A New Brand of Physical Wellness

MILFORD — Never underestimate the beauty of a great massage.

Heather Stickney, of Joyful Choice Wellness Center, was the first tenant signed on to the rejuvenated Col. Shepherd House in Milford last June and said there are many misconceptions about wellness and massage therapy.

“My philosophy about body work in general is because I have lot of different trainings in different modalities, is that it’s a conversation with your body,” she said. “We spend most of our time in our heads. So, we don’t have the opportunity to connect with our bodies. So, we hold tension in places that we may not know until the body physically manifests maybe a pain. And then we start paying attention.”

The longtime Milford resident said her approach is that massage is a workout for the body. This “self-care is a gift that you can give your body,” and added that many people are adding massage as part of their normal routine.

“I do have several clients that will stick to a regimen,” Stickney said. “For some, it’s every three weeks, for some that have started with something acute, then maybe we do once a week for a little while and then we back it off to once every other week or whatever their needs are. I really work with everyone in terms of what they’re able to do from a time and from a financial perspective as well at what they feel that their body needs.”

Before starting Joyful Choice fourteen years ago, Stickney also ran Trombly Gardens for five years, building from a small hut with dirt floors to marketing the farmers market business with a logo and creative website.

“That worked, being in the dirt, being part of the community in that way was amazing,” she said. “I had come back about eleven years ago because my grandmother was ill. I had been running and opening restaurants in the Dallas, Texas area and had been in Las Vegas and Boston as well. I came back because my grandmother needed more help. It was perfect because she was just down the street from the farm and I was able to caretake for her.”

Stickney knows that many businesses struggle in and around and Milford oval and said businesses need to rely on one another.

“In this particular building, Zinger’s is helping to drive some of that traffic,” she said. “I think it’s really about getting people ‘cracked’ open a little bit and making things accessible. I know we have the farmers market. I loved it when it was at the town hall indoors because I feel like we need to bring people down this way. I think that’s happening organically with some of the new restaurants, Rachel Barnard’s restaurant La Medina and Greenleaf — even the expansion of the Riverhouse Café. Those types of things are driving traffic.”

Stickney said that she’s very grass-roots oriented, and that places like the Coworking Space on Nashua Street and business-to-business networking events are vital to the town’s vitality.

“I’ve talked to Meredith O’Brien at Bella Esthetics [also located at the Col. Shepherd House], about doing some collaborations,” she said. “Maybe where they could come in and get a facial and a mini-massage. Everyone is so busy and over-scheduled to the max. So, when life happens, these types of services can feel like a luxury — going out to dinner, having a facial, having a massage, having a life coach work with you on your goals — those types of things that are the first things to get chopped off the list.”

As for life coaching, that is something that Stickney offers as well, with the emphasize on both body and mind.

“I’m a different type of life coach,” she said. “I’m an integral life coach, which means whole body. I was trained with New Ventures West, which is in California. They have trainings that they do in that area and also Washington, D.C. — the latter is where most my trainings were. Their focus is instead of giving someone a prescription of ‘go home, and do these three writing exercises and then report back to me and tell me how you feel’, it is much more about utilizing the body and the sematic piece — mind, body and the emotions that go along with it.”

For Stickney, often she’ll have clients that are doing both and she said the results and breakthroughs are fascinating.

“It’s really looking at someone and how they’re living in their ‘narrative,'” she explained. “And then what is there core? What’s their essential positive quality? Their spark of life? Whether it’s passion or a deep love, whatever that true essence of what they’re being is, and then working on a plan together to get them to live in a deeper narrative that will accentuate that positive.”

It’s Stickney’s belief that everyone could use a life coach a lot of times.

“Just being an adult in this world is reason enough,” she shared. “But often people will find me when they’re at a crossroads. I often consider myself a transitional midwife, because I have this whole bag of tricks that I can’t separate them from myself.

She added that often people might come to her for body work, or they came for life coaching, and that might weave to something else. Sometimes people feel unfulfilled in their life, sometimes when they’re kids are grown-up and out of the house and folks are trying to navigate what’s next for themselves.

“They’re not sure what the next step is,” Stickney said. “Or they’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship. But I’ve also worked with some young, right-out-of-college students as well, that are just not sure. So, I think it can happen for anyone, at any stage in their life. It’s about a level of support that doesn’t come from someone who is so interconnected in their life. Often, people feel like they will call their parents or siblings for advice but they might steer you in a certain direction because they know you. They know pieces and parts of you and might be scared that you’re considering a big life change and how that might affect them. It might be because that advice might feel safe to them. That’s an important distinction.”

Life coaches can see things without lenses or without a preconceived expectation of who that person is or who they should become. Talking to a life coach to many is a no-judgement zone.

In the total picture, Stickney said her favorite part about everything she does is the people.

“I am passionate about people,” she said, “I’m passionate about people being heard and seen. And I don’t think there is enough of that in the world.”