Shine app creators illuminate how workplace mental health isn’t yet cultivated for BIPOC folks. Peace and inclusion start with meditation and a mindful community.
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One of the hardest things to accept about interviewing guests on the “Inside Mental Health” podcast is that I’m never going to know as much as the expert. Despite ample research, sometimes, my best efforts fall flat.
Recent guests Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi came on the show to discuss the needs of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community when it comes to workplace mental health.
Their experiences as corporate executives — and the experiences of their communities — needed a solution to address equity gaps. That’s how the mental health app Shine was born.
I’m an ally of the BIPOC community and have accepted that I can only relate so much to experiences of underrepresentation.
Lidey and Hirabayashi gave me a master class into the experiences and needs of my BIPOC colleagues and acquaintances.
My first question to the app founders was about a statement I read on their website:
“We started Shine because we didn’t see ourselves — a Black woman and a half-Japanese woman — and our experiences represented in mainstream wellness. Our bodies, our skin color, our financial access, our past traumas — it all often felt otherized.”
I asked them, simply, to share with our listeners why they felt otherized. But what I was really asking was to explain why all the other things that workplaces are doing to support the mental health needs of their employees didn’t work for their communities.
Lidey explains this seesaw at work of being othered, triggered, drained, and going into a “spiral of silence.”
She says although disparities and exclusion persist, many People of Color don’t isolate the events and manage their thoughts about the incident. Instead, they internalize, self-blame, and become emotionally drained.
Lidey adds that she and Hirabayashi began to turn to each other for edification, but they know hundreds of thousands of folks don’t have a “Naomi” to turn to at work who empathizes and builds them up.
Lidey reflects that “the spiral of silence is a social psychology theory that speaks to this idea of not only feeling like there’s something wrong with you, but that you are the only one: ‘There’s something fundamentally wrong with me. I’m the only one experiencing this, and so I’m not going to talk about it with anyone.’”
She adds she and Hirabayashi “were able to unpack what we were going through and help each other move forward with tactical solutions. And we knew that there was so much more opportunity to help people like us with that same companionship, to have somebody to talk about their mental and emotional health on a daily basis in a way that could help them move forward and, ultimately, to thrive.”
I know that as a middle-aged white male, I have the most privilege society has to offer. But knowing and understanding are vastly different things.
While meditation and mindfulness won’t magically foster a mentally healthy workplace, it has the advantage of being something a person can do without the support of others.
While certainly not the solution that’s needed, it’s a practical step toward advocating for those goals and staying healthy.
I continued asking Lidey and Hirabayashi what the BIPOC community needed to address people’s mental health needs, and they kept dropping knowledge.
What started to shine through to me was how obvious these suggestions were to them.
Among other things, they suggested:
- Call the thing the thing. Hirabayashi says “don’t pretend the status quo is fair or refuse to acknowledge problems or areas for improvement.” They both spoke of mental health challenges like representation burnout and racial battle fatigue.
- Reach beyond ticking a “diversity box”; pursue inclusion. Lidey says “to be inclusive, you have to be specific, and that means talking about the specific issues that are plaguing different communities.”
This wasn’t high-level research they spent decades uncovering. They shared that members of the BIPOC community already know these things, but often can’t get buy-in from the higher-ups at many companies because most employers use a one-size-fits-all approach.
Hirabayashi explains that just being fair doesn’t solve much as a blanket or singular attempt.
She says the thought that “everything should be exactly the same because everything is fine and everyone’s treated exactly the same [is] ignoring and refusing to acknowledge and address the systems at play that absolutely play a role in our mental health.”
“Shine is really building the world’s most inclusive mental health membership,” Lidey explains.
“So that means if you’ve experienced hardship because of the color of your skin or gender, you identify with the people you love, the size of your body, anything really that’s made you feel like the only one and like you didn’t fit, you will find a home in the Shine app,” she says.
It seems to be a primer and fire-starter for an attitude of inclusion where one can set aright their soul, be seen and validated, then have the support to walk grounded into their place of work.
