Directions

Ingredients

Meet a Thrive Expert: Justin Wilford, PhD

Justin is a cofounder (with his wife, Audra) and VP of Content for Yes Collective. He and Audra also co-founded MaxLove Project, a national childhood cancer non-profit that has served over 25,000 families since 2011. He earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's published a book and over a dozen research articles on topics ranging from religious social groups to online social support.

His expertise lies in designing health promotion programs and translating complex health and wellness science into simple, easy-to-understand resources for busy parents.

Reading time: 4 minutes

What does family mean to you?

It is a necessary and wonderful part of realizing my full humanity. It means to embrace responsibility for others, to always see my actions in the context of a larger whole, and to fully dive into love and its necessary companion, grief.

What does thriving mean to you?

I answered this a little differently when our Yes Collective team was posed this question at the very beginning. Today, I’m feeling like thriving is opening my heart to all that life is presenting, listening to what my heart is saying, and then responding with love, compassion, and wonder.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My earliest memory is wanting to be a helicopter pilot. I have no idea why because the idea seems totally unappealing to me now. In my early adolescence I wanted to be a baseball player and then write about baseball. But in later adolescence I lost all sense of what I wanted to be. I've now rediscovered it with Yes Collective. I want to create and guide meaningful, life-changing content that will help parents live their best lives.

When did you know you wanted to work in health and wellness? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

It was a slow realization after our son Max was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011. I was still totally wrapped up in the academic path of becoming a tenure-track professor. I had just received my PhD in geography and was finishing the edits on a book when Max was diagnosed. It took me about two years after that to come to the realization that I didn’t want to do research and write articles that were of interest to only a handful of other academics around the world. I wanted to do something more meaningful and my daily life with Max’s treatments and our budding non-profit showed me that there was so much good work to be done in the space of family health and wellness.

When did you know you wanted to work with families?

Honestly, I’m not sure I ever wanted to work with families as a whole. My real passion is working with parents. As Audra and I began to run cooking classes for childhood cancer families (we began doing cooking classes with MaxLove Project in 2013), it became clear that if parents weren’t thriving, their kids couldn’t possibly thrive. It is now crystal clear to me that children thriving starts with parent thriving.

In your training, research, and experience, what do you see as the biggest factors in children thriving?

Parents doing serious emotional work to become more present, connected, and responsive to their kids. Everything else—nutrition, sleep, exercise, social connection—comes from this.

As a dad, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to Yes Collective parents?

Your emotional health is the foundation for everything else you care about. Prioritize it.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to Yes Collective Parents?

I know this sounds totally self-serving, but my advice would be to take my OPEN-Hearted Parenthood workshops to learn more about your emotional world and then start doing daily OPEN-Hearted mindfulness sessions on your own.


What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

Meditation, followed by a solid sleep routine. I had tried meditating for years (since age 18) but it never stuck. It never made complete sense and the payoff wasn’t clear. Finally, my friend John Balkhi (Yes Collective’s Director of Growth) suggested Headspace in 2015. At the time, I was feeling a lot of stress in my life so it just clicked for me. I felt like, yes, I need this because it will help with my stress. I’ve meditated in one form or another almost every day since then. Today, my meditation routine is different from back then: I’m now doing the OPEN Method. But it’s still the same essential practice of sitting for some time each day, closing my eyes, and connecting with what's happening for me right now.

What lies ahead for Justin Wilford?

I’m lucky, I’ll be creating and guiding content for Yes Collective for a really long time. I truly can’t imagine doing anything else!

Meet a Thrive Expert: Justin Wilford, PhD

Close
Theme icon

Podcast /

Content /

Connect

Meet a Thrive Expert: Justin Wilford, PhD

Take a second to learn more about one of our Family Thrive cofounders!

Join the Yes Collective and download the mobile app today

JOIN TODAY

Key takeaways

1

2

3

Low hassle, high nutrition

Fierce Food: Easy

Fierce Food: Easy

50/50 mixes of powerful veggies and starchy favorites

Fierce Food: Balance

Fierce Food: Balance

Maximize nutrients, minimize sugar and starch

Fierce Food: Power

Fierce Food: Power

Ingredients

Kitchen Equipment

Ingredient Replacement

View replacement list (PDF)

Reading time:

5 Minutes

Justin is a cofounder (with his wife, Audra) and VP of Content for Yes Collective. He and Audra also co-founded MaxLove Project, a national childhood cancer non-profit that has served over 25,000 families since 2011. He earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's published a book and over a dozen research articles on topics ranging from religious social groups to online social support.

His expertise lies in designing health promotion programs and translating complex health and wellness science into simple, easy-to-understand resources for busy parents.

Reading time: 4 minutes

What does family mean to you?

