Get music into your life. Any kind of it that makes you happy or feel good. Metal to Classical Jazz to Country, Rap to Rock, whatever it is, play it loud and play it often. Go get in the car and drive around, go for a walk, hit the shower and sing at the top of your lungs. This kind of connection and release is incredibly therapeutic as well as a chance for us to exercise our emotions in a controlled environment.
Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?
As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingDavid Tobin. David comes from the world of TV production has helped bring to life over 50 shows that have been seen on every major network. In addition, he ran On the Rox and helped manage the Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CA. He currently works with education and health programs around the world about the importance and use of imagination. Through his efforts, he created Audiojack, which has gone on to become one of the most revolutionary sonic experiences ever.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
HA! That’s a loaded question. I was raised in Chicago and then we moved to Central California when I was in the middle of 4th grade. It was quite the culture shock. My Uncle edited and directed the Olympics and Soap Operas and we had been to visit the family many times in LA and gone to the beach and that’s what I thought my new life was going to be.
Imagine the surprise when I found out that Fresno was 3 hours north of LA and 2.5 hours east of the ocean. To a kid that was massive! So, life there was not what I was used to and it was a bit tricky. I found my way of making the best of it by getting into music.
I had always been around it growing up. When I was a kid my grandma took me to the park to see Tony Bennet and then my Dad took me to see Dizzy Gillespie. Those shows blew my mind as a little kid, but then it was seeing the movie Flash Gordon that really set things in motion. I was inspired beyond belief. A story about a hero with no super powers that saves the day with a soundtrack from Queen, my imagination was fired up from there out.
As I got older in Fresno I picked up the guitar and had started to study jazz in school as well as theater. When I was choosing my classes for High School, my Mom told me to take Drama. I was resistant for a bit, but eventually added it. She knew me so so well. That was the start of everything for me. I was set on a path that let me become the person I am today. If she never had me take that class, there’s no way Audiojack would exist or I would be sitting here with you right now talking about this.
I played in metal bands and did musical theater and regular theater all through high school. I created plays and sketches and directed friends in crass plays that our teachers wouldn’t let us normally do. Looking back, I can see that I got to experiment in a lot of ways with my creativity growing up and that is something I’m truly thankful for.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I ended up in Los Angeles all because of a wrong phone number. It’s a bit of a long story, but I got a number of a TV show on accident from a spiteful friend changing a phone number to a Soap Opera I was acting on at the time while in Grad School in Fresno. (I was studying Social Influence & Attitude Change). I ended up asking if they were hiring after coming in to be a single on a dating show they were producing and they said yes, and I faxed in a resume.
A few days later I drove down to interview and then got the job. They said I had to start in a week and this took place during the summer going into my second year of Grad School. So, I was a bit taken aback. This was a chance to do the real thing. I called my Uncle and reminded him of a conversation we had a bit ago. I said, “Remember when you said that if I wanted to work in Hollywood I had to live in LA?” He replied with a simple, “Yes.” Then I asked, “Remember when you said that if I ever needed a place to stay I could stay with you and the family in the guest room?” He cautiously answered, “Yes…”. “I got a job!” I told him. He lit up and also asked, “What did your parents say?” I paused and then told him I hadn’t told them yet. His reply, “My sister is gonna kill me.”
I went over to my parents house and told them what had happened and about the job. They said I could always finish grad school some other time, but this was an opportunity right now and were happy to support it. I was a bit shocked but also not. They have always encouraged my brother and myself in everything we’ve done. It was really inspiring and since that day, my family has supported all my ventures and aspirations. I’m pretty lucky and I don’t take that for granted at all.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
A lot of people have helped me grow into the person I am today, but there was a conversation I had with my family doctor when I was in college that stuck with me to this day. He was a youthful GP and insanely smart. I was in for a check up and asked him if there was a way for me to get a starting position in the office. He asked why, and I told him it’s because I was working on my career in science and needed experience in medical facilities to get familiar with the world I was heading into. He paused and took a breath and then with a sincere sigh looked at me and said, “Really? This is where you want to work? You’re going to go into medicine? I’d be happy to help you out and see if we can find a part time position helping with clerical work.” Then he paused again and asked why I wanted to get into the medical field.
