Happy Sunday! ☀️

There’s been something that’s been on my mind lately: How we spend our time defines who we are.

In today’s issue I talk about the challenges of maintaining our psychological freedom, amidst a symphony of apps and notifications pining for our attention.

Instead of fasting these short-term dopamine hits cold turkey (v difficult for my millennial brain) - what if the antidote was consuming long-form quality content instead?

Back in May I came up with the idea of a “consciousness expanding” weekly article club. A kind soul on twitter recently collected all 100~ essays on this tweet thread into this notion doc and this confluence of events has encouraged me to finally give this article club a shot.

Here’s the experiment: Instead of consuming social media, how would our lives change after 1 month of reading and dissecting 12 ~*quality*~ long-form essays?

If this sounds interesting to you, consider joining:

✨ The Wellness Wisdom Essay Club 📚

  • Every week we’ll read 3 essays from this list for the next month (12 essays total on philosophy, wellness, personal development)
  • We’ll meet weekly on Sunday evenings to discuss the articles (for 4 weeks)
  • The group will be small / intimate with 6-8 committed and dope people
  • If you’re interested let me know here!

Now, let’s jump into todays issue:

☝️one take

How much of your life have you given away through aimlessly scrolling your TikTok, Twitter, or Instagram feeds? Could you have instead allotted that time towards connecting with friends IRL or a long-term project aligned to your values?

The companies that created social media and mobile tech have benefited our lives in unprecedented ways. But even with the best intentions, they are under intense pressure to compete for our attention.

Attention = more eyeballs on ads = revenue = happy shareholders. In the quest for continuous profits and growth, there is a real human cost that is not captured on a company’s balance sheet.

I’ve always felt that this was short-sighted and wondered what would happen if product teams optimized for humanity as a core KPI. How would our products look different?

For example, one of WeChat’s core product principles is this: the user is your friend. This means designing products with sincere best intentions for the users. It means putting their interests above all others — even company stakeholders. (To be fair, they don’t have much competition but still..)

Allen Zhang: WeChat Prepared to Explore the Offline World

Allen Zhang, the “father of WeChat” recently voiced his product philosophy over a 4 hr speech:

“If WeChat was a person, it would be your best friend based on the amount of time you spend on it. So, how could we put an advertisement on the face of your best friend? Every time you see them, you would have to watch an advertisement before you could talk to them.”

Even with tremendous monetization potential given its 1 billion daily active users, WeChat only surfaces 2 ads/day in its social feed.

Furthermore he believes that the mission of technology should be solely to improve a user’s efficiency:

“People only have 24 hours in each day. The internet’s goal should not be to reduce our lives to spending all time outside of eating, drinking, sleeping, on our mobile phones. As a tool, WeChat must help users get the most useful information in the shortest possible time.

To my knowledge, it’s not apparent that company’s like Facebook or Twitter will be adopting these “radical” product philosophies anytime soon - so the burden to prune ones digital consumption diet and limit its pervasiveness thus falls upon us, the consumer.

I am far from practicing these perfectly, but here are some tips I recommend:

  1. 😌Mindfulness / meditation - the antidote to impulses is creating space between desire and a sudden action.
  2. Realize that time is your most precious resource and identify the things you really value - when we are scrolling, we are literally giving away our lives to FB. Clarifying what we value provides the impetus for us to shift our behavior.
  3. 🔍Batch the checking of e-mail/social media - I try to check my e-mail/social media and send responses 2x a day for 1 hr - once in the morning, and once at night. This provides me peace of mind that I won’t miss anything and gives me time in between for uninterrupted flow.
  4. 🛑Stop using Instagram & prune your follows intensely - out of all social media channels, I get the least value out of Instagram. I enjoy batching updates from friends through catch-ups instead. Furthermore, go through your follow list and to each person ask yourself: “Do they spark joy (inspire me/give me positive energy?” If the answer is no, 👋 felicia.
  5. 📱Set-up your phone for productivity and flow by following this comprehensive guide - with this i’ve essentially removed all notifications and badging from my phone and I’m not looking back.