It is a necessary and wonderful part of realizing my full humanity. It means to embrace responsibility for others, to always see my actions in the context of a larger whole, and to fully dive into love and its necessary companion, grief.

What does thriving mean to you?

I answered this a little differently when our Yes Collective team was posed this question at the very beginning. Today, I’m feeling like thriving is opening my heart to all that life is presenting, listening to what my heart is saying, and then responding with love, compassion, and wonder.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My earliest memory is wanting to be a helicopter pilot. I have no idea why because the idea seems totally unappealing to me now. In my early adolescence I wanted to be a baseball player and then write about baseball. But in later adolescence I lost all sense of what I wanted to be. I've now rediscovered it with Yes Collective. I want to create and guide meaningful, life-changing content that will help parents live their best lives.

When did you know you wanted to work in health and wellness? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

It was a slow realization after our son Max was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011. I was still totally wrapped up in the academic path of becoming a tenure-track professor. I had just received my PhD in geography and was finishing the edits on a book when Max was diagnosed. It took me about two years after that to come to the realization that I didn’t want to do research and write articles that were of interest to only a handful of other academics around the world. I wanted to do something more meaningful and my daily life with Max’s treatments and our budding non-profit showed me that there was so much good work to be done in the space of family health and wellness.

When did you know you wanted to work with families?

Honestly, I’m not sure I ever wanted to work with families as a whole. My real passion is working with parents. As Audra and I began to run cooking classes for childhood cancer families (we began doing cooking classes with MaxLove Project in 2013), it became clear that if parents weren’t thriving, their kids couldn’t possibly thrive. It is now crystal clear to me that children thriving starts with parent thriving.

In your training, research, and experience, what do you see as the biggest factors in children thriving?

Parents doing serious emotional work to become more present, connected, and responsive to their kids. Everything else—nutrition, sleep, exercise, social connection—comes from this.

As a dad, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to Yes Collective parents?

Your emotional health is the foundation for everything else you care about. Prioritize it.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to Yes Collective Parents?

I know this sounds totally self-serving, but my advice would be to take my OPEN-Hearted Parenthood workshops to learn more about your emotional world and then start doing daily OPEN-Hearted mindfulness sessions on your own.


What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

Meditation, followed by a solid sleep routine. I had tried meditating for years (since age 18) but it never stuck. It never made complete sense and the payoff wasn’t clear. Finally, my friend John Balkhi (Yes Collective’s Director of Growth) suggested Headspace in 2015. At the time, I was feeling a lot of stress in my life so it just clicked for me. I felt like, yes, I need this because it will help with my stress. I’ve meditated in one form or another almost every day since then. Today, my meditation routine is different from back then: I’m now doing the OPEN Method. But it’s still the same essential practice of sitting for some time each day, closing my eyes, and connecting with what's happening for me right now.

What lies ahead for Justin Wilford?

I’m lucky, I’ll be creating and guiding content for Yes Collective for a really long time. I truly can’t imagine doing anything else!

Justin is a cofounder (with his wife, Audra) and VP of Content for Yes Collective. He and Audra also co-founded MaxLove Project, a national childhood cancer non-profit that has served over 25,000 families since 2011. He earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's published a book and over a dozen research articles on topics ranging from religious social groups to online social support.

His expertise lies in designing health promotion programs and translating complex health and wellness science into simple, easy-to-understand resources for busy parents.

Reading time: 4 minutes

What does family mean to you?

It is a necessary and wonderful part of realizing my full humanity. It means to embrace responsibility for others, to always see my actions in the context of a larger whole, and to fully dive into love and its necessary companion, grief.

What does thriving mean to you?

I answered this a little differently when our Yes Collective team was posed this question at the very beginning. Today, I’m feeling like thriving is opening my heart to all that life is presenting, listening to what my heart is saying, and then responding with love, compassion, and wonder.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My earliest memory is wanting to be a helicopter pilot. I have no idea why because the idea seems totally unappealing to me now. In my early adolescence I wanted to be a baseball player and then write about baseball. But in later adolescence I lost all sense of what I wanted to be. I've now rediscovered it with Yes Collective. I want to create and guide meaningful, life-changing content that will help parents live their best lives.

When did you know you wanted to work in health and wellness? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

It was a slow realization after our son Max was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011. I was still totally wrapped up in the academic path of becoming a tenure-track professor. I had just received my PhD in geography and was finishing the edits on a book when Max was diagnosed. It took me about two years after that to come to the realization that I didn’t want to do research and write articles that were of interest to only a handful of other academics around the world. I wanted to do something more meaningful and my daily life with Max’s treatments and our budding non-profit showed me that there was so much good work to be done in the space of family health and wellness.

When did you know you wanted to work with families?