I told him that I liked science and wanted to help people and I could also make a lot of money and have a good career down the line. He smiled as if you would when an answer to a puzzle clicked. With a stern smile he stopped me and said, “If you are doing this career or any for the money, you’re never going to be happy. What do YOU want to be? What do you want to do?
I said I love entertainment and music and art and all of that, but there’s no security in it. And he said that’s part of life and he’d be happy to take my resume if I wanted to work there. That conversation happened a few months before I had the chance to move to LA because of the wrong phone number incident.
Our talk stayed with me to this day and I think of it often. I’ve always focused on doing what I love and doing it well so I can keep doing it. I’ve had mentors and friends and family help me through the years in every aspect possible, but that little chat really impacted me in a way I’ll never forget. Perspective is a wonderful thing.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When it comes to books, there’s so many good ones and they each have left a little with me to take afterward. The one that had an actual impact on me to this day was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The original book is a literary masterpiece in its own right, but the reason it impacted me so much was because of the way it was written.
I had no idea that the whole book is written from the perspective of journal entries and letters to other characters as well as documents that occur in the story. It showed me you could do something totally different within the context of a normal medium. This was written over 100 years ago and when you read it, it feels like you’ve uncovered a box of journals in real life. The timelessness of this story is not just because of vampires, but in the way the book flows. Anytime you pick it up, its like you’ve discovered a cache of files about something horribly amazing that took place long long ago.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Whatever you are — Be a good one”. This quote from Abraham Lincoln has been hanging in my house for years. It was a gift from a dear friend of mine and she said it made her think of me. She told me its because I’m always working toward new goals. She wanted me to know that she felt I was one of the good ones and that I should never forget it.
That’s a bit personal, but it’s stayed with me. I always try to do good work and be a good person. I know that can be subjective, but I take it as the work I do. There’s a right way to do things and it may take more time, more effort, but if you do it right, well… things are just better! It seems so simple to me, but as you can see by looking around, it’s a struggle for a lot of folks.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
The ones I can talk about are pretty amazing. The Audiojack app can be mirrored in apps like Zoom and other programs so our live sessions are going strong. We run a live Audiojack session where you listen with us and then share your stories. It can be done on your own with the app, but this is a nice way to connect with others in a time when just hanging out is impossible. I know I’m dating things a bit here with that, but its been an amazing tool to bring to people right now.
We have some new features in the app coming out that will allow you to do some things that fans have been requesting for quite some time. They will let you fall asleep with Audiojack even easier and some other fun surprises.
In addition to the app, we are also starting a partnership with the American Printing House for the Blind and other programs in blind education. The visually impaired use Audiojack just as much as the sighted and this is now a tool that lets them connect with no barriers. Our international programming is also growing rapidly because there’s no language barrier with an Audiojack. An Audiojack is an audio-based movie. There’s no words, music or video. Hundreds of sounds are edited together to tell a story for your imagination. There’s a story with each Audiojack, but it’s never revealed, that way there’s never a wrong answer. If you listen to one and think you’re running through the forest being chased by a teddy bear with lasers coming out of its eyes…. Well then… that’s what the story is! There’s no wrong answer.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Our research focuses on the use of the imagination and how that correlates to better mental health in a variety of areas. The last study we did was with UC Riverside in Southern California to examine the role screen time had when taking a break. The data from the study is in the LEARN section of www.audiojack.com and it showed us that our constant screen time use is having significantly detrimental effects.
A great habit to get in is to break up your screen usage. I know, in a time when we have to do everything virtual, avoiding a screen is next to impossible. However, a 5min Audiojack break or break of any kind in the middle of the day can be quite impactful. Closing your eyes allows your mind to start to rest and then adding an imagination engagement tool brings in a light form of REM activity and in turn, refreshes the mind.
Try taking timed breaks from screens during the day, but don’t worry about having to use Audiojack or think you have to just sit there with your eyes closed. You can go take a 10min walk or some other activity where a screen would not be able to be used. Its creating new things to do with our time and building them around non screen activities.
When you listen to an Audiojack you’re engaging the imagination. This creates a light form of REM activity in the mind that has a similar refreshing effect as daydreaming. During this process, the mind is able to process information from the day. Since people don’t do this often, it creates stress and anxiety, which leads to insomnia and depression.
Amazing what a little time away from a screen and just your thoughts can do for you isn’t it?
