Laura Dern Shares How She's Advocating For Mental And Physical Health Now More Than Ever

mbg Senior Health Editor By Kristine Thomason
mbg Senior Health Editor
Kristine Thomason is the senior health editor at mindbodygreen.
Laura Dern On Well-Being, Activism As Self-Care, And Lung Health

Laura Dern may be best known for her acclaimed parts in Marriage Story, Little Women, and Big Little Lies, but her roles span far beyond what you see on-screen. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Laura is also an activist, mother, and a true beacon of well-being.

mbg had a chance to catch up with Laura, and she offered a window into her valued healthy practices, how she's discovering new definitions of self-care, and her most recent acts of service.

On her well-being practices...and how they've changed during the pandemic.

Generally speaking, meditation (specifically Transcendental Meditation, or TM) and movement have been primary elements of Laura's well-being routine over the years. "When I've been consistent, meditation has been a wonderful part of my life's practice," she says. "Exercise has come in different forms—be it yoga or more physical training for a film."

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura says her routine has shifted—and new practices have become a priority.

It’s so interesting because I think we’ve all had this terrifying awakening and also an opportunity to look at our well-being in a really integrative way these last few months.

She adds, "I think I've dug deeper with myself and [my kids] to really look at what works for each of us individually and what changes not only our health and our stamina but also our mood."

Laura says that she's also discovered a renewed appreciation for the outdoors during this time. "For those of us in urban environments in which there have been larger spikes and numbers in terms of COVID-19, taking the time to find nature is a privilege," she says. "Now I don't have to beg my kids to walk the dog, because they need it as much as the dog does—to get some fresh air and feel the sun. We're lucky to go to a hiking trail or a park now that they've reopened—it really makes a difference."

Appreciation for the Earth expands to Laura's philosophy about nutrition, as well. In a previous mbg interview, Laura said her mother [actress Diane Ladd] and grandmother taught her to be "aware of what was coming from the land, how it was being treated, how we were treating it, and how it was treating our bodies." As a result, she is an advocate for organic produce and believes it should be available at a fair and affordable price to consumers. "Particularly when we're in this pandemic and most vulnerable, how we can nourish ourselves and be as chemically free or certainly aware of what's in and around and on our food?"

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On her updated definition of self-care.

During this time at home, in addition to focusing on their own well-being, Laura and her family are prioritizing acts of service. Laura has been an activist most of her life—and it's a trait she has clearly passed on to her own children. "My daughter brought to my attention quickly a lot of kids and teenagers she was talking to were desperate to get involved and make a difference. And all they were hearing was how much money was needed and how devastating it was. It was making them feel incapable of real service," she says. In response, her daughter and a few friends created the Instagram account All Good Deeds 2020, which posts how people are making a difference with small acts of kindness in their communities.

"She was a real inspiration to remind us that the opportunity to make a difference is there every day," says Laura. "We started bringing a birthday cake to my dad on a day that wasn't his birthday, getting groceries for relatives and friends, taking flowers to a neighbor, singing a song outside an eldercare center, or making a thank you for really brave delivery service people, who have been so impactful in our lives the last weeks and months."

Amid the pandemic, when everyday life and noise have been quieted, Laura says that she's noticed the definition of self-care has truly expanded to include activism—for herself and others in her life. "Marching in the street, making it matter, and not stopping until everyone is treated justly and with respect is self-care," she says.

We’re in and we’re not going to stop until we protect our people and protect our planet, end of story. And that’s just gorgeous to watch.

On her commitment to lung health and COVID-19 initiatives.

On the long list of causes and organizations Laura supports with gusto, she has teamed up with the American Lung Association (ALA) and CVS Health to raise funds for COVID-19 research and support messaging to keep communities safe. Laura initially started working with the ALA in 2015. She feels deeply connected to their initiative since her grandfather passed away from lung cancer when she was a young child, as did her close family friend, actress Valerie Harper. What's more, "My mother has had environmental lung health issues in the last several years, and I've continued to learn from the ALA to be more protective for my own mom, while I'm also able to be of service to others," she says, "particularly at a time like this with COVID-19."

Laura especially appreciates how, in addition to raising research funds, the ALA is working with CVS to promote awareness about COVID-19 and provide free testing sites, particularly in communities that are most vulnerable. "At a time when we are palpably aware of the disparity and injustice in Black and Latino communities that deserve support, and as the numbers show us, the most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19," she says, "the ALA is continuing to support and push that much further in their ongoing work in diverse communities to support lung health."

Ultimately, in the midst of global hardship, Laura is focusing on creating change for the future. "I hope we all can continue to inspire each other," she says. "People get tired and disillusioned, but we're all doing this together; we're in this together."

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