MAY 10, 2018 7:29 PM
by ZOE RUFFNER
“Breathe in,” says Poppy Jamie, a 27-year-old doe-eyed former TV personality who is regularly spotted alongside Suki Waterhouse and Cara Delevingne. An odd request, but nevertheless, I inhale. “You’re not doing it right!” the Brit squeals giddily, pointing out that I’m raising my shoulders rather than expanding my stomach. You see, in the process of developing Happy Not Perfect—her new millennial-geared mindfulness app, which launches next Monday—Jamie trained with Dr. Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and breathing expert who teaches her clients the importance of a cortisol-lowering “belly breath.” “We’re actually very bad at [breathing correctly], and we often keep our inhales and exhales too short,” explains Jamie, who designed her app to begin with a calming 30-second breath-work session.
While the importance of proper breathing is not a novel concept, Jamie’s vision is to make many of these age-old mindful routines accessible to a generation more accustomed to Google searching than walking through a library. “Hundreds of books have been written about [breath work], but when you’re feeling stressed, when do you turn to page 87?” she asks, letting out a guttural laugh.
It’s this contagiously warm demeanor that planted the seeds for the app in the first place. As Jamie tells it, when she was a host on Snapchat’s first talk show in 2015, Pillow Talk With Poppy, more and more viewers began reaching out to her for guidance: “I realized that no matter where you were in the world, or what age or gender, we were all saying the same thing: I feel so stressed.” This recognition of the “overwhelming pressures of life”—specifically, a life now tethered to the smartphone—spurred her to delve further. “The idea that we need to be on call 24-7, manage more social relationships, praise one another’s lives [on Instagram] without liking ourselves . . . these are all relatively new phenomenons. It’s not surprising our mental well-being has suffered the consequences,” says Jamie.
Though a social media star and fashion designer (she has an accessories line with Waterhouse) may not seem the most likely candidate for the job, it’s precisely Jamie’s millennial mind-set—coupled with her voracious reading on the subject, as well as the help of A-list doctors (some of whom she connected with via platforms like Twitter)—that puts this app in such a unique, and potentially profound, position. UCLA agrees, having just selected Jamie as a member of its neuropsychiatric hospital board for her ability “to bring as much of a youth perspective” as possible.
In other words, this is not your run-of-the-mill wellness app, but rather a unique experience tailor-made for a generation that often comes up empty-handed. Take, for instance, the venting page, which instructs users to type out their daily qualms in a notebook before setting fire to it with a single swipe of the finger—a clever Tinder-like take on the emotion-releasing burning ceremony of yore.
The other six steps include a gratitude journal, which, unlike the former, is saved in an easy-to-access log; a mind game, such as a word exercise—“a quick distraction from a draining thought or stress or heartbreak,” says Jamie; and a complimentary message (which comes in meme form, of course) that can be anonymously sent to the person of your choosing. “As soon as your attention is on someone else, you don’t have as much capacity to think about your own worries,” says Jamie, well aware that millennials have become known as the me, me, me generation. Available, too, is an add-on library of more than 250 guided meditation tracks, which come in “bathroom break” time frames (three to six minutes) with catchy names, such as “How to Chill the Fuck Out in Seven Days.”
While the Happy Not Perfect virtual experience—appropriately named Refresh—takes just five minutes, the key is consistency.“If you want to touch your toes, you have to stretch every day,” says Jamie. “It’s the same with our minds.” Here’s to breathing deeper, one day at a time.