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Naomi Hirabayashi of the Shine App: “Presence with yourself”

Presence with yourself: Society often subtly tells women, BIPOC and other marginalized groups that we don’t have time for ourselves because we just have to get to that next email or take care of someone’s else’s needs. But at the end of the day, the most important relationship we have is the one we have […]

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Presence with yourself: Society often subtly tells women, BIPOC and other marginalized groups that we don’t have time for ourselves because we just have to get to that next email or take care of someone’s else’s needs. But at the end of the day, the most important relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves. Taking just five minutes a day to journal, meditate, reflect or connect with your body can make all the difference.


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 Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Naomi Hirabayashi.

Naomi Hirabayashi is the Co-Founder of Shine, a self-care platform and community that provides users with daily emotional support.


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. What or who inspired you to pursue your career? 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?

I was extremely close to my grandma Myra growing up. My maternal grandparents helped raise my brother and me as my mom was a single mother working long shifts as a nurse. There are so many ways my grandma shaped me but one of the biggest things she did early on was show curiosity in what I was interested in.

When I was in elementary school, I dreamed of becoming a psychologist when I grew up. I got really into it. I would make up these pretend curriculums, and my grandmother would come to “her appointment” every Wednesday to talk to me about different things she was working on. I would have my notepad out, do the Merkel-Raute gesture to signal “I’m listening,” and do a lot of nodding (clearly based on what I had seen in movies).

Now as a grown woman I have so much appreciation for that sincere curiosity she showed in me. My grandma always made me feel seen; she was always pushing me to explore who I wanted to be. And I think she’d be proud of how that interest as a young girl of talking to people about what they were struggling with has come to life in Shine’s mission.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

When Marah and I first started fundraising for Shine we made so many mistakes. We didn’t know the jargon, how to play the game or how to shift the power dynamic between ourselves (first-time founders) and VCs (who controlled the opportunity for us to get our company off the ground).

We said the wrong things “do angel investors want equity, or are they just nice?” We fumbled negotiations. And we didn’t always have the right players around the table from a legal or finance perspective.

But we failed up.

Given neither of us had been to business school, we learned so much by doing. The cost was high — it meant that sometimes we didn’t get opportunities we would have if we’d been more familiar with the industry. But the reward is that any mistake we made, we only made once — because we never forgot it. We got our hands dirty and came out of our very first fundraiser with an education and resilience that we wouldn’t have gotten any other way.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

A quote that we talk about a lot at Shine for our own product marketing is “show over tell.”

It’s also a handy life lesson quote — I’m attracted to people that “show over tell” in terms of who they are as a person. We are the sum of our actions. Let your actions speak loudest for who you are, more than just your words.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We just launched a new feature where you can set a weekly intention in the Shine app and get personalized meditations based on your intention to help you care for yourself throughout the week.

According to Shine’s Clinical Advisor, Dr. Anna Rowley, intentions are more powerful than resolutions for the New Year “because Resolutions are hard to change. Resolutions are focused on trying to alter aspects of ourselves we aren’t happy with or behaviors we may have ‘lived’ for a long, long time. Many of us set unrealistic or unreasonable goals.”

By focusing instead on intentions vs. resolutions, the Shine community can practice more compassionate goal setting, focusing instead on what they can control, their mindset, and how best to approach their day.

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.

(1) Presence with yourself: Society often subtly tells women, BIPOC and other marginalized groups that we don’t have time for ourselves because we just have to get to that next email or take care of someone’s else’s needs. But at the end of the day, the most important relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves. Taking just five minutes a day to journal, meditate, reflect or connect with your body can make all the difference.

(2) Presence with your people: Having a sense of community is essential for all of our mental wellbeing. Whether it’s digitally, in person or even a relationship you have with someone you don’t know like an author or podcast host, sitting in your connection with others with as much presence as possible can help us get out of our own thinking patterns and find fulfillment in human connection.

(3) Humor. A good sense of humor means you’re keeping perspective on what really matters. It’s a powerful coping mechanism to deal with the intensity of life. And there’s no better feeling than being around someone who’s making you laugh so hard you cry. So whether you’re finding a reason to deep-belly laugh, re-watching that comedy that always brings your comfort, or calling up the friend that makes you laugh out loud, prioritize ways to find that levity in the day-to-day.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I have a morning routine of staying informed X getting grounded. I start with listening to NPR News Now, so I can get a daily briefing on what’s happening in the world, and then I move to meditating with the Daily Shine.

What I love about the Daily Shine is it’s a new meditation every day, and it’s a meditation that’s relevant to what’s happening in the world. It’s also typically between 5 -10 minutes, so it’s long enough where I can get grounded for the day, but short enough that I can realistically fit it into my routine each morning.

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.

(1) Create healthy mantras that focus on energy vs. physical appearance: like “I’m getting healthier each day.” I loved this mantra that Oprah shared in one of her Super Soul Sundays. She talked about how she changed her negative self-talk of judging her body each day into something more self-compassionate like “I’m getting healthier each day.”

As a mother, wife, co-founder, woman — the focus on feeling healthy vs. looking a certain way resonates. I want to feel strong. I want to have energy to show up in a big way for my family, for Shine, for myself. And I also want to actively reject the assumption that only idealized body types are the goal.

(2) Remember, done is better than perfect. I used to be really hard on myself because I wasn’t able to get intensive, long workouts in regularly. I kept saying “okay today’s the day, I’m really going to go for it!” And while I would have pop moments of a good workout class, a half marathon, or a long bike ride — I struggled to build an ongoing habit with those workouts. And then I would be really hard on myself.

Now I’m focused on walking 30 minutes a day. If I can move my body for 30 minutes, take in my neighborhood, and clear my thoughts — that serves me physically and mentally. And by focusing on a more achievable goal that I can get done each day, I’m creating a more sustainable habit.

(3) Process thoughts before heading to bed. To help unwind before I go to bed, I take 5 minutes to reflect on the day, and outline my biggest priorities for the next day. I notice the nights that I don’t get that intentional time, I don’t sleep as well. The difference between a good day and a bad day can often be a good night’s rest — so the more I can do to improve my sleep, the more I’m leading serving my health.

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.

Today, Shine is the leading self-care app. We were named Best App of the Year by Apple and Google, we serve over four million people in our community — and we’re just getting started.

Looking back at 2020, Americans struggled with record levels of stress and anxiety, and when we surveyed our members, we found that 52% of people are talking about their mental health more with others.

At Shine, we are leaning hard into this moment, building a lifestyle rooted in inclusive self-care and leading the charge in destigmatizing mental health, for everyone.

Heading into 2021, we know that many people will still be struggling with uncertainty. That’s why it’s key that we help people better control how they show up for themselves. This year, we launched a new feature in our app that’s rooted in setting an intention to get personalized meditations to help navigate whatever 2021 brings.

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