How Mixlife Is Improving Mental Health Through Creativity
Xoogler Founder Stories: Deepa Vivekanandan and Lettie Malan Assaf of MixLife
In 2018, Deepa was working at YouTube when she found herself in the middle of the YouTube headquarters shooting. In her process of recovering from PTSD, Deepa engaged in creative pursuits and found them very effective in promoting better mental health.
“I really benefited from reconnecting to my childhood hobby of dancing. When I danced, I could forget my trauma and really be in the moment. I could also gradually rebuild my trust in humanity through the connections I made with this shared passion. As I began to research more on mental health, I learned about how powerful creativity can be for mental health — be it in rewiring the human brain from trauma or helping reduce cortisol levels to help with everyday stress. I want to bring effective, affordable and engaging solutions to mental health through creativity. ” -Deepa Vivekanandan
At the same time, Lettie had reached the point of burnout from a stressful job at YouTube and also turned to creativity to recover.
“When you start to burn out, you stop participating in the things you really enjoy. In my case, I stopped doing creative projects on the side. It turns out that these activities are incredibly important to my life. Even though they take time and energy, they leave me feeling more energized and inspired. A lot of products out there encourage you to physically exercise, but there isn’t one for encouraging you to be creative as a way of taking care of yourself.” -Lettie Malan Assaf
In their journeys to recovery, Deepa and Lettie both saw many gaps in the mental health space and were inspired to create a platform that could improve the well-being of others through creativity.
Measurable Mental Health Outcomes Through Creativity
MixLife is a platform for mental health through creative learning. Creative pursuits on the platform include musical instruments, poetry, improv, and watercolors, and many more in the pipeline.
We are trying to achieve three things with MixLife:
- Improve measurable mental health outcomes through proven stress interventions and inspired by expressive art therapy
- Show users the value of spending time being creative through validated metrics that can motivate progress
- Provide opportunities to connect with others with shared interests
“Approaching creativity with the goal of feeling better and improving your mental health is different from taking a class with the intent of only learning a skill. Learning itself gives you a sense of accomplishment, but the process of how you learn is very important. Our approach is designed to help users experience a state of creative flow more often and integrates mental well-being interventions in the process of learning a skill” -Deepa
Navigating Uncertainty During the Pandemic
While the pandemic brought its share of challenges, it has helped Lettie and Deepa grow as founders.
“What’s positive about the pandemic is that since time is limited and everything is moving so quickly, it has gotten us comfortable with uncertainty sooner. It has also opened up opportunities. Since our product is based on creativity and art, the instructors became more available since they were less busy with day jobs. The funny thing is since starting MixLife, Lettie and I have not even met each other in person. These have been very unusual times. Despite the challenges, we are already generating revenue, and we have not even started marketing. We are already seeing demand, we can do a lot more once we are a little more funded.” -Deepa
“I think despite not meeting in person, a lot of things have come together well. We have seen a huge response from instructors who have seen uncertainty in their employment and are reconsidering what the future might hold. We are also seeing more people emphasize balance in life and seeing there is more to life than just sitting at your computer. We’ve been encouraged by the excitement from both the instructors and the learners.” -Lettie
Prioritizing Philosophy Alignment Over Quantity
“We have seen a lot of interest from instructors, but we have been bringing them onboard slowly to make sure they are oriented to our goal. We want to make sure these instructors align with our philosophy and approach.” -Deepa
Launching Creative Journeys
In early 2021, MixLife introduced Creative Journeys, which are four to six week creative pursuits led by talented instructors. Participants learn online alongside a cohort of six to ten learners where they engage in short, daily practice activities. As a result, it provides learners with the structure to make creativity part of their everyday life, with weekly classes and daily activities to keep the momentum going.
Early Benefits From Creative Journeys
Many participants saw notable improvements in their well-being following the Creative Journeys. In a report involving 8 participants, 75% reported decrease in stress, 86% reported increase in overall well-being, and 75% reported increased sense of belonging. These are from medically approved scales for mental health that were validated by an external stress measurement expert (Executive Director of Stress Measurement Network, UCSF).
Evolving As The Pandemic Ceases
In the future, Deepa and Lettie are working to expand MixLife’s impact on helping people improve their mental health.
“Our long term vision is to provide care for many common mental health issues through creative activities geared toward well-being. If they are feeling anxious, we have an activity for them. If they are feeling lonely, we have an activity to help them socialize. Our long term goal is to offer a hybrid in-person and online solution. From the pandemic, we’ve seen that some people are craving in-person human connection while others like the convenience of online programs.” -Deepa
More about Deepa and Lettie
Deepa joined Google in 2012 and was Product Manager for several cutting-edge efforts to use ML to prevent abuse in online conversations, ensure child safety online, tackle hate speech, and improve the quality of YouTube recommendations.
Lettie joined YouTube in 2012 as a UX Researcher. She was on the founding teams for both YouTube Learning and YouTube kids, and she led the research and design team to grow the YouTube Kids app to the largest video service for kids in the world.
Xoogler.co Founder Story Series
Xoogler.co hosted the Xoogler.co Demo Day USA on December 10, 2020, which featured 16 startups who pitched to over 100 investors. The startups were handpicked for the event, and they all have at least one ex-Google employee on the founding team. MixLife was one of 16 startups that presented.
Following the demo day, we sat down with several of the founders to learn their stories. The Xoogler.co Founder Stories Series looks to highlight the journey of each founder, share their learning experiences along the way, and showcase the exciting ideas each founder pursued after leaving Google. Be sure to follow us for upcoming Founder Stories! Read our most recent story below: