If you’ve been a longtime reader of my blog, you’ll know that earlier on, I published a miniseries I dubbed, “Moving with Courage: Overcoming Mental Challenges During a Big Move.” Having moved away from a small town and moving thousands of miles away, after feeling trapped for years, I wanted my readers to see inspiring stories of the joys and challenges of moving away so that people could see that the life they dream of is possible, and that no one should be stuck living in a place where they aren’t happy, or can’t at least thrive. One of my friends that I interviewed was Leialoha Humpherys, who wrote the post “How to Make Moving a Joy, Especially When You Feel Totally Stressed + Anxious” in my mini-series.
I’ve been amazed to see how Leialoha has evolved since we graduated. After serving abroad as a sister missionary in the Philippines for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Leialoha eventually settled down and got married it Utah, thousands of miles away from Hawai’i. She was one of many who helped inspire me to take the leap and leave Hawai’i. Leialoha tried a few different jobs using her different passions and talents, even starting up what looked like an amazing photography business at one point, but none of them were fulfilling to her. Her heart yearned for something more. So she took yet another leap of faith and has since become a full-time author.
It has been amazing seeing her happiness from being in Utah and having a loving husband, and then now seeing her thrive even more after finding her true calling. I just finished her debut self-help book last year, Aloha State of Mind, which is a guide to creating paradise where you are using Hawaiian values, which is relevant whether you live in Wisconsin or the Bahamas. I am currently reading her debut novel, Rise of the Manō, a Young Adult Epic Fantasy that she published in January 2022. This March 2022, she just announced “Lehua,” a Rapunzel retelling coming out this month!
Please see below for a Q&A interview I did with Leialoha. Since I often talk about mental health and other serious topics on Instagram, I wanted to highlight her again since she is someone who is following her dreams, who has overcome adversity, and who is an example that we can learn from!
Kara: I enjoyed reading Aloha State of Mind. It really helped me see the ways I should be cultivating gratitude and joy in my life. I was much happier after leaving Hawai’i, but sometimes I still find myself anxious as well as suffering from “grass is greener on the other side syndrome.” Which Hawaiian value would be good to start with for depression or anxiety?
Leialoha Humpherys: There are so many, but I suggest starting from the top with aloha! Aloha, love, is something we can always improve on, whether it’s increasing our love and charity for others or ourselves. When we start to make choices from a place of love, instead of fear, we see the abundance of opportunities around us, including opportunities to foster healthy relationships, heal, and be happy.
The next value I suggest is ho’omau. I think many of us have been bogged down by things that happened in our lives. Trauma, mental illness, and more can make us feel like we’re not good enough, or strong enough. We can often feel like we’ll simply never get better or even feel better. But, like the ‘ohia tree that grows on barren lava plain, we can rise again. No matter what life throws our way, we can take a deep breath and know that there’s always light, love, and hope available in any circumstance.
We all know gratitude is important, and have heard the power of writing down three things a day we are thankful for. But life isn’t usually easy and finding gratitude, especially in the midst of hardship, can be so hard. How do you recommend balancing or cultivating gratitude when life is hard?
Nobody has been given a free pass for an easy life, even for the people who seem to have it all together. So it’s really important to be grateful, especially in any circumstance. Too often we focus on the difficult things out of our control, when, in reality, just the fact that we’re alive, breathing, and moving is a blessing in itself. There are SO many blessings in our lives every single day, and I think we often forget.
Just the other day my husband and I were talking about how each time we drive on the freeway; it’s a miracle and blessing that we made it to our destination and back home safely. It’s easy to take routine things like that for granted.
If gratitude is something that’s hard for you, especially in the midst of a life challenge, I recommend starting a gratitude journal. It may feel like a log or list at first, but if you can even take a small moment to reflect on the little blessings you see each day, it can make a world of a difference.
Prayer is also another powerful way to express gratitude. A prayer of gratitude can lift you up and give you hope during a life trial. Feeling God’s love is a beautiful way to enhance your attitude of gratitude.
I made a gratitude journal with quotes about Mahalo and living aloha. It’s a very simple way to start noticing little things to be grateful for each day! Here’s the link to the journal.
Kara: Many of us tend of live by rules–at least publicly–and sometimes we get trapped into doing things “the right way.” You recently had an interesting post talking about writing fiction after writing nonfiction. Usually, authors are sort-of chained to writing in one genre initially, and tend to refrain from branching out to other genres until they are more established. Explain how you are living authentically and chasing your passions. Is it freeing to defy expectations?
Leialoha Humpherys: It is definitely freeing. I truly believe that if there’s something you love and enjoy creating, and you know it will serve and bless other peoples’ lives, you should share that. We should never limit ourselves because someone somewhere said “this is how it’s done.” Take other peoples’ advice and tips and make them your own. For example, I am incredibly grateful for other self published authors who share their knowledge and tips, but I always decide for myself what feels right for my writing and publishing journey. I understand why things are done a certain way in the publishing world, but I make my own choices, and I live with the consequences of them too (especially if something flops haha!).
It’s ok to make mistakes. In fact, it’s good to make mistakes, because the more mistakes we make, the more we learn from them. 🙂 A friend has a quote that says “fail faster” and I think that is awesome! The faster you fail, the quicker you learn.
The other thing is that people will judge you either way, so you might as well live your best creative life and follow your dreams! Life’s too short to worry about what other people think.
Kara: A lot of famous Instagram travelers give up their 9 to 5 and travel the world to chase their passions. It seems as if you’ve found and are chasing yours. What advice do you have for those wanting to pursue their dreams and passion?