Furthermore, check out these tools that can help you reclaim your time. A whole new segment is forming with the goal of giving us psychological freedom. These include digital wellness trackers, mindfulness apps, and programmable attention tools. Here are a few on my radar:

  • RescueTime - RescueTime automatically tracks the time you spend on websites and gives you the ability to block yourself from accessing them.
  • Opal (in beta) - has a friendlier take on time restriction. It also monitors your screen-time but gently intervenes with a cute Opal cartoon.
  • Flipd - gamifies getting into flow by enabling you to track your productive minutes and competing on community leaderboards.
  • The Browser Company (in beta)- is building a better browser that can help us stay focused and organized, take work off our plates, and pull creativity forward.
  • MyMind (in beta) - is a new web clipping extension that uses AI to organize bookmarks and keep content private / ad-free.
  • @dk_the_human has also built some cool chrome extensions:
  • 🙈 Hide Feed - Browser extension that replaces distracting feeds with beautiful images
  • 🎯 Intention - Browser extension to build a habit of staying focused

As Sari from CYP put it: “Every new technology goes through a phase of euphoria, followed by disillusionment. As we step on the slope of enlightenment, we should ask ourselves - if we were to build the Internet from the ground up with an unwavering commitment to honor people’s time and attention, what would we build?” I believe it’s time to build, with humanity first.

🗞 news in the m-health tech space

😴Tatch raised $4.25M from Spark Capital to help diagnose sleep disorders.

  • Why it’s interesting: The current process of diagnosing sleep apnea often involves getting hooked up to numerous machines and sleeping under the supervision of a doctor. Tatch uses a patch + mobile app to do this efficiently.

🧠Big Health raised $39M Series B raise to expand Sleepio and Daylight - digital programs to help users manage poor sleep and anxiety.

  • Why it’s interesting: Since March and in-line with COVID, Big Heath has grown by 6 million people through its partnerships with Target, Comcast, and Home Dept.

💪Coa announces collaboration with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) on the launch of the Emotionally Fit Leadership program for startup founders. I previously interviewed Alexa Meyer, co-founder of Coa, on Wellness Wisdom. You can check out her Wellness Stack here. Congrats, Alexa & Emily!

🌾A new bill before Congress aims to create an annual $10M grant program to help providers extend telemental health programs into rural areas focused on the farming, forestry, and fishing industries. Here’s my write-up on products delivering mental health support to rural areas.

📖 reads

There’s no other better time to rewire your brain than a pandemic. A really great long-form article on neuroplasticity:

In the 1960s, it was discovered that neurons could “reorganize” after a traumatic event. Further research found that stress can change not only the functions but also the structure of the brain itself.

Another silver lining from Farnam St’s “Why You Feel at Home In A Crisis

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

— Sebastian Junger

Another mind-altering read on conflict:

You’ve never had conflict with another person. Your only conflict is with reality and the stories you make up about it. In other words, all your conflicts are with yourself. No one else and nothing else needs to be any different for us to be free. No one and no thing.

A New Yorker piece on why walking helps us think:

Since at least the time of peripatetic Greek philosophers, many other writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing.

Want to improve your thinking? Walk more:

  1. Circulate more blood & oxygen to your brain
  2. Change the pace of your thoughts.
  3. Allow your attention to wander & stimulate creativity

When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps.

Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts

The Lost Art of True Rest goes over a handful of ways to rest that feel very nourishing and replenishing:

  1. Closing my eyes, lying down, and doing nothing. This might or might not result in a nap. It might be more meditation. But I’m not reading, doing, watching.
  2. Going outside without using a device. Connecting to nature. Most likely in solitude. Letting my mind have some mental and physical space.
  3. Relaxing with someone else. Feeling connection with them. This can’t be a very active conversation — if we’re talking, it has to be something that makes us feel connected, relaxed. We might just be cuddling without conversation.
  4. Being fully present with a simple non-work activity, like having tea. This isn’t a time to think about work, though those thoughts might arise. It’s about nothing other than having the tea. Relaxing with the experience. Savoring it. Soaking in a bath or having a spa day is another example.

🎶 listen

Nujabes has taken me to care-free places since 2005. My top 5 favorites:

To throw it even further back, check out poolside.fm for retro summer vibes and beats. This website is a time machine to a simpler time in computing, recreating a late ’80s desktop in your browser window. Everything is delightfully low-fi, sans the music.

food for 💭

How can you take care of your inner child today?

Be well ❤️,

Patricia

Thank you for being part of The Wellness Wisdom Stack today. I have a full-time job as a product manager but curate this newsletter in my free time as a labor of love. If you’re enjoying it and want to express your appreciation, please feel free to spread the word, buy me a coffee, or lmk your thoughts/feedback ☕️

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Who’s behind this newsletter?

Patricia is a curious human, product manager, virtual librarian, and carer of souls. Reach me on Twitter or LinkedIn.