Honestly, I’m not sure I ever wanted to work with families as a whole. My real passion is working with parents. As Audra and I began to run cooking classes for childhood cancer families (we began doing cooking classes with MaxLove Project in 2013), it became clear that if parents weren’t thriving, their kids couldn’t possibly thrive. It is now crystal clear to me that children thriving starts with parent thriving.

In your training, research, and experience, what do you see as the biggest factors in children thriving?

Parents doing serious emotional work to become more present, connected, and responsive to their kids. Everything else—nutrition, sleep, exercise, social connection—comes from this.

As a dad, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to Yes Collective parents?

Your emotional health is the foundation for everything else you care about. Prioritize it.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to Yes Collective Parents?

I know this sounds totally self-serving, but my advice would be to take my OPEN-Hearted Parenthood workshops to learn more about your emotional world and then start doing daily OPEN-Hearted mindfulness sessions on your own.


What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

Meditation, followed by a solid sleep routine. I had tried meditating for years (since age 18) but it never stuck. It never made complete sense and the payoff wasn’t clear. Finally, my friend John Balkhi (Yes Collective’s Director of Growth) suggested Headspace in 2015. At the time, I was feeling a lot of stress in my life so it just clicked for me. I felt like, yes, I need this because it will help with my stress. I’ve meditated in one form or another almost every day since then. Today, my meditation routine is different from back then: I’m now doing the OPEN Method. But it’s still the same essential practice of sitting for some time each day, closing my eyes, and connecting with what's happening for me right now.

What lies ahead for Justin Wilford?

I’m lucky, I’ll be creating and guiding content for Yes Collective for a really long time. I truly can’t imagine doing anything else!

Justin is a cofounder (with his wife, Audra) and VP of Content for Yes Collective. He and Audra also co-founded MaxLove Project, a national childhood cancer non-profit that has served over 25,000 families since 2011. He earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's published a book and over a dozen research articles on topics ranging from religious social groups to online social support.

His expertise lies in designing health promotion programs and translating complex health and wellness science into simple, easy-to-understand resources for busy parents.

Reading time: 4 minutes

What does family mean to you?

It is a necessary and wonderful part of realizing my full humanity. It means to embrace responsibility for others, to always see my actions in the context of a larger whole, and to fully dive into love and its necessary companion, grief.

What does thriving mean to you?

I answered this a little differently when our Yes Collective team was posed this question at the very beginning. Today, I’m feeling like thriving is opening my heart to all that life is presenting, listening to what my heart is saying, and then responding with love, compassion, and wonder.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My earliest memory is wanting to be a helicopter pilot. I have no idea why because the idea seems totally unappealing to me now. In my early adolescence I wanted to be a baseball player and then write about baseball. But in later adolescence I lost all sense of what I wanted to be. I've now rediscovered it with Yes Collective. I want to create and guide meaningful, life-changing content that will help parents live their best lives.

When did you know you wanted to work in health and wellness? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

It was a slow realization after our son Max was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011. I was still totally wrapped up in the academic path of becoming a tenure-track professor. I had just received my PhD in geography and was finishing the edits on a book when Max was diagnosed. It took me about two years after that to come to the realization that I didn’t want to do research and write articles that were of interest to only a handful of other academics around the world. I wanted to do something more meaningful and my daily life with Max’s treatments and our budding non-profit showed me that there was so much good work to be done in the space of family health and wellness.

When did you know you wanted to work with families?

Honestly, I’m not sure I ever wanted to work with families as a whole. My real passion is working with parents. As Audra and I began to run cooking classes for childhood cancer families (we began doing cooking classes with MaxLove Project in 2013), it became clear that if parents weren’t thriving, their kids couldn’t possibly thrive. It is now crystal clear to me that children thriving starts with parent thriving.

In your training, research, and experience, what do you see as the biggest factors in children thriving?

Parents doing serious emotional work to become more present, connected, and responsive to their kids. Everything else—nutrition, sleep, exercise, social connection—comes from this.

As a dad, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to Yes Collective parents?

Your emotional health is the foundation for everything else you care about. Prioritize it.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to Yes Collective Parents?

I know this sounds totally self-serving, but my advice would be to take my OPEN-Hearted Parenthood workshops to learn more about your emotional world and then start doing daily OPEN-Hearted mindfulness sessions on your own.


What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

Meditation, followed by a solid sleep routine. I had tried meditating for years (since age 18) but it never stuck. It never made complete sense and the payoff wasn’t clear. Finally, my friend John Balkhi (Yes Collective’s Director of Growth) suggested Headspace in 2015. At the time, I was feeling a lot of stress in my life so it just clicked for me. I felt like, yes, I need this because it will help with my stress. I’ve meditated in one form or another almost every day since then. Today, my meditation routine is different from back then: I’m now doing the OPEN Method. But it’s still the same essential practice of sitting for some time each day, closing my eyes, and connecting with what's happening for me right now.

