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Interview

Poppy Jamie on why abandoning the idea of perfection will help reduce stress and anxiety

April 8th 2019 / Jessica Morgan / 0 comment

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Experts in the UK have called the current mental health crisis an epidemic. But what are people doing to de-stress? We met with entrepreneur and former TV host, Poppy Jamie, to talk about her millennial mindfulness app, Happy Not Perfect, and why she thinks perfection is the enemy of happiness

Self-care is somewhat of an enigma. How do we do it, and are we doing it right? Is everyone's self-care regime the same and why is self-care so important? The number of prescriptions for antidepressants has doubled in the last decade so it comes as no surprise that people are desperately looking for ways to look after themselves. Anxiety and depression in the UK are at an all-time high, with experts saying it is down to the toll of modern life.

But for one entrepreneur, self-care is different for everyone. Meet Poppy Jamie, the powerhouse behind the meditation app, Happy Not Perfect; the 29-year-old launched the app back in 2018 after experiencing anxiety throughout her career as a TV host working for MTV, ITV and Snapchat. You may know her from the millennial-aimed accessories range, Pop & Suki, she launched with best friend Suki Waterhouse, or her successful 2016 TEDx talk 'Addicted to Likes'. But having to juggle multiple occupations on top of being a public figure took its toll on Jamie, resulting in peak burnout. This is what led her to launch a mindfulness app designed for the new-age generation.

Happy Not Perfect is not exactly kumbaya though - it takes a more practical approach by turning mindfulness into a strategic game. It contains over 400 meditations among challenges that can be incorporated into your daily routine. She's worked with multiple neuroscientists to develop the app and has just launched its new feature called 'The Happiness Workout', which combines positive psychology and medical advice into a simple, seven-step "daily ritual".

The feature starts off by letting you choose an emotion from a list of 13, which includes 'let down', 'meh', 'misunderstood' and 'wobbly', as well as 'in love', 'happy' and 'proud'. You are then encouraged to take part in a breathing exercise (choose between 30 seconds, 1 minute and 2 minute sessions) before you embark on a burning ceremony, which tells you to write what's bothering you then lets you "burn" the page using your finger which engulfs the paper in flames. After you've let go of your worries, you're encouraged to log your gratitude diary, set yourself a challenge and send a 'vibe' (a positive note) to a friend, ending the session with a 2-3 minute 'cool down' guided meditation.

We caught up with the entrepreneur over tea to find out more about the new feature and her top tips for reducing stress and anxiety.

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Congratulations on the new feature! What's the story behind the app's name, Happy Not Perfect?

I remember waking up in the middle of the night with these words ‘Happy Not Perfect’ and it was just as if something in the world suddenly became a lot clearer, and I had this moment of realisation that for so long as I could remember I have been striving for what I deemed as 'perfect'. As women, in particular, we grow up being very conditioned to think if we're perfect, we're going to be loved, accepted and going to be told 'well done'. We are conditioned to believe it's either perfect or useless. But what even is perfect? It's totally unattainable. There's always a greater sense of perfection, so you're basically running to the end of the rainbow trying to find a pot of gold that's never there and we spend our entire lives like that. Perfection is the enemy of happiness. Happy Not Perfect was created as an alternative for people to look after themselves, rather than looking after other people.

So it was a huge relief repeating these words, 'happy not perfect' 'happy not perfect' 'happy not perfect', so then I thought whatever 'Happy Not Perfect' is I just want these words to be out in the world because I wish for no other person to have to go through the gauntlet of life wearing this very heavy rucksack of perfection on their back, because we don't need to.

You've been in the public eye too. How important is it to remind people - especially in the age of social media - that it shouldn't be about perfection?

We are currently in a mental health epidemic. Stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. I read an awful study last week which The Guardian actually wrote that one in two Gen-Z were self-harming and four in five suffer from stress and anxiety. But the correlation isn't always causation. How much importance we place on our digital identity is now often more important than our physical identity, so subconsciously, our brains can't tell what's real and what's not. How often do we check social media as soon as we wake up in the morning? If we look at the psychological impact of that, every single day, day in day out, maybe even for the last 10 years, what have we told our brains and told ourselves? That everybody is photoshopped to perfection. We start comparing everybody else's outsides to our insides. Comparison is the thief of all joy. We don't really need to know so much about people's lives.

What is the Happiness Workout and why did you name it that?

I had tried meditation and meditation apps but they weren't really working for me. I felt like I had so many thoughts and it was scary to sit down to think of nothing and think of everything, and also meditation is often the 10th step in a mindfulness regime. So what is step one? What can I do on the way to work? What can I do with my eyes open? I can actually go to the Happiness Workout in the middle of the day and it takes less than five minutes to do. Belly breathing [a feature on the app] hacks your entire nervous system. When we breathe into our chest, it sends signals to our brains that we're in danger. So if we're running away from a lion, we would start chest breathing. This would ramp up our cortisol and send messages to our brain that we are in danger. But we don't have lions running about in 2019.