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
For me I use yoga as a warm up to get workouts started. I’m an athlete as well and do Spartan Races and Triathlons as well as other sports. I start each day with exercise of some sort. It gets the blood flowing and also allows me time away from the daily grind. When I work out I don’t have my phone with me and often when I run or ride, there’s no music. I listen to the world around me. I get time to be with my thoughts.
That’s one of the great things about doing cardio on a bike or a run or even a swim. You’re heading out to do something for at least an hour where you’re not in front of a screen, at work, on a call or doing anything stressful. Its you and your activity for a while with no interruptions. It’s these kinds of breaks from screens and the noise of the world that are more important now than ever.
Not everyone is going to be into meditation or other practices, but they might be into sports or even an Audiojack. Giving people a new perspective on something they already do is a huge part of what’s driving success in the mental and physical space. Letting someone know that doing something they enjoy can have additional effects makes the activity feel new and in turn, more chances of it being practiced by the individual.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Perfect question. There’s three things I always go by when dealing with my physical wellness. And these habits are in line with what I talked about earlier, making things in your life easy to do. That way you have a greater chance at success.
- Drink water. I know, it sounds silly. But seriously. Drink water. Think about it this way, your body is made up of mostly water. Why would you want to put things in it that will hurt you? Getting water into your diet in a decent amount will not only help you stay hydrated, but also leads to losing weight, better sleep and less crap hanging around in your body.
- Skip the booze and soda. Alcohol is poison. I know, drastic right? But it is. For men up to one glass a day and women, 2 glasses are ok. Anything over that is causing serious harm to your body and your mind. It’s crazy to think about it in terms like that, but it’s the truth. Even in moderation, this substance has zero health benefits on any level for the human body. Replace it with water, juice, tea, other things. After a while you won’t miss it. And since most social elements of daily life are on pause, this is a great time to get it out of your system.
- Stay active. Keep moving and lifting things. I’m not saying join a gym, but take time to get out of the house, or be active indoors and engage those muscles. We are animals, social animals, but animals none the less. The more active you are the more your body can process food and stress. Also, while you work out, the water you’ve been drinking will help flush toxins out of your body and even make your hair look nicer. Just a few fun by-products of taking care of yourself.
- Also, the more active you are, the longer you will stay healthy and also get better sleep. If you stop staying active, your body will tighten up and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
For diet, it’s really more of the same. Think about what you’re eating. That is going in your body as fuel for you mind and system. If its processed or heavy in salt or sugar, that’s going to jam up your system. It’s not going to run right and you’re going to have issues down the line. Just like putting the wrong oil and gas in your car, it won’t last for long like that.
One thing I’ve been doing for years, is having oatmeal for breakfast. I get the basic original oats and throw in some random trail mix, a bit of agave and then add hot water. I let it sit for a few min as the water is absorbed and cooks the contents of the bowl, then bam, I’m set. This is a easy, cheap and healthy way to start the day or have as a snack anytime. Get in a routine with something like this and you’ll be starting your day off with energy and a lightness that other meals can’t offer.
I know, I make it sound so simple. It’s not. I had to work at it. I created the habits. There were days that I hated the oatmeal thing, but I got over it. Because its food and not the end of the world. After two weeks it was my new thing. A lot of us know that one option is better over the other, but we let all the BS from advertising and our own thoughts get in the way.
I had a friend once say, “I don’t want to do oatmeal because it takes too long.” I asked what he did instead, his reply, “I will go to Starbucks and grab something there on my way to work with some coffee”. I love this answer, because I informed him that the time it takes for him to go to Starbucks, order and get the food and then get back on the road is more time than making coffee and oatmeal at his house. Also, it is significantly cheaper.
It’s really up to us to make these decisions. For me, it was looking at things in a mathematical and reasoning angle. If I do this and it causes that, and I don’t like that, why should I keep doing it. I looked at the things I wanted to do, and then worked backwards. I saw that eating poorly was not going to get me where I wanted. So, I slowly cut things out that were not logical and, well… here we are.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
I do a lot of work with Social emotional Learning because there’s no gender, race or language barrier with an Audiojack, everyone can connect. Using a tool that allows zero restriction to engage we all get a chance to participate with each other. What that does, is allow us to talk to each other and see the other for something beyond our exterior, our minds get to play together.
