As her career moved from strength to strength, Poppy reached her breaking point. Exhausted and burnt out without understanding why, Poppy consulted her doctor and a series of tests revealed a surprising diagnosis: adrenal burnout. With side effects like mood swings, low energy, depression, weight gain and autoimmune issues, adrenal fatigue is not to be casually brushed aside. Hooked on the torrential flood of emails (from two time zones, thanks to her bicontinental lifestyle) and downing coffees to get through the day, Poppy had finally hit complete and total exhaustion.
The pressure to live up to arbitrary standards of perfection fractured her peace of mind but in the midst of this chaos Poppy realised she was not alone, and with the help of her neuroscientist mother, Pippa, crafted the tools in which to combat the effects of this burn out; Happy Not Perfect, the Millennial-targeted wellness app. “Happy Not Perfect came to me in the middle of the night. I wanted to do something about the mental and emotional crisis we’re in at the moment. Never before have Millennials—all humans really— been so stressed out.”
Since appearing on SnapChat's Pillow Talk with Poppy in 2015, Poppy found that viewers around the world were reaching out to her with the same concern: stress—specifically stress exacerbated by a smartphone-driven life. “It didn’t matter the age, gender, or location. Everyone seemed to be struggling with the same things. The messages would be like ‘I’m so stressed out about work, family, friends, the future, my grades.’ Everyone seems to be in the same boat here,” she said.
New research suggests that Millennials are at the highest risk for loneliness, stress, anxiety, and depression thanks to increasingly competitive expectations of individual success. At times it seems like being busy is a competition—walking the line between optimal achievement and burnout is a badge of honor. It means you’re firing on all cylinders; it means you are achieving, or does it? Drawing inspiration from this emotionally and physically demanding low-point, Poppy hit the books. Specifically Alex Korb’s The Upward Spiral.
“I thought it was so interesting how Alex Korb had broken down neuroscience in really easy, actionable steps,” she said. “One thing that he spoke about quite profoundly was that there’s one thing knowing about the mind—knowing that exercises are good for us—but there’s another thing about doing something. But it’s very difficult to ‘do’ mindfulness.”
After three years of neuroscience research alongside Korb and earning her certification as a breathing specialist, Poppy launched Happy Not Perfect to do just that. Discovering that the brain's neuroplasticity means that it can be reshaped and retrained at any age was a watershed moment for Poppy, and forms the core intention of the app: to retrain our brains to prioritize happiness over perfection. Designed to steer overextended idealists away from reaching burnout, the clean interface is user-friendly and instills a feeling of serenity. The notifications shy away from acting as a stress trigger, and instead range from positive affirmations to gentle reminders like ‘The Refresh’, a seven-step exercise designed to start your day off with mindfulness.
“When I first launched [Happy Not Perfect], no one was really talking about mental health. No one was sharing about mental health. Now… people are being so open and saying ‘Yeah, this is what I’m doing.’ It’s like people posting gym selfies,” she said. “We all do that, and now people are all actively sharing how they’re looking after their minds. People go on Instagram and they post their Grateful Journal or they post screenshots of ‘The Refresh’. That’s been a real surprise for me.”
Starting the day the Poppy way means setting aside time for a five minute deep dive into mindfulness. “We’re the first kind of mind gym that uses interactive exercises to exercise your inner happiness muscles,” she said. “Science has proven we have a 40% control over how happy we are. That’s a huge amount! If you were doing a test, that’s the difference between an F and an A. But like any other part of our bodies—just like brushing our teeth—we need to take action to look after our mind.” Backed by extensive research, ‘The Refresh’ is made up of seven key activities from deep breathing exercises to ranting about mood triggers and setting them on fire with the touch of a finger, compacting wellness into less than five minutes. Happy Not Perfect also distills professional research on mental wellbeing into expert-directed articles aimed at handling stress related to work, relationships, and snackable, clinical-based courses.
“Technology is going to be part of our lives, so let’s use it for its most positive ability, which is to be on hand with information at all times,” Poppy said. “That’s what [Happy Not Perfect] serves—it’s a positive tool to help you feel your best regardless of what you’re going through.”
This year we wish you all the best health to attack and accomplish any opportunity that may come to you and we hope that meeting Poppy and discovering the tools she’s built to look after your mental health.
Happy New Year.
By Lauren Sarazen for Semaine.