Do you remember the first time you experienced heartbreak? Or severe disappointment? Or were horribly excluded by a friend? Had a body rush of hot anger? Or went through a time of prolonged sadness that felt like it was going to last forever?
I imagine you have many stories… and that’s great because it confirms you’re human, and humans feel emotions.
Nearly everyone, despite what their Instagram feed says, goes through emotional ups and downs to different degrees… So why on earth are we not taught how to manage our emotions along with brushing our teeth at the age of 5 or along with maths in school!? Surely this is more important than the algebra equation I’ve never used since.
My mother, a psychotherapist, has been asking this question for the past 20 years. Why are children not taught basic emotional health at the same time they learn dental health?! Understanding and looking after the mind hasn’t ever been prioritised in culture or the education system and we wonder why stress and anxiety is at an all time high?
We are living in unprecedented times, with information overload, comparison overload and in fast forward mode with nearly zero tools to help us manage. This observation, and my own experience with emotional burn-out, led me to create Happy Not Perfect – a mental wellness app with a difference.
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Mindfulness isn’t hokey pokey. Science shows regular mindful practice calms, focuses, increases emotional resilience, improves sleep, concentration, and even boosts the immune system. If a face cream had this many benefits, it would be permanently sold out… so why are we not all committed to mindfulness everyday as much as we are to our morning coffee?
In my opinion… it’s down to a lack of education. One size doesn’t fit all and we’ve never been taught to find our individual solution. Currently you have to proactively go searching for it and for many, we don’t know where to begin or who to trust!? Should we be repeating affirmations on the hour, breathing, standing on our head, thinking of nothing or meditating on a candle!? The world of mindfulness can be downright confusing.
I’ve always struggled with meditation. My morning alarm goes off and I contemplate sitting down to meditate and then my emails start churning, messages start pinging and all I really want is a cup of tea and confirm tonight’s plans while rushing to work since I pressed the snooze button twice. I began to reflect on this routine and realised surely life wasn’t meant to be like this, in a constant state of rush, stress, anxiety and when something goes wrong immediate panic sets in as I haven’t taken a moment to digest anything that’s really happening. Any of this sounds familiar? I don’t wish this much calamity for my life, nor for millions of people who maybe feel the same and so, Happy Not Perfect is on a mission to change the script. It starts with education and sharing tools that put what we’ve learnt into action.
The app we developed along with cognitive app developers, neuroscientists, cognitive behavioural therapists and mindful experts turns mindfulness into a game. We created a “happiness workout” that takes less than 5 minutes to complete and gives you 8 positive neuroscience backed steps to help you relax, process thoughts and find a new perspective. Our ability to choose our thoughts is at the centre of the skill to self balance and we can all do it when we know how.
Since building this for the past 3 years, yesterday marked a really big day. We launched a partnership with one of the world’s largest education platforms Edmodo. Over 100m teachers, students and parents will have access to the Happy Not Perfect interactive tools and emotional wellbeing videos hosted by clinical Psycologist Dr Sophie Mort. Now the Edmodo community will be prompted to take a brain break to breathe; process thoughts and learn about their mental health while managing their school work and connecting with the education community. By incorporating mindful moments into the day means we slowly shift away from seeing them as a chore or something “we have to do” but instead as a normal and enjoyable part of life to rest and recharge our busy brains.
We all have the power to change our brain and the discovery of neuroplasticity proves this. Our brains behave just like plastic, they can be remoulded and reshaped, all it takes is repetition and exercise. So the fact children around the world in 194 countries using the Edmodo app will be encouraged to take quick brain breaks and complete the happiness work out and mini meditations is incredible. Balanced children develop into balanced emotionally intelligent adults.
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Every morning and every evening, my day begins and ends with a couple of minutes on Happy Not Perfect. I listen to our Daily Dose in the morning, it’s a thought for the day from a thought leader around the world, and before I go to sleep I complete my happiness work out to process my thoughts to help my mind get to sleep. If you’re a teacher, student or parent I hope our exclusive Edmodo partnership will help you. And for everyone else I hope the Happy Not Perfect app can help you find your inner balance daily so you can glide through life feeling more alive and less weighed down. We all have the power, it just takes a bit of practice!
For anyone who’s interested in the science behind the steps, read on…
HOW IT WORKS: 7-STEP HAPPINESS WORK-OUT
The everyday aspects of HAPPY NOT PERFECT allows you to “refresh” your mind with an interactive mindfulness game. You are given interactive tools to create your own ritual to relax, process thoughts and find a positive perspective. Just like stretching everyday makes your body more flexible over time and your teeth the secret to a less stressed and happier life is repetition – so the app changes daily to make it fun and interesting.
STEP 1: Decide how you are feeling
Studies suggest that labelling and becoming aware of your emotions can reduce the overall impact of these thoughts and feelings. The first step offers a selection of moods to choose from, each that will determine the type of experience you will have during your “refresh”. The provides over 25+ moods to choose from including the likes of hungover, meh, magical, loved, misunderstood etc.
STEP 2: Relax
Breathing slowly into the belly is the easiest way to calm your stress response and activate your rest and relax system in just a few seconds. In this section you will use the belly breath technique in a 5-count breathing pattern. Balloons, juice boxes and neon lights will lead you through the exercise.
STEP 3: Write it down and let go!
This is your moment to declutter your mind and release any thoughts or feelings you may be experiencing. You will be asked a question depending on your selected emotion to start the process (P.S. it’s 100% private and never stored). This experience activates the computer side of your brain which helps calm the emotional centre further helping you gain more clarity. Once completed, you’ll burn it all away by setting fire to the screen. Let that sh*t go!
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STEP 4: Grateful diary
This part of the routine is about redirecting your perspective to find an optimistic outlook. It’s easy to forget the good things in our lives (especially when we’re stressed or anxious). Get your happy hormones flowing by writing a gratitude list.
STEP 5: Mindful game
It’s now time for a quick mindful mini game that changes daily and helps you get your zen on. With everything from art therapy to quick focus challenges, all these activities have been created to disrupt thinking, and bring you back feeling more balanced.
STEP 6: Challenges
You will now either set a goal for the day or accept a challenge. Studies found this improves wellbeing because it gives us a sense of achievement. Smaller but more regular goals can improve our happiness more than far away larger ones, enjoy a dose of dopamine!
STEP 7: Vibes
This is the well-done part! Our favorite. To congratulate you on finishing your daily work-out, you will win a VIBE.
Vibes are your moment to pay it forward and increase happiness in someone else. In the Vibe Store there are 500 different notes of appreciation you can send either anonymously or via social to spark a wave of good feels. Studies found that those who carried out more small acts of kindness were happier, so therefore this section is the most important, to remind us that we all have the power to make someone else feel better. This practice will help improve your daily mindfulness and overall good cheer!
For those who want a little bit more chill time in their Refresh, a short meditation is offered to really leave users feeling their calmest and best selves.