Week 5: Connecting the dots

This week has been by far the toughest. So much information in the wellness space, so many problems, so many people to speak to — how do I find a focus area within my topic? And with so much going on in the world, how do I find the stillness to find the clarity?

I had to start somewhere, and sometimes that’s the answer — start, and it’ll show you the way. I recently discovered that writing a weekly blog always helps me get more clarity, even though I don’t like doing it. And so this week, I got to writing first and have begun to treat the blog more for myself. Is that even okay? :)

Recap of my problem space: A lot of people tend to pay attention to their mental-wellbeing only in times of distress — how might we maintain our mental-wellbeing consistently to become more resilient during tough times?

To clarify, I'm focusing on mental wellbeing outside of mental illnesses and I'm not looking to address that space.

The two goals for this week:

  1. Uncover patterns in terms of peoples behaviours, habits, motivations, based on people’s obstacles and successes. What helps? What doesn't? What do they care about? I took a new approach to my interviews and started meeting with a much broader group. I realised as long as someone was ready to talk about it, there’s something to learn from everyone about mental well-being. I decided to divide my interviewee groups into the following groups, which I thought would help me understand who I should cater to.
  • People who actively care about their mental wellbeing
  • People who care for their mental wellbeing, but only sometimes
  • People who want to care about it, but are not able to
  • People who don’t think about their mental wellbeing at all for some reason
  • People who don’t think mental wellbeing is an important space for me to focus on

2. Research more on what helps people maintain their wellbeing in the world of psychology.

Synthesizing my research

User research

I began by putting down all the information I gathered from the people I spoke to and began my process of finding patterns.

Here are some insights:

Problems/pain-points

  • People have different perceptions or misconceptions about the tools that help with mental-wellbeing, or just generally mental wellbeing either due to lack of awareness or based of off their personal/others experiences. People also have different notions of what encompasses mental-well being. “Meditation doesn't help, it’s a waste of my time”, “Too much self-care becomes a chore”, “Mental wellbeing is hard to pinpoint”
  • There’s a lot of information, a lot of perspectives and a lot of tools in the wellbeing space— “what really helps and what should I pay attention to?” Is there a “wellness” fatigue?
  • People lack self-awareness and knowledge of other tools and strategies that prevent them from being able to observe, identify and respond to situations effectively. “I didn't even know I was not carefree but rather, stressed out most of the times”.
  • People seem to have found a shift or started their journey in self-awareness only after hitting a lot point or beginning therapy. Is therapy the only way to begin the process of self-awareness? Is hitting a low point is what it’ll take?

What helps/what they care about/what motivates them

  • Generally, engaging in hobbies and interests, watching TV, playing games, conversations and taking care of ones physical selves through exercise, walks or good sleep helps people feel relaxed/good.
  • Interestingly, more self-aware people tend to proactively take out more time for themselves and use journaling, breathwork, therapy, meditation, etc. to manage their wellbeing consistently.
  • Another interesting finding is that people also feel motivated to care or think about their wellbeing because of the people around them. They believe that their wellbeing impacts their close relationships.

Desk research

Based on my desk research, there is an increased emphasis on “Self-Awareness” as a path towards good wellbeing. It is considered as a first step towards understanding oneself better. Here are some interesting statements that came up on Self-Awareness as soon as I googled the term:

Self-awareness is the first step to great leadership …

Self-Awareness: The Key to Mental Health & Wellbeing

Self-awareness is the first step toward emotional intelligence

Why Self-Awareness Is The First Step Toward Empathy

Other pain points, questions and unknowns

Here are some thoughts and questions I’m exploring based on my research and conversations. I will be validating them further in my next conversations/research.

  • People don’t see mental health as a core-need or see it differently from other core needs (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) Where does mental wellbeing and self-awareness come in the pyramid of needs? Does it overlap with any core need? Is it a luxury? A privilege? Or a foundational need?
  • People can’t see the immediate benefits OR ill-effects of non-optimal mental well-being and hence aren’t as motivated as compared to maintaining their physical wellbeing. Does mental wellness need to be prescriptive and only then will people care? Or would that result in it being a stigma?
  • Self-awareness along with other tools and strategies in the field of psychology still lie in a circle that doesn't overlap with everyday conversations and events. Interestingly, once one enters that space, they seem to have an expansive experience that opens up a new world that they become a part of, forever. Is there a way I can get people to access this circle?
  • For people who are self-aware or on a journey of looking out for their mental well-being, having an AHA/profound moment about themselves or, experiencing a positive effect on their mental well-being helps them stay motivated to continue their journey. But most of them started their journey with therapy. Is going to therapy the only way to access deeper parts of yourself outside of mental illness?
  • People don’t want to deal with uncomfortable feelings, which is completely natural. Although, its seen as a huge part of growing. As Mark Manson mentions in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fcuk , happiness IS a problem; a big part of our conditioning is to confront it or avoid discomfort instead of embracing it.

While I will continue to explore these questions/thoughts, here are my value props based on what I’ve uncovered so far:

Value propositions:

  1. An engaging and effortless way of learning more about the mind and mental wellbeing outside of the sterotypical knowledge.
  2. An encouraging, relatable and fun way to build self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
  3. An inspiring experience/AHA moment to spark the journey of wanting to care and find more depth to oneself.

I am in the process of brainstorming some solutions based on these value props, watch this space for more!

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On a journey to become a more intentional designer. Currently @SVA IxD, NYC

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Poonam Patel

Poonam Patel

On a journey to become a more intentional designer. Currently @SVA IxD, NYC

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