Take full responsibility for your decisions, and don’t make decisions to please other people. Very early on I realized that at the end of my life, I would be standing on my own, entirely responsible for and either regretting or rejoicing in the decisions I had made. No one else would be there. With that realization came a lot of inspiration and freedom to follow my unique path, which has been essential to my mental well being.
Many ancient traditions around the world believe ‘wellbeing’ or ‘bienestar’ is a state of harmony within ourselves and our world, where we are in balance mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
As a part of our series about “How We Can Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Price, cofounder of MyLife, a mindfulness app that helps kids and adults build the emotional strength and confidence to handle whatever comes their way. The California native has dedicated two decades to bringing meditation to a wider audience through her nonprofit work and mobile application MyLife, which seeks to make meditation and mindfulness more accessible to everyone.
Jamie was first introduced to meditation when she began to experience physical symptoms of stress from her career as an investment banker. After she saw the positive impact of meditation on her own life, Jamie was inspired to share the tools to help people build a more balanced and mindful life. This launched the beginnings of MyLife, which was originally founded as a nonprofit Tools for Peace in 2000.
As demand increased for Tools for Peace, Jamie created a mobile application, and spun out the original MyLife app (formerly Stop Breathe and Think). The mobile application experienced user growth of over 3M new downloads and received accolades including People’s Voice Webby Award for Best Health App in 2017 and was a finalist on Apple’s Planet of the Apps. Acquired by Meredith Corporation in 2019, MyLife now includes mobile apps for IOS and Android, Stop Breathe and Think custom app for schools, a Stop Breathe and Think Kids app, and is a Top 10 Skill on Amazon’s Alexa.
As an outspoken advocate for the need for mindfulness and meditation, Jamie regularly writes on meditation, mindfulness and emotional wellness. Jamie also sits on the board for Tools for Peace and is the founder and a current board member nonprofit American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation.
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?
I grew up in Los Angeles in the 70s & early 80s.
What or who inspired you to pursue a career in helping others? We’d love to hear the story.
At some point during my childhood, my parents became conservative Christians. There became one right way to live and that was it. My father was a successful businessman, and the entire family was involved. We were taught that a valid life, a life worth living, was one where you worked hard and hopefully earned a great living. So I did what was expected of me. I attended the best university I could, went on to law school, and took a job at an investment bank. And while I appreciated the experience I gained, there was always this nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right. I didn’t mind the hard work — there were days where I wouldn’t actually see the light of day — but I was so unhappy. I was missing a sense of true purpose and meaning. And that’s when I met Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Ven. Lama Chödak Gyatso Nubpa. Here was a man whose entire framework for a “life worth living” was kindness and compassion. He was spectacular — utterly content and tirelessly generous. He was on a mission. He believed that if people made compassion their priority, and understood how to practice mindfulness and meditation to cultivate it, their entire lives, and the world, would be transformed. He wanted to create a program to bring his vision to life, called Tools for Peace, and he asked me to help him. I was in.
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?
Honestly, it’s three people. My mother taught me from an early age that I could do anything I wanted to and I internalized that belief. My father was a very generous person, and in spite of our differences, he always supported my education and the pursuit of different interests. He was the one I could turn to if I was in trouble. He had an incredible sense of adventure and fearlessness, which rubbed off on me. And finally. Lama Chödak Gyatso. He taught me that if I focused on coming from a place of kindness and compassion, I could overcome any obstacle. I reference his teachings every day.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of pursuing your passion? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
It was 2000 when I started developing a curriculum to teach meditation in a secular, accessible way that would be relevant to everybody. I felt strongly that we needed to help teens, especially those who had gone through trauma, learn tools to manage their stress. I really should have taken the time to develop my own mindfulness skills in private, but that wasn’t Lama Gyatso’s style. He was more of a throw you into the fire kind of person. I developed my skills and the curriculum simultaneously through trial and error, by implementing workshops and evolving through feedback. It was painful and embarrassing at the beginning, but it forced me to push through so many self conscious boundaries. I learned that it’s ok to be vulnerable, and even to fail.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Kill therefore with the sword of wisdom the doubt born of ignorance that lies in thy heart. Be one in self-harmony, in Yoga, and arise, great warrior, arise.
~ The Bhagavad Gita 4:42
I had to work very hard to overcome self doubt. I would think about this quote everytime I needed to muster the courage to take a step forward. It really helped when I quit my secure investment banking job to start a non-profit dedicated to teaching mindfulness.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Since MyLife was acquired by Meredith corporation, we now have the opportunity to develop the brand into a personalized health & wellness platform that brings together our mindfulness expertise with the best content and functionality that Meredith has to offer. The mission that I started with — giving people tools to manage their stress — is more relevant than ever. People are under a heartbreaking amount of pressure right now. Many are starting to explore how to make mindfulness and other health practices a daily habit. We can offer accessible, highly curated, and most importantly, trusted content and activities that have been proven effective. Making it easy to engage in healthy, reliable practices will be incredibly helpful to people.
I want to expand on this and find more ways to make meditation and general mindfulness practices more accessible to people. This year, we are launching essential programs for the time starved, a 30-day meditation practice for parents, and several more meditation exercises focused around sleep and movement. There’s more and more research that finding a sense of peace will help us live longer, and that mindfulness can help combat trauma, treat stress and give people more mental strength.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In my writing, I talk about cultivating wellbeing habits in our lives, in order to be strong, vibrant and powerful co-creators of a better society. What we create is a reflection of how we think and feel. When we get back to a state of wellbeing and begin to create from that place, the outside world will reflect this state of wellbeing. Let’s dive deeper into this together.