What lies ahead for Justin Wilford?

I’m lucky, I’ll be creating and guiding content for Yes Collective for a really long time. I truly can’t imagine doing anything else!

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to the Yes Collective for more expert emotional wellness just for parents.

Discover Nourish

See more
Meet a Thrive Expert: Justin Wilford, PhD

Podcast

Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

By

Jackie Kovic

Meet a Thrive Expert: Justin Wilford, PhD

Podcast

Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

By

Jackie Kovic

Podcast

Condimentum eu tortor bibendum.

By

Jackie Kovic

Podcast Ep. 56: Waking Up to Trauma and Healing as a Parent, Partner, and Person, with Tanner Wallace, PhD

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 56: Waking Up to Trauma and Healing as a Parent, Partner, and Person, with Tanner Wallace, PhD

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 55: Recovering from trauma with therapist and trauma-sensitive yoga facilitator Ruthie Duran Deffley, LCSW

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 55: Recovering from trauma with therapist and trauma-sensitive yoga facilitator Ruthie Duran Deffley, LCSW

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 53: How to find and nurture deep friendships with executive matchmaker, Sophy Singer

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 53: How to find and nurture deep friendships with executive matchmaker, Sophy Singer

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 52: Friendship & Emotional Health with Blake Blankenbecler, LPC and Jenny Walters, LMFT

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 52: Friendship & Emotional Health with Blake Blankenbecler, LPC and Jenny Walters, LMFT

By

The Yes Collective

Podcast Ep. 51 - "Best of Yes" with Sleep Scientist, Kate Simon, PhD

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 51 - "Best of Yes" with Sleep Scientist, Kate Simon, PhD

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 50 - Healing heart & mind through the body with somatic psychotherapist Betsy Powers

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 50 - Healing heart & mind through the body with somatic psychotherapist Betsy Powers

By

Yes Collective

Podcast Ep. 49: Wellness Reset Meditation: The Power of Three Deep Breaths

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 49: Wellness Reset Meditation: The Power of Three Deep Breaths

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 48: The June Mom-isode with Audra & Anne

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 48: The June Mom-isode with Audra & Anne

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 47: Bridget Cross, LCSW, Leads the Yes Collective Therapist's Circle

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 47: Bridget Cross, LCSW, Leads the Yes Collective Therapist's Circle

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 46: Anne & Justin's In-between-isode on the Working Mothers (Erin Erenberg) Interview

Podcast

Podcast Ep. 46: Anne & Justin's In-between-isode on the Working Mothers (Erin Erenberg) Interview

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 56: Waking Up to Trauma and Healing as a Parent, Partner, and Person, with Tanner Wallace, PhD

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 56: Waking Up to Trauma and Healing as a Parent, Partner, and Person, with Tanner Wallace, PhD

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 55: Recovering from trauma with therapist and trauma-sensitive yoga facilitator Ruthie Duran Deffley, LCSW

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 55: Recovering from trauma with therapist and trauma-sensitive yoga facilitator Ruthie Duran Deffley, LCSW

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 53: How to find and nurture deep friendships with executive matchmaker, Sophy Singer

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 53: How to find and nurture deep friendships with executive matchmaker, Sophy Singer

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 52: Friendship & Emotional Health with Blake Blankenbecler, LPC and Jenny Walters, LMFT

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 52: Friendship & Emotional Health with Blake Blankenbecler, LPC and Jenny Walters, LMFT

By

The Yes Collective

Podcast Ep. 51 - "Best of Yes" with Sleep Scientist, Kate Simon, PhD

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 51 - "Best of Yes" with Sleep Scientist, Kate Simon, PhD

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 50 - Healing heart & mind through the body with somatic psychotherapist Betsy Powers

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 50 - Healing heart & mind through the body with somatic psychotherapist Betsy Powers

By

Yes Collective

Podcast Ep. 49: Wellness Reset Meditation: The Power of Three Deep Breaths

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 49: Wellness Reset Meditation: The Power of Three Deep Breaths

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 48: The June Mom-isode with Audra & Anne

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 48: The June Mom-isode with Audra & Anne

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 47: Bridget Cross, LCSW, Leads the Yes Collective Therapist's Circle

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 47: Bridget Cross, LCSW, Leads the Yes Collective Therapist's Circle

By

The Yes Collective Podcast

Podcast Ep. 46: Anne & Justin's In-between-isode on the Working Mothers (Erin Erenberg) Interview

Podcasts

Podcast Ep. 46: Anne & Justin's In-between-isode on the Working Mothers (Erin Erenberg) Interview

By

Yes Collective Podcast

Subscribe to get all the goods

Join the app
Login