Busy is Michele Cooley-Strickland’s preferred state of being.
Not only is she a practicing behavioral psychologist, a professor and researcher at UCLA, and a podcast host, Cooley-Strickland is also vice-president of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa. And soon she’ll be a published author.
“I get bored easily. Monotony is nothing I can do,” the longtime Playa del Rey resident says. “When I am not involved in multiple things I’m less happy. Am I less stressed? Sure. But joy is important to me.”
That is to say most of her work tends to come back to helping others find balance and joy while learning to live their best lives — which means arming people with the power to help themselves.
“People forget to treat themselves well,” she says, speaking from the experience of working through anxious tendencies she didn’t have a label for until graduate school. “I want people to learn to help themselves. I mean, we are remarkable beings.”
In the Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista area, Cooley-Strickland may be known as PdR’s representative on the neighborhood council and for her service on its local education committee, but her reach is now truly global.
Once a week she co-hosts the “She Built It Podcast with Melanie [Barr] and Dr. Michele.” Just a year in, the show has racked up downloads in 40 countries and nearly 12,000 followers on Instagram. Every week the two hosts chat with a different woman making “leaps in career, life and community,” to hopefully empower their listeners.
“The podcast goes truly around the world, and being able to touch people is so meaningful for me,” Cooley-Strickland says. “What drives me is connecting with people through the microphone.”
She tries to connect through a message of “stool mentality” — encouraging the cultivation of “mind, body, and spirit” because “a two-legged stool does not stand, but a three-legged stool does.”
Cooley-Strickland is deep into writing a self-help book for those looking to decrease worry and anxiety and “increase joyful, productive living,” she says. The book is autobiographical in part, detailing her history with anxiety and imparting strategies for those who may not reach a diagnostic threshold for anxiety nonetheless make positive change in their own lives.
“You are a social distance away from living your best life,” she says. “And it is my passion, my job, my joy to help people to get in touch with that joyful living that is clearly so close, and it just takes a little work.”
— Kellie Chudzinski