Science and research show that happiness is a skill and very few people wake up just feeling happy because they feel happy. But almost everyone has their own recipe for their own happiness. Understand that happiness is a skill and actually it can grow over time after certain exercises, it is so empowering for your mental health. Science has proven our brain is like plastic; no one is stuck with the brain they are born with. A tiny shift can change your mood. This idea of 'oh I'm just a stressful person' is untrue because your brain is moldable. If I wanted stronger legs, I'd go running every single day. Your brain is exactly the same, but it takes repetition and work.

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Has the Happiness Workout helped you manage your own anxiety?

So much. This is why I couldn't get over the fact that these tools hadn't already been built. When I went through a really terrible time with stress and anxiety, it was really through that time where I was searching for the tools to help me and where I realised I wasn't the only one struggling with this. Most people around me were like, 'yeah I'm feeling really anxious today too'. I was always leaving my gratitude diary somewhere or my journal at home, or I'm worried about someone reading it, then I forget to breathe! So I didn't understand why these tools weren't available or not in a format I could access whenever I wanted, because we all go through these moments. We don't know what email or text message that will send us off the edge.

Meditation just wasn't working for me and I realised I needed an alternative. I needed something that would help me rationalise what I was going through, which is why we have over 400 different coaching meditations that are geared up for every scenario. So everything this app has been built for - I went through these scenarios every single day for the last two years.

If someone said something nasty about me a few years ago, I would've crumbled for a week

What advice would you give to people feeling anxious at work?

It's really interesting because all working environments are different and I think stress in the workplace is at record rates right now. We are all under so much more pressure and we are asked to perform more than we have ever done before, plus now there is little disconnection between home time and work because we all have smartphones.

But I think it's important to set boundaries and be open. Happy Not Perfect has been designed for people to use at work. You don't need to use your eyes, you can do it at your desk. You can label how you feel and by labelling how you feel you are decreasing the emotional impact and that for me is incredible.

My advice would be to take a moment, go through the Happiness Workout, take yourself out for a walk. The Happiness Workout combined with a five-minute walk and a glass of water is a great stop point for everyone. It's so crazy simple.

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What do you do to wind down?

I will always, first thing in the morning, go for a walk. Walking is so refreshing. Oh, and I'll have a cup of tea. I'll also do The Happiness Workout. That's pretty much my whole ritual. It helps refrain me for the entire day and I really notice the days I'm not able to do that. I really make sure I spend a moment to mindfully be grateful for this moment.

Do you have a favourite feature of the app?

It has to be the compassion feature. That's the most important one that makes me stop in my tracks. That really shows me, wow you have a lot of work to do because so few of us have ever really grown up or encouraged to be self-compassionate. It's more important than self-esteem. Self-esteem is confidence and you can grow your confidence by doing the same thing over and over again. But if someone was to ask me 'name three qualities you like about yourself' I will sit there and be like, I'm finding this really awkward. Especially being Brits, we're never taught to speak about ourselves like that. That's our self-esteem. That's our armour too. If someone said something nasty about me a few years ago, I would've crumbled for a week. But when you start to practice self-compassion, you think 'that person isn't me, so I'm not going to take that on'.

What does wellness mean to you?

Wellness means to me self-care and looking after yourself. I think it is so important because the world is only getting faster and technology has totally disrupted the way we communicate and build relationships, as well as the way we work and travel. And so it is more important that we prioritise ourselves and remind ourselves that we don't need to be like technology. We don't need to be as fast as technology. We have to go at our own pace. Wellness allows you to do that because it helps you internally check-in with yourself; whether that's having a bath or being on your own body clock. Whatever works for you. Every single person has a different route to wellness, you just have to do what feels best for you.

If there were five self-care or wellness tips you'd want to get out to the world, what would they be?

The Happiness Workout, walking, staying hydrated, spending time with friends, and sleep.

What are the five beauty products you can't live without?

I love our chill the f*ck out spray, £15, to soothe me before I start my ritual. I also love Votary's Cleansing Oil, £45, and the Votary toning serum, £75.

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I also love the Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance, £61, as well as Dermalogica's Stress Positive Eye-Lift, £58.50, and I love these Dr Hauschka eye revive eye drops, £23.50, for when I'm travelling with dry eyes.

Elemis cleansing balm

I'm also loving Elemis Cleansing Balm, £36.55, I'm obsessed with that. Then my night ritual includes my Happy Not Perfect Ultimate Eye Pillow, £18.

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Check out Poppy Jamie and Happy Not Perfect here.

Download the Happy Not Perfect app on iTunes and Google Play.

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