How did the app begin?
Jamie, president: After law school, I went straight into investment banking in New York City. I was incredibly stressed and had a lot of anxiety, when I met a mentor who taught me how to practice mindfulness and meditation. I realized how powerful and transformative this practice could be, so I left my job and was inspired to create Tools for Peace, a nonprofit to teach teens how to practice mindfulness. The practice was so impactful for young people that I wanted to find a way to reach more, and so the idea for the Stop, Breathe & Think app was born. I partnered with Julie in 2015.
Julie, CEO: I had been in the tech space for about 18 years, when I became really burnt-out and decided to quit my job. I was really looking for meaning in my work, where my time would have a positive impact. So when Jamie came to me, it was a no-brainer.
How has meditation affected you?
Jamie: When I learned how to meditate, I was finally able to get in touch with what was happening with me on a deeper level, both physically and mentally, and understand how the stress of my life was putting me constantly in a state of fight-or flight. I was really drained and burnt-out, and meditation gave me the tools to regulate my nervous system.
Julie: I had come to this as a complete newbie, feeling like, “I’m a certain way, and I think and react to situations a certain way, and that’s never going to change.” I learned that through regular mindfulness practice, you can change some of your thought patterns to help you deal with situations better. That made me so optimistic—that I could change some of my stress triggers.
Why is mindfulness such a valuable skill to foster, especially now?
Jamie: There are different practices that can help you navigate change and uncertainty in a more grounded, open, and receptive way. When we’re stressed and worried, we tend to brace our muscles and our breathing, which sends signals to your brain that something’s wrong, that there’s some sort of danger. That triggers more stressful, worried thoughts and creates this feedback loop. Practicing mindfulness interrupts that feedback loop, takes you out of that worry and stress, and helps you find calm and become more grounded.
How does your app make meditation accessible to beginners?
Jamie: From working with teenagers, we learned it was difficult to get young people into a contemplative frame of mind right away, so we came up with the emotional check-in, and that is the foundation of our app. We’ll recommend activities based on your emotions, so it’s a great funnel into meditative activity.
Julie: For beginners, it often feels difficult to have to do 15 or 20 minutes of meditation. And it really isn’t about the length of practice; it’s more about keeping the habit on a daily basis. Jamie and the team have made a conscientious effort to provide bite-size activities that can more easily fit in someone’s schedule and be less intimidating.
This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter