worries. I try when possible, to immerse myself in the natural world, and love forest bathing which is a Japanese practice, known in Japan as shinrin yoku, which encourages you to experience the calm and quiet amongst the trees, taking in the nature around you whilst breathing deeply.

Sometimes I can get caught up in all things tech. As I work with clients across the globe, I spend a lot of time online. The development in technology has been a great enabler over the years, especially during COVID, however if not balanced with plenty of off-line and face to face connection, I can start to feel de-energised and disconnected. Therefore, I try to start the day, after meditating, with exercise, and at mid-day take the dog for a walk and then in the evening sit outside (when it is not raining) taking in the gorgeous night sky.

No matter how a person aims to see the good in things and take a positive perspective, life is great at throwing challenges on route, which I try to see as opportunities for growth (after I have calmed my ADHD brain down from catastophising!). I went through a very challenging patch when my kids were small. I was working in a stressful job, and not getting much rest. As a result, my body felt like it wanted to shut down, I had debilitating vertigo and felt nauseous every time I stood up.

It was a wonderful (obviously not at the time) wake-up call to help me realise that self-care is paramount, especially when parenting young children. As they say on a plane when the oxygen masks release – take care of yourself first, so you are able to look after others!

Luckily, I managed to overcome the adversity quickly with the help of a natural doctor and wonderful affirmations and meditations, my absolute go to when I am feeling down. It also fueled my passion in Positive Psychology as a reliable wellbeing resource. So much so, that I started a research master's in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology the following year!

Any methods, tools or tips you recommend for your habits, goals or productivity?

I always have clear vision that I come back to when I feel I am going off piste. I also am a huge fan of the ‘12 Week Year’ by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington, which helps break down your year so you get tons done with little effort.

Their system helps you define SMART goals and an effective plan and tactics to achieve what you want to achieve. If I am being completely honest, I don’t always stick to plan, but if I manage to do just two ‘12 week years’ over the course of 12 months I will already have achieved more than I would have ordinarily. I wrote my book “28 Days of Positivity” using their system in just three months, although it took another three months to manage all the other publishing bits, but still pretty fast!!

A favorite quote?

A couple of my favourites, on top of the two I already shared are:

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Change your thoughts, change your life” – Wayne Dyer

Both sooooooo good. Live by these two gems of wisdom and you will be everything you want to be 😊

Something that made you smile recently?

When complete strangers positively comment on my YouTube videos with such heartfelt kindness, it makes me want to burst with overwhelming joy and appreciation, that keeps a smile on my face for long after I’ve read the posts. We should all offer those moments of kindness and gratitude towards others as it is a simple small gesture for such a huge reward!