So what can you do instead of ruminating? Do structured problem-solving. Break down problems and decide on a course of action. First, dig deep and get to the root of the problem. Ask “why” something occurred, 5 times till you get to the bottom of it. Define that root cause as the problem. What is it you’re really anxious about? Who is involved? Then, list possible solutions. Think of this as one big brainstorm. Choose the idea you think is best and evaluate it. How much time and effort will it require? Write a solution statement. Then, to avoid overwhelm, break that solution statement into much smaller steps. What’s one thing you can do this month? This week? Today? Right now?
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jasmine Chen.
Jasmine Chen is CEO and founder of LIFE Intelligence, a science-backed problem-solving app for your self, career and relationships. A Princeton and Harvard Business School graduate, Chen had followed a traditional finance path, previously at hedge fund Marcato Capital, global private equity firm the Carlyle Group, and Mergers & Acquisitions investment banking at Merrill Lynch. She realized that type-A professionals like herself needed a practical, efficient, and private approach to mental, career, and relationship health. This led her to developing LIFE Intelligence, the digital wellness tool users now liken to a “DIY” therapist, career coach, and relationship counselor in one.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Growing up, I was always a psychology nerd, curious about what makes us do and say certain things. I was also obsessed with self-development: I used to write lists of things I needed to work on! As I would later find out, type-A people often struggle with such perfectionism, and research shows that the most driven people are also those most plagued by social-emotional differences that make them prone to anxiety and depression.
After Princeton, I entered the world of finance, starting in Mergers & Acquisitions Investment Banking, then Private Equity, Harvard Business School, and a hedge fund. It was there that I realized: As an investor, I had all this research and analysis to back up my stock picks. But why hadn’t I put the same sort of rigorous study into my most important investment: me?
So, I took my skill set studying stocks and applied it to the biggest life questions I had. Today, the result of that effort is a science-backed digital course and problem-solver, LIFE Intelligence. LIFE applies the rigor of stock research to your daily decisions, goals, and conflicts, for a uniquely type-A approach to wellness.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m constantly a work in progress, and I’m amazed by how often I still go back and refer to the contents in LIFE Intelligence and gain new insights each time. For example, I’ll still find myself feeling frustrated, envious, insecure, or helpless, and have to head right back to the app to “fix” those emotions. But, that’s what mental and emotional training is all about: it has to be done as many times as I’ve done multiplication tables, before it becomes second nature.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents continue to be my greatest inspiration. Both are Taiwanese immigrants, and I think that mentality lends itself a lot to entrepreneurship. After all, picking up and starting fresh in a completely new country takes a lot of bravery, hard work, humility, and grit.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
LIFE Intelligence is a two part, science-backed tool to optimize your whole life — your self, career, and relationships.
The first part is proactive learning, for preventive mental health education.
The comprehensive learning aspect of LIFE Intelligence is the education I wish I’d gotten over two ivy league degrees. I got to a point in my career where I wondered: how much stress, anxiety, miscommunication, regret could we avoid if we’d simply learned such self-management skills earlier? In LIFE, we’ve curated hundreds of scientific studies into one concise drip course. Each morning, you get 5 minutes of snippet reading and reflection, encompassing mental wellness, self awareness, values and goals, regret and time management, decision making and bias, stress and social support, dating and attachment, communication and conflict resolution, and leadership and teamwork. We also show how each of these topics, traditionally discussed in silos of therapy, career coaching, or relationship counseling, are deeply interrelated. Missing any one piece of that picture misses the full well-being picture and cure.
The second part is an immediate problem-solving tool, like having a “DIY” therapist, leadership coach, and relationship counselor in your pocket. We saw that most soft skills or wellness trainings fail to stick because if only addressed over weekly or monthly meetings, we fail to practice skills in the moment. Per the forgetting curve, we lose 40% of what we learn almost immediately, and 80% is gone just days later. So, in LIFE we offer coping and communication exercises for you to practice multiple times a day, anytime they feel frustrated, anxious, envious, or insecure. Whether prepping for a date or fighting with a significant other, you can take a breather and get grounded or dig deep into whatever it is you’re feeling to get an instant fix.
So that’s the change I hope this creates on the individual level: 1) preventive education, and 3) proactive problem solving skills.
But the hope is that really as a society, we’ll use this from early in our careers to develop deep awareness of self and empathy for others. What could this mean? At the family level, how many divorces could we prevent? At the company level, how much miscommunication could we avoid? At a society level, could we develop empathy for our neighbors and learn empathy for those with opposing beliefs?
That’s our end goal at LIFE.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- First, it’s boring but we do have to cover the basics. Drink water and eat healthy. It is estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. From bowel movements to eating, your gut is like a second brain. Take care of it with probiotics and water. Exercise. This is often prescribed as a first line of defense against depression: even 10 minutes is sufficient, so go for a walk around the block at the very least. Keep a sleep schedule. Science shows that the strong relationship between sleep and depression/anxiety goes both ways. Those with insomnia are 10x more likely to have depression and 17x more likely to have clinical anxiety.
