Michael James Wong and his lifelong mantra ‘Just Breathe’ have caught the attention of a global community of health-seekers all looking to inject a bit of mindfulness into their lives.
Having built a respected name for himself as a meditation teacher, wellness advocate and community leader, his focus on sharing wellness practices in an everyday and relatable way has seen him host meditation sessions to crowds of over 1000, release his first book Sit Down, Be Quiet, as a guide to modern yoga and living mindfully in the real world. And address Parliament at the House of Lords around the benefits of mindful practices in the 21st century.
His latest venture, an overhaul and relaunch of his Just Breathe app, however, is set to break the mould once again, he tells Welltodo.
At a time when the collective mental health of a population living through a pandemic has suffered profoundly, he hopes that by providing an easily accessible and relatable solution, he can show people how meditation and mindfulness are not only relevant right now but also form an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
“Meditation isn’t about levitating or reaching a higher power, it’s about finding a moment to close your eyes and just breathe,” Wong explained.
“With music collaborations, mindfulness techniques, breathing practices and support for sleep, stress and anxiety, Just Breathe is here to provide a toolkit to help you to find a moment of calm amongst the chaos, one day at a time.”
In fact, guided by Wong himself, each practice found on the app will have a clear theme or key narrative to allow users to be single-minded and clear in what they are doing — the aim being to change the user’s day for the better, as well as prompting longer-term lifestyle shifts.
On the day of the app’s relaunch, we sat down with Wong to discuss how the Just Breathe app is catering to modern lifestyles and behaviours, why community is at the heart of the app, and why it’s never been more crucial to empower people to take control of their mental health……
Tell us about the Just Breathe app, what makes it special?
We wanted to support our community and provide a product that was easy to use and reflected the life and lifestyles of those using it.
There are many products on the market, we’re not blind to this, but what makes Just Breathe unique is we are rooted in the real world, real people, real human interactions and a real sense of support for our community.
We believe that we can make a positive shift in people’s lifestyles, not just be a product in your pocket for the moments when you’re feeling stressed and uneasy. Mindfulness is a pro-active practice and one that should connect with people’s interests and passions. It should be cut from the fabric of culture and inspire you to take care of yourself.
We are dedicated to showing people that quiet practices like meditation, breathwork and rest are not just single moments in your day, but instead a lifestyle worth living.
Talk us through the app, how does it tap into consumer behaviours and values?
The app has a 3-fold approach:
- Daily practices that offer you a single-minded recommendation, an expert guide to quiet the mind and expand your awareness.
During the pandemic, especially, we have been shown the need to have routines and rituals that support our wellbeing. We want guidance from trustworthy people, we want expert advice but most of all we want it delivered gently and with compassion.
- Music and artist collaborations, exclusive long cuts and sleep sounds
Music connects us all, and while there are many choices for mindful music, people want guidance, and they want it to feel relevant and relatable. Within the app you’ll find curated playlists for sleep and rest, amazing artist collaborations with musicians from all around the world.
We have interviewed, researched and talked to hundreds of people within our community and asked them what is essential in a mindfulness app, and the single most common response was simplicity. Other apps on the market have become too expansive and complex, there are endless choices, and little guidance. We’ve learned that most people who are using apps are new to these practices, and so they want short, simple practices that are recommended for them.
For those more familiar with the practices, we have a library which has choice and option, but first and foremost it’s important for us to be simple and clear about what can support you today.
How has your real-life community informed the offering?
Our single greatest insight is that we must create a space where people feel a sense of belonging. At our events, we see a wide mix of people from all lifestyles and cultures coming together simply as human beings. And so, within the app, we ensure that all our content is accessible and inviting for all. We always speak to people as part of our community, so that no matter where you are in the world, you know you belong.
Our community is at the heart of the app, every meditation or breathing practice that is offered on the app has been shared before at a live event, grand gathering or silent retreat. We have worked from within the community to build, test and create everything that you see within the app.
It is essential for us, and for our business, that real people are reflected in everything we do, and we hope this app continues to expand our Just Breathe community and ensure that everyone feels like they belong
How does the app cater to the demand for more reflective, culturally relevant and real-time solutions?
With our daily practices, we have the ability and commitment to ensure our content reflects the real world. Our practices are shared in real-time and we are dedicated to ensuring we have the right resources and support in these moments.
As we start to expand and grow the product you will soon see specialised, evidence-based programme and practices, and key cultural moments throughout the calendar year will have practices to support. Ultimately wellness is a way of life, it’s not a singular action, and while our daily practices and app content is digested in short 8-10min moments, the tools and resources that we are sharing are relevant to every moment of your day, life and lifestyle.
And what about more serious clinical or medical needs, does the app support them?
As we launch the new Just Breathe app, we will also be launching two special programmes that we hope will immediately impact the support available for anyone suffering from medical or clinical mental health needs.
Our first initiative is the Just Breathe Rx Programme — a programme that empowers clinical and medical professionals to prescribe the app for free to their patients, clients and staff.
All clinical and medical profession with board certification will have unlimited access to prescribe the app, free of charge to their patients. Mental health and mindfulness resources are a key part of all medical or clinical treatment, and it’s our way of ensuring that all patients are treated as people ensuring they have tools for their lifestyle, not just treatments for their troubles.
Is anything else in the pipeline?
The hope for the app is that it grows and becomes an essential tool within people’s lives. As we build and grow the product, we have plans to bring in even more ‘real world’ moments with live events, ways to connect and empower people to live their lives with less stress and a priority on their mind and mental health.
The Just Breathe app is available on both Apple and Android with subscriptions. Download now for a free 7-day trial or purchase for £8.99 a month.