Leialoha Humpherys: Go for it! There’s no better time to start than now. I’m sure you’ve heard of this quote that says, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Now, there is going to be work in any creative endeavor, but if you love and enjoy it, it will be SO worth it.
I started a blog two years ago, and the niche wasn’t very promising. I wanted to talk about Hawaiian values and I couldn’t find other places talking about it. In the blogging world that’s a huge red flag. You should look for blogs similar to whatever niche you’re pursuing. I decided that I would talk about the Hawaiian values anyway, because it was something I loved and enjoyed discussing and sharing. Two years later, the blog and email list continues to grow and the blog paved the way for my books! You never know where your interests will take you, and I’m positive that someone somewhere loves the same things you love too.
Kara: Tell us a little about your upcoming novel, Lehua.
Leialoha Humpherys: Lehua is a fairy tale retelling of “Rapunzel.” It’s set in ancient Hawaii, where there’s magic, mythological creatures, and rules, like the kapu system. While the story is inspired by “Rapunzel,” my book definitely takes creative liberties. 🙂
I think it’s important to talk about mental health, but it doesn’t always have to be in a direct way. I’m a huge believer in the power of the arts to help people heal, whether that’s through books, music, movies, etc. The arts can work as a mirror or a window, and I hope readers from all walks of life can either see themselves in this book, or see another person’s experience and develop empathy.
My protagonist, Lehua, deals with incredibly demeaning self talk. Her lack of self confidence stems from an abusive, toxic relationship with her “Mother Gothel,” Makani. While readers might pull their hair out at Lehua’s inability to stand up for herself in the beginning of the book, I hope it creates empathy in people.
In real life, there are many people living in abusive situations or dealing with toxic relationships. Negative self talk and feelings of worthlessness are natural results of these horrible and disheartening situations. For those dealing with those circumstances, I hope this book offers hope and light. You can get out of it. You’re strong, and you’re worth it.
For those who haven’t dealt with those circumstances, I hope this book creates empathy in you. We don’t ever know what other people are going through, but one thing that always helps is love, aloha. We can be kind, ask questions, and understand others, and while that might not rescue someone from an abusive situation, it might be the spark to help a friend develop their self confidence and get themselves out.
Kara: What inspired The Rise of the Manō? What lessons does it teach? Does the novel deal at all with mental health?
Leialoha Humpherys: When I was in college at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, I didn’t have much time to write. I was swamped in homework and reading (I was an English major so go figure haha). Instead of writing, I let my imagination run wild with outlines. It was a unique time in my life where I was surrounded by people every day and where I felt that I listened to whoever I associated with. People would come up to me—even strangers!—and feel completely comfortable and safe telling me their stories. I’ve always been a good listener, and everyone needs that. If you read “Pa’a ka Waha” in Aloha State of Mind you’ll understand more about listening.
However, whenever I talked to other people, it felt a lot like they heard me but didn’t listen. My family was going through some really difficult stuff and it felt isolating that none of my friends seemed to care. Everyone just loved when I listened to them. But why couldn’t they listen to me? People could hear me, but they weren’t listening.
The idea popped into my head. What if there was an elf who could listen but not hear? What if he could feel the wind, the vibration of the earth, and the way a voice sounded but not be able to “hear” it? One of my characters, Wena, was born, and the story formed around him.
Originally, all of my outlines were set in a western/European/medieval setting, because that’s what I grew up loving. Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia were my favorite movies. Why wouldn’t I write about rangers, elves, dwarves, and unicorns? But as an adult, and after writing articles for my blog for two years, I realized that I don’t know much about medieval life, nor do I feel like doing all the research for it. I love writing about Hawaii, so why wouldn’t I set my book in Hawaii? 🙂
Rise of the Manō teaches lessons on listening—not just to each other, but to inspiration from within and, in a symbolic way, from God. It also teaches lessons on friendship, trust, and learning to choose the right, even if you’ve messed up. Too often we feel unworthy or worthless if we make a mistake, but we should be grateful for our mistakes. They reveal things about ourselves or our situations that we wouldn’t have learned otherwise. And, after making mistakes or messing up, we should do what we can to make things right. It’s never too late to do the right thing. Some of my other favorite lessons in the book are the ones about ‘ohana, family. Po resents his family situation so much, and I love the heartwarming lessons he learns along his journey. There are also themes about weaving others into our “family.”
As far as mental health goes, the main protagonist, Nohea, deals with a manipulative, narcissistic character. To others, it’s quite apparent that this manipulative character is the bad guy, but she is confused. I think too often we judge people in abusive relationships, but we don’t really know what’s going on with the one being abused. They want to please others, they don’t know better, they feel trapped. All of these are feelings that Nohea experiences. And, worst of all, she begins to believe that since she’s started following the “bad guy” there’s no redemption.
While some people may not have dealt with narcissistic and abusive people, I hope this book sheds light on these sorts of issues. Like Lehua, Rise of the Manō can act as a window and mirror. Some people will see themselves in Nohea and, hopefully, get inspired to leave abusive, toxic, and manipulative situations. And others can hopefully develop more empathy for people in those situations. As I said before, I hope my books are healing books, not only for those going through really hard times, but even for the Hawaiian people.
I hope you enjoy reading my books. Thank you for having me here today!
Where to buy Leialoha’s books, available as ebooks and books:
You can get Aloha State of Mind on Amazon.
Get Rise of the Manō here.
Preorder Lehua here.
Or check out other alternate buying options (Google Books, Kobo, etc) for all three books here on Leialoha’s website.