- Second, Practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s the most widely researched form of therapy, but is so simple anyone can do it themselves in a few minutes using our app. The cognitive model says that the “reality” we experience is just our interpretation of events, or our immediate thoughts about them. Change your thoughts, change your feelings, and change your behavior. For example, thinking “I can’t do anything right” might create a feeling of hopelessness that leads to behaviors like giving up. On the other hand, thoughts like “I could have done some things differently” might create interest which encourages reflection and growth.
- Third, stop ruminating. Ruminating means playing thoughts over and over in your head, like a record stuck on repeat. We may overthink about situations that bother us or worries about the future. While some worrying is normal, rumination creates a vicious cycle where negative thinking conjures more negative thinking. Ruminating has been associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge-drinking and binge-eating.
What’s more is, those who are ruminating often do so with friends, and this makes matters even worse. Have you ever been in a group of friends commiserating over shared misery? Social support is a key element of relationships, but verbal rumination is actually associated with even more brooding. Verbally ruminating with friends, called “co-rumination,” can have an adverse effect on social networks if your stress spills onto others. Friends who extensively discussed negative feelings reported a contagion effect: both those divulging how they felt, and those listening, felt worse afterward.
- So what can you do instead of ruminating? Do structured problem-solving. Break down problems and decide on a course of action. First, dig deep and get to the root of the problem. Ask “why” something occurred, 5 times till you get to the bottom of it. Define that root cause as the problem. What is it you’re really anxious about? Who is involved? Then, list possible solutions. Think of this as one big brainstorm. Choose the idea you think is best and evaluate it. How much time and effort will it require? Write a solution statement. Then, to avoid overwhelm, break that solution statement into much smaller steps. What’s one thing you can do this month? This week? Today? Right now?
- Develop a healthy relationship with control. In the above exercise, problem-solving is great if we can control it. But, the reality is that most things in life we cannot control, and that causes us great stress. Humans have an innate aversion to losing control. Even infants exhibit anger over loss of control, learning “no” as one of their first words, or getting upset when they can’t feed themselves. Perhaps a teen seeks control and rebels against parental rules. In turn, those parents also seek to control their child! We would love to control other people, but they would love to control themselves: it’s a never-ending tug-of-war. So, when you feel out of control, remember that while you can’t control others, you’re 100% in control of yourself, and let others feel like they have control, too.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
First, we need to start seeing whole-human “LIFE” health as the new mental health
Because our self, career, and relationships are intertwined, missing any one piece of the wellness puzzle misses the full picture and cure. That’s why productivity tools, dating, and leadership shouldn’t be addressed in silos. They are all part of LIFE Intelligence because they all affect our mental health, and vice versa.
Emotional intelligence encompasses self awareness, and understanding your own emotions and behaviors. It involves self-control as well, being able to cope or problem solve situations with ease. It also requires social intelligence, and how our words and actions affect all those around us. We teach all that, and more: if you make a bad decision or miss goals, of course that’ll affect your mental state. If you get into a fight or go through a breakup, of course that will affect how you feel. Our goal is to spark a movement toward not just emotional intelligence, but LIFE Intelligence.
Second, preventive education needs to become the norm
We learn multiplication tables before we become physicists, and we learn English vocabulary before we become novelists. Why don’t we learn emotional intelligence as a prerequisite before we become leaders?
My vision is a world where we all share one common language for self-and-other-management skills. In elementary schools this is beginning with Social Emotional Learning (SEL). But, we have a long way to go in making such training part of every adult’s development. Having such education become part of corporate wellness and learning and development programs can help employees collaborate and thrive. That’s why I really do believe that it is essential that wellness is not just a voluntary benefit, but something in which everyone partakes. Our daily moods, distractions, decisions, and words affect all those around us. By all gaining the same training, we can gain a shared experience and common language for stronger corporate culture.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
First, you don’t know what you don’t know. Innovation is inherently a constant journey of figuring things out. Second, a lot of people will care. A lot of people won’t. Some will say they care but actually not. Just find the ones that do care, and appreciate them. Third, take care of your own mental health. I feel blessed that I’m in a unique situation where I get to use my own product, and get to spend time researching solutions for just about every problem I face — and then relay those findings to readers like you! I still use LIFE daily, and even after having written the content, gain new insights each time.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
These are all such important challenges. My wheelhouse happens to be in mental health. My focus at Princeton was on healthcare and public policy, and so I tend to approach mental health from a slightly paternalistic standpoint. I do believe it’s a pandemic, one that is exacerbated by COVID-19, but was already so prevalent before. We need to treat it from a preventive-care standpoint, much like a vaccine, giving people the tools to cope with moods, communicate through conflicts, and become self-sufficient in managing difficult life situations.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Android App: https://www.lifeintelligence.io/android
Thank you for these fantastic insights!