I think there are a lot of things out there that can help keep emotional wellness going strong, but the top three for me are:
- Stop and Think. Is what I’m going to do have an effect that I need in my life? Also, what are expectations do I have from the other(s) that I’m going to engage with? Will this truly have a positive impact? Thinking about actions like that not only gives you a chance for pause, but also reflection and a chance to alter or avoid something that might not be good in the long run. Also, you might realize you were about to create more work or BS for yourself and just avoided it!
- Get music into your life. Any kind of it that makes you happy or feel good. Metal to Classical Jazz to Country, Rap to Rock, whatever it is, play it loud and play it often. Go get in the car and drive around, go for a walk, hit the shower and sing at the top of your lungs. This kind of connection and release is incredibly therapeutic as well as a chance for us to exercise our emotions in a controlled environment.
- Find someone to talk to. From friends to hotlines, a listening ear is invaluable. It gives you a chance to say things out loud, and have a similar experience as the music option above. We need to own our emotions and connect to them. That’s how we keep them from controlling us.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.
No major thoughts about the power of smiling. I know its universal and makes you feel good. We should do it often and consistently. Also, a nice smile from someone can even been seen under a mask, our eyes do a great job of helping let others know we’re smiling back. I studied smiling in Grad School actually for a section of a project. It’s very powerful and can have an instant positive effect. But.. nothing more to add than that. ☺
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
For me spiritual wellness is subjective. Some relate it to God, some to themselves, some to other energies or entities. If you’re living a healthy life where you’re actually doing good in the world outside your own life, then I think your probably spiritually well. But then again, I have zero experience in this space and come from a place of science. I connect with energy and the physical realm. There’s so much we don’t know and something someone might call a spirit, could be something much more practical. It comes down to what we want to identify this aspect of our lives with? Are we using it to help ourselves or as a tool to push an agenda?
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?
Nature is do damn important.
I can’t express this enough. We are apart of this planet, there is no natural separation, but the one we create. Walking in the grass with your shoes off, in the sand, through the forest, that’s a direct connection to the planet, a living breathing entity. I think humans forget too often that we are floating in outer space on a living rock. Being closer to nature in any capacity is healthy for all aspects of wellness.
The spiritual side is up to you, but there’s plenty of other aspects connected to wellness that are worth focusing on. You’re away from the stress in your life. All the triggers that get your mind thinking about work, finance, relationships, whatever is stressing you that day are in your home and work place. When you’re in nature the environment is changing around you as you experience it. It’s growing and dying and moving all at once. That kind of ebb and flow of energy is therapeutic.
How about the quality of the air you’re breathing in? No matter what city or town you call home, nothing is fresher than being out in nature. It’s actual science because that’s where the fresh air is born. It’s coming from the flora around you. It’s eating up all the pollution and cleaning the air directly around you when you’re in nature.
The list goes on and on and on as to why you should find time for being outside in nature. There are all sorts of practices to take your connection to another level, but just being there will make a huge impact. Get outside and smile!
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence and your movement about taking back the imagination is having a global impact. How has this mission changed since you first started it? What’s next?
Since the campaign started there’s been incredible growth. The initial focus was in education to help kids connect and engage in the classroom. Literacy programs got on board and embraced the ethos of using the imagination as a tool. By understanding the imagination and things like daydreaming the education space has been able to use that in lesson plans and activities while seeing an increase in performance from students. It’s been pretty amazing to see that thrive.
Next? Well, we’ve been working with people a lot in the mental wellness space these days because of the pandemic. Humans in developed countries went from being on a screen for 8 hours a day to 14 hours a day! That’s nuts. So, taking a break from a screen now is more important than ever. And the thing with Audiojack, it’s not meditation, its imagination. Anyone can pick up the app and hit play and feel like they are somewhere else for a few minutes. That kind of break is incredibly impactful when you’re stuck in a place and the only escape is a screen.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I actually have an answer for this question. I would love to do an Audiojack session with Mark Hamill. To be able to have him listen to an Audiojack and share the story he came up with would be surreal. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid and his role in Star Wars was what showed me I could do anything and got my imagination going constantly. Since then I’ve followed his work and become a fan of him as a person. He’s done some amazing things and I think he’d get a kick out of it as well.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Head to www.audiojack.com to learn about our work, what I’ve been up to and some pretty amazing stories of how our imagination is changing the world.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.