“Stop, Breathe & Think” App Co-founder Shares 5 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Tech
“Think of your phone as a communication tool, instead of a source of entertainment. This will help to make the time you spend on the phone ‘quality time,’ instead of simply passing the time.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Price, co-Founder and President of Stop, Breathe & Think. Jamie left the ranks of Fortune 500 America with the intention of creating positive change in our world. She is one of the founders of Tools For Peace™, a non-profit that has been teaching mindfulness and meditation to inner-city teens for the past 17 years. She has also led the development of the initial Stop, Breathe & Think app. She was previously the VP of Internet Development for American Golf Corporation, where she developed the internet strategy for the largest golf management company in the world. She started her career as a financial analyst at Smith Barney. Jamie has studied and practiced meditation under the guidance of a traditionally trained buddhist teacher, Lama Chodak Gyatso Nubpa since 2000.
What is your backstory?
I was raised in a conservative family, and believe me when I tell you, there was one right way to live, and that was it. My father was a successful businessman, and the entire family was involved. The prevailing belief was that 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 an at investment bank. . And that’s when I met a Tibetan Buddhist teacher by the name of 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. We created Tools for Peace as a non profit in 2000, and I’ve been teaching mindfulness ever since. We saw great results with the people we were working and wanted to reach more people. Twhe idea of the Stop, Breathe & Think app was born, which we launched in January of 2014. Since then, the app has been downloaded on over 5 million devices.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My business partner Julie convinced me to send an audition video to appear on Apple’s very first reality show called “Planet of the Apps.” I was 7 months pregnant, so it was not something I was dying to do. There were thousands of applicants, and she was certain we would never make it, so why not? Three rounds of auditioning later, we were selected to be on the show. The first challenge was an “escalator pitch” where where we had about 60 seconds to pitch our app to Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk and Will.i.am. They decided our app was interesting enough to demo further. As part of the demo, Will.i.am made us all do a guided meditation together. At this point, we had to be chosen by a mentor in order to remain on the show. It didn’t look like we were going to be chosen. It was down to the last second when Jessica Alba finally hit her green “yes” button. I can now officially cross being on a reality show off my bucket list.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
I am currently partnering with experts to create in-app “journeys”, which are 30–60 day programs to address the issues our users are grappling with most, like anxiety, poor sleep, and ADHD.
Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?
There are all kinds of ways that too much screen time can affect your wellbeing:
- Screens emit a blue light that can disrupt restful sleep by suppressing melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone.
- Screen time can also be addictive. When we play video games(1, 2) or get “likes” or shares on social media, we get a hit of dopamine “the feel good hormone” from our brain’s pleasure and reward center — the same centers associated with addictive behaviors like gambling and drug abuse.
- We’re usually sitting when we’re looking at our screens. Too much sitting can increase the risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even shorten your lifespan (3).
- Most people burn up hours of screen time on social media. Research is showing that more time spent on social media is associated with greater symptoms of anxiety. (4)
Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?
- Set healthy boundaries. Limit when and where you have access to screens.
- Try making your bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom, “no screen zones.”
When you are around other people, choose eye contact and conversation over looking down at your phone.
- Think of your phone as a communication tool, instead of a source of entertainment. This will help to make the time you spend on the phone “quality time,” instead of simply passing the time.
- Try a “screen free” day at least once a week.
- Technology is constantly demanding our attention. Turn that dynamic on its head by using a meditation app like Stop, Breathe & Think, which prompts you to turn your attention inward, to become more present and connect with your own thoughts and emotions, and the world around you.
51% of Americans say they primarily use their smartphone for calls. With the number of robocalls increasing, what are ways people can limit interruptions from spam calls?
A few things I’ve found helpful are to use robocall-blocking technology, either from the phone service provider, or third party apps that can be installed on your smartphone. Don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers. Just let them go to voicemail and then see if it is a call you want to return. Whenever I’m doing something important, I set my phone to “Do Not Disturb.” I’ve added a handful of numbers from family, friends, and work that will always go through so I’m not completely off the grid in case of emergency, but it will not accept calls outside of that list. This allows me to focus on what’s right in front of me without being interrupted by spam calls.
Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?
I think the first thing is to limit the source of the distractions. That means editing your social media platforms. Unless you use social media for professional purposes, you may be able to get by with being on just one platform. Then limit the number of notifications you receive from the apps on your phone. I give myself a set period of time to check social media, messaging, and news apps during the day. It’s usually about 20 minutes around lunch time. If someone I follow makes a post, I know I’ll get to it then, and the time limit helps me to not get pulled down the rabbit hole for long periods of time.
I also think it is important to get in the habit of being away from your phone. Let family and friends know you plan to take a “no phone morning” or a “no phone day.” Plan a special activity, or just go about your daily business. If you feel a little separation anxiety, try taking the opportunity to notice how often you want to check your phone. It can help to understand how much we’ve become habituated to using technology. Its ok to be bored or just use your imagination once in a while!
80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?
It’s pretty normal to wake up and hop onto our devices, checking emails and social media and running through to-do lists. But jumping in like that carries the whirlwind of stress and worry from the previous day right into the present.
Rather than diving into the stream of stress, use this time of transition to intentionally set the tone for your entire day. Try the “Welcoming the Day” meditation in the Stop, Breathe & Think app before checking social media, texts, or news. Pause for a few moments to notice and feel a sense of warmth and peace in your body, and set the intention to carry that feeling with you throughout the day.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dalai Lama
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If everyone could take 5 minutes a day to stop, breathe & think the world would be a much better place. Here’s what that would look like:
STOP — Just pause for a moment — stop what you are doing, or just pause for a moment in your mind.
BREATHE — Take a few deep breaths, paying attention to your breath as it goes in and out.
THINK — As you continue to breathe deeply, call to mind a person or group of people. It can be people you know or complete strangers.
As you imagine them, think to yourself, “just like me, they want to be happy and have a positive experience.”
“They are a human being, with feelings just like me.”
“Just like me, they want to feel understood and respected.”
Now with a few breaths, send some kind wishes.
Make the wish for your own happiness. Something like, “May I be strong and healthy, and may I have positive experiences and happiness.” or you can use your own words.
Make the wish for the happiness of the other person or people. Something like “May they be peaceful, safe and content, and may they have positive experiences and happiness”
And finally, smile.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can follow Stop, Breathe & Think on Instagram @SBTBreathe or Stop, Breathe & Think on Facebook.
- “Brain activities associated with gaming urge of online gaming addiction” Chih-Hung Ko, Gin-Chung Liu, Sigmund Hsiao, Ju-Yu Yen, Ming-Jen Yang, Wei-Chen Lin. 2009
- “Brain activity and desire for Internet video game play” Doug Hyun Hana, Nicolas Bolo, Melissa A. Daniels, Lynn Arenella, In Kyoon Lyoo, Perry F. Renshaw. 2011
- “Sedentary Behavior and Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association” Deborah Rohm Young , Marie-France Hivert , Sofiya Alhassan , Sarah M. Camhi , Jane F. Ferguson , Peter T. Katzmarzyk , Cora E. Lewis , Neville Owen , Cynthia K. Perry , Juned Siddique , and Celina M. Yong. 2016
- Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults” Vannucci A, Flannery KM, Ohannessian CM. 2016