The Shine app is a handy support system available on any iOS or Android device for everyday personal stress and anxiety.
It features self-care strategies curated and narrated by voices from People of Color for individuals in the BIPOC community. Folks can take inspiration and guidance from the over 800 original meditations, sounds, and stories into their workplaces or family lives.
Shine’s “Quick Hitters” are parsed by:
- morning mindset
- midday mood
- evening vibes
And it’s a vibe indeed. With playlists for Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx, Black, and LGBTQ+ members, folks of underrepresented groups can find mental health resources tailored for them.
Never meditated before, or maybe don’t really know what mindfulness is? Lidey, Hirabayashi, and the rest of the Shine hosts have you covered.
As an editor for Psych Central, I get the privilege of deep-diving into all things wellness. Gabe introduced me to the Shine app story, and since I thrive off of self-improvement and present moment awareness, I gave Shine’s meditation experiences a try. Here’s how I interpreted them.
Step 1: Get cozy. Ground yourself
For the best experience, you might want to get comfortable in a space that allows you some privacy or respite. It could be your room, your office, your closet, or a park bench.
Grounding techniques refer to positioning yourself so you connect to the immutable or unchanging elements. It can be the actual ground outside on bare feet, but it also can be hands in warm dishwater, fingers on your skin, or recalling a memory locked in the recesses of your mind.
Step 2: Breathe
You can do a slow electric slide (or bachata!) with your breath:
- Inhale while mentally stepping to one side. Hold for the tap, then exhale while mentally stepping to the center.
- Inhale again while mentally stepping to the other side. Hold for the tap, then exhale back to the middle again.
- Repeat this dance throughout your meditation.
Step 3: Focus on the present moment (and return to it)
Try closing your eyes and engaging your senses:
- body scan
- touch of your skin or comforting fabric
- where your limbs fall in your present environment
Step 4: Observe your thoughts
Your thoughts will drift. That’s to be expected. Just notice it, and return to your breath work.
You could try imagining you are the sky and your mind is the breeze. Observe your thoughts as leaves or debris passing through. You can’t hold on to them; you can only acknowledge their presence and watch them come and go.
Step 5: Let intention surface
If your meditation has a focus, you can envision your intention as a cloud that settles in the expanse of your sky. Is it gratitude? Look upon that. Productivity? See that fluffy cloud in your mind’s eye. If you care to, you can speak an affirmation or word that aligns with your intention.
You can check out these inspirational affirmations, intentions, and pep talk prompts:
Step 6: Take your receipt
When you open your eyes, step out of your comfortable resting position, and return to your daily routine. It’s most helpful to take something with you from your practice: a receipt of sorts, some proof you exchanged the bustle of life or unhelpful behaviors for this centering practice.
Your receipt could be the breath work you can return to any time of day, or it could be the intention you focused on. It could even be the feeling of your muscles slack in relaxation, from your brow bone to your unflexed feet.
Whatever it is, put your mental receipt in your pocket and revisit it whenever you need.
Lidey and Hirabayashi have created a brilliant space for BIPOC and allies to practice self-care, meditate, and be refreshed. This is the kind of help and healing they aim to flow into the workplace so People of Color can be equally supported.
Meditation is just a starting point, and with faces and voices that represent each of our diverse identities, Shine makes room for all of our identities.
Want to learn more from the Shine app founders? Click the player below or visit the official episode page for BIPOC Workplace Mental Health “Inside Mental Health” podcast episode.
Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a creative multimedia muse who was sent to this Earth to cultivate people and brands to their fullest potential. Her cover: a 30s-something editor and Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family.
As a poet, she’s published in “California’s Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology” and the Dying Dahlia Review. Kristin’s intriguing storytelling has been featured with various healthcare brands, special interest magazines, television news, and public radio. Her illustrative approach to digital content bridges businesses and consumers, news and community.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe is the host of Healthline Media’s weekly podcast, “Inside Mental Health.” You can listen and learn more here.
Gabe can be found online at gabehoward.com.