Based on your experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.
- Make time to just be, without an agenda. I think a lot of us are triggered into flight or flight mode (our body’s stress response) more often than we realize. I make time daily to play with my daughter. She’s three, and I let her take the lead. Sometimes we play handsome prince. Other times we go on a treasure hunt through a fairly forest (the street). The key is that I have no agenda or goal for the time we spend together.
- At the end of the day before bed, write down three things that went well and why. Our brains have a negativity bias, so when we intentionally focus on positive experiences and let them sink in, it will influence our state of mind. There’s a lot of negative thoughts to seep in right now, so be sure you allow room for positive thoughts too, however small they may feel.
- Take full responsibility for your decisions, and don’t make decisions to please other people. Very early on I realized that at the end of my life, I would be standing on my own, entirely responsible for and either regretting or rejoicing in the decisions I had made. No one else would be there. With that realization came a lot of inspiration and freedom to follow my unique path, which has been essential to my mental well being.
Do you have a specific type of meditation practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.
My daily practice is pretty traditional and looks like this:
I set up my shrine every morning by offering water bowls and lighting tea lights and incense. I’ll sit on my meditation cushion and set my intention to develop kindness and compassion, that I can really be of benefit to others. Then I’ll develop a specific visualization where I imagine a source of blessings radiating light infused with kindness that is absorbed into me, that I then radiate out to share with others.
However, I am a big believer that anyone can make room in their life for mindfulness. It doesn’t need to look like mine. It can be as simple as starting a gratitude practice at the dinner table with your family, where every day you pause to acknowledge what you are grateful for. Or just step outside in the morning and take 5 deep breaths and observe the world around you.
Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.
- Drink water, water and more water. Seriously, it makes a huge difference. Drink warm water with lemon first thing in the am, and then fill a water bottle and keep it with you so you remember to drink throughout the day. If plain water is too boring, drink herbal tea. I love chai flavored Rooibos which is caffeine free.
- Exercise for the joy of it, daily. I feel so much pressure, managing work and family and the word around me. I get out everyday to walk or run some stairs. And I’ll breathe, as deeply as I can.
- Yoga & Stretching. A flexible body really helps with a flexible mind (I know, cliche). My favorite poses when I am short on time are Downward Dog, Child’s pose and Cat/Cow.
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 some great ways to begin to integrate it into our lives?
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellbeing? Please share a story or example for each.
- Check in daily. We often forget to turn our attention inward, to see how we are feeling, like a good friend. We all probably know what it’s like when someone asks how we are and really means it. We can actually do that for ourselves. It helps to place your hand on your heart, and get a sense of how you are feeling emotionally. What’s interesting about check in is that it’s an effective mindfulness practice in itself, and often just by checking in and naming how we feel, it can reduce the intensity of what we’re feeling, and help us gain some distance and perspective.
- Practice reframing, which is a classic cognitive behavioral therapy approach. Research has shown that higher levels of negative emotions are related to increased levels of stress. Emotions like anxiety, shame, guilt, fear or distress. You can explore how you experience this type of emotion by answering the following series of questions.
- In what situation(s) do you feel that emotion? How does it show up in your life?
- Identify some factors that lead you to feel that emotion.
- What is the function of that emotion?
- How does it impact you?
- What’s another way of viewing the situation that would not lead to feeling that emotion?
3. Focus on kindness. Purposefully focusing on positive attitudes like kindness is one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness, life satisfaction, optimism and joy.
Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellbeing? We’d love to hear it.
Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual well-being? Please share a story or example for each.
- See “Focus on Kindness” above.
- Create a daily meditation practice or ritual that works for you. It doesn’t have to be in a formal setting — try to connect it to an existing routine or everyday activity like drinking your morning coffee.
- Your perspective matters. If you can make it enjoyable, and develop a kind and friendly attitude toward yourself and the process, you’ll find that you’ll struggle less with whatever comes up. And remember to take a moment to appreciate whatever time you were able to spend meditating, and whatever benefits you feel, however small.
Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate overall wellbeing?
Our body and mind are entangled in a strong feedback loop. Stressful thoughts will lead to a physiological stress response, which in turn leads to more stressful thoughts in an ongoing cycle. Stepping out into nature is an excellent way to break that cycle, by getting you out of your head and into your senses. There is so much to take in when you are in nature: the colors and shapes of trees and flowers, the smell of earth and grass, the touch of the ground beneath you or the texture of the trees. The sounds of birds or the wind. Several studies have shown that taking a break to look at or be in nature can have a rejuvenating effect on the brain, helping to free up your mind when you feel stuck and boosting levels of attention.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I want everyone to know that anyone can learn to lead a more meditative life. It involves learning and developing the skills of managing stress and helps in cultivating positive states of mind. People tend to think that they are how they are, and there’s not much they can do about it. Research has shown that even incremental changes in this space can have lasting effects on mental strength.
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 🙂
Honestly, the person I’d like to meet most is Desmond Tutu. He is a great example of being able to fight for what you believe from the perspective of authentic compassion.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find my audio meditations in the MyLife app as well as on YouTube. We’ll often share mindfulness action steps on Instagram and Facebook, and I write a monthly column for Real Simple called “Ahhhh.”
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.