Professor, university students and alum try to spark a mindfulness movement
In an age where social media seems to have an increasingly negative effect on people’s lives, Steven Mortenson, an associate professor of communication, and a group of his undergraduate students hope to relieve the negativity with what they call a “wellness network.”
In July, 2018, Jamie Levy, a graduate of the university, and her undergraduate peers helped launch an Instagram account, @mindfulmeeps, in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of mindfulness and to reassure people that it is okay to take care of themselves.
The idea to create the account spurred from Levy’s realization that college is oftentimes a point in students’ lives where being aware and conscious of how they’re feeling may escape them.
“The reason why we started it is because when I was in college, it was so impossible to not be free from stress,” Levy says. “Everyone is comparing themselves and it’s getting worse every day from social media. People don’t sleep or take care of themselves and it’s just a never-ending struggle.”
The mission of the page is to push the inevitable use of social media in a new direction, toward positivity, so that when someone opens their feed they can see a post that promotes happiness rather than those that cultivate feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.
Posts on the page consist of photos with quotes accompanied by a caption asking followers to comment on various topics, ranging from what makes them feel good to how they cope with difficult or frustrating situations. Accounts that follow @mindfulmeeps are encouraged to interact with each post, whether it be sharing experiences on a given topic, or reading through the caption and comments for perspective on an experience they may resonate with.
The name behind the account was created as a metaphor. While “meep” may not be found in the dictionary, it is a word meant to represent the personality and the ego.
According to Levy, the “meep” is personified as something we need to take care of, a part of ourselves that needs to be addressed and kept in balance in order for us to remain happy as individuals. If we choose to neglect the “meep” by not practicing mindfulness, we develop various hot buttons for the feelings we don’t address — resulting in a ticking time bomb of our emotional needs we push to the backburner.
“Basically, now we just need to raise the awareness of mindfulness because so many people brush it off and think, ‘oh mindfulness is lame,’ or convince themselves ‘I’m not stressed,’ but then they’re also having panic attacks, and they deny it,” Levy says.
Levy and her team decided to use Instagram to develop their wellness network after surveying students at the university and finding that Instagram is not only the most used platform but also the platform that generates the most anxiety.
The target audience of @mindfulmeeps is students who are looking for new, simple ways to put their personal wellbeing at the top of their priorities, but their content is created with the simple goal of resonating with anybody looking to better themselves.
In addition to the wellness Instagram, Mortenson, Levy and students in the Venture Development Center at Horn Entrepreneurship are working to develop a mobile app with the goal of helping users better understand themselves, their behaviors and their reactions to various situations, as well as how to manage them effectively.
“So, it would sort of be like having your life coach or professor in your phone, that’s the idea,” Mortenson says. “That when someone is sort of hijacked [a state when an individual’s cognitions are overpowered by his/her emotions], they can grab that and say ‘okay, what is my best option here, because I’m in this challenging situation.’”
There is no set date for when the app may be finished, but, for now, @mindfulmeeps are focusing on helping students by encouraging self-care, personal reflection and positivity through their Instagram in hopes of getting the #MindfulnessMovement trending.