Healthy Minds Innovations CEO, Peggy Panosh, talks COVID-19, anxiety, stress and meditation. HMI helps Americans with their mental health through a special App, led by renowned neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson.
Tech inside out: Describe what your company does in 256 characters (a Tweet’s length)
Peggy Panosh: “Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI) is a nonprofit affiliated with the world-renowned neuroscientific research center, the Center for Healthy Minds, founded by chief visionary, Dr. Richard Davidson. We create easy-to-use tools to support individual and organizational well-being.”
Tech inside Out: How did you get involved in this industry?
Peggy Panosh: “After working for the last 15 years in Marketing and Business Development for Oprah Winfrey’s television show, production company, cable network, digital e-courses and arena tour, I really learned to understand the importance of purpose-driven work and helping people find the best expressions of themselves. The opportunity to work with Richie Davidson, the scientists, researchers, and innovators at HMI in their mission is more important for the world than ever before. As Dr. Davidson says: the world is “facing a mental health crisis.””
“To be part of this at this time is an honor and a privilege and I could not be more excited about what’s possible as we look at partners and collaborators to realize our vision.”
Tech inside Out: What made you think of the idea/what inspired you to create your technology?
Peggy Panosh: “HMI was founded by Dr. Richard J. Davidson and really grew out of his four decades of neuroscientific research on the area of “well-being” or “human flourishing.” In 1992, Dr. Davidson met the Dalai Lama who challenged him to use the tools of modern neuroscience to study qualities such as kindness and compassion, rather than negative qualities of the mind like depression and anxiety. His research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style as well as methods to promote human flourishing, including meditation and related contemplative practices. Around 2014, Dr. Davidson had what he called “a wakeup call” during a meeting with a preeminent donor for his research center, the Center for Healthy Minds. He realized that the scientific research was necessary but there was more needed to achieve his vision of a kinder, wiser, more compassionate world. What he needed to really innovate was to begin to disseminate tools that were informed by this research as well as the scientific research in itself.”
“The goal of HMI is really to bring thousands of years of contemplative practice tradition through the lens of modern neuroscience to the masses. We’re just getting started and it is very empowering, very promising, and offers enormous opportunities.”
Tech inside Out: How is this going to benefit people/society?
Peggy Panosh: “We’re really at a critical inflection point for mental health right now. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic there were rising rates of mental illness across the U.S., and this has been greatly exacerbated by the financial, health, psychological, and cultural challenges of the events of this past year that we’re still dealing with. Stress is increasing and our access to mental health supports remains limited by cost, location and even cultural acceptance and availability. The Healthy Minds Program app brings hours of masterfully created, scientifically based, and beautifully produced guided meditations and podcast-style lessons to the palm of your hand. And it’s completely and uniquely free to everyone.”
“We really feel this is an easily accessible way to democratize and expand preventative mental health care. As Dr. Davidson says, it is widely accepted that you need to exercise to support your physical health. What if our culture shifted to realize you also need to perform mental exercises to support your mental health? Imagine the shift. What if kindergarten students learned how to show compassion and gain insight? What if politicians were skilled in pausing in open awareness? What if people could reach across the aisle and find a shared purpose that would truly make our world a better place for all?”
Tech inside Out: What’s innovative about your company and technology?
Peggy Panosh: “Healthy Minds Innovations is unique in that it’s a fusion of multiple types of organizations: A nonprofit driven by an altruistic vision of a kinder, wiser, more compassionate world. It is an early-to-midstage tech startup truly innovating and creating future-forward and easy-to-use digital tools. It is a research leader collaborating with top academic institutions to expand the research of well-being, and there is so much more!”
“There are a lot of meditation apps and other well-being tools on the market and many of them tout the science of meditation in their materials. What makes HMI different from other meditation apps and well-being tools is that our apps are actually builtfrom the learnings of contemplative neuroscience. We build interventions from the science, not the other way around. This provides a credibility and richness of experience. It is highly tailored to have the most benefit and impact. Then we use our tools as a foundation for deeper research, creating a “citizen science” loop that both grows the science of well-being and helps individuals at scale.”
Tech inside Out: How, in your opinion, has your industry changed in the past 5 years?
Peggy Panosh: “We’re seeing the importance of mindfulness and well-being practice and the difference it can make in our lives.”
“Meditation and mindfulness has expanded exponentially because the need, as Dr. Davidson has pointed out, is at crisis levels. What was a niche practice associated with religion or yoga has expanded to be more secular and mainstream. This means that now there is a lot more choice, which is a great thing. No longer is a consumer limited to one type of meditation or practice for well-being (for example, mindfulness) in one format (seated) with one type of teacher. Now one can learn and grow their practice with a myriad of well-being paths that go beyond mindfulness, in different formats, with diverse teachers.”
Tech inside Out: What has COVID done to your company/industry? Has it been affected? Does your solution assist with the pandemic?
Peggy Panosh: “With the first shelter-in-place orders in March 2020, we heard from businesses, communities, and people who were suffering, asking for help. It immediately became clear that we were witnessing the beginning of a mental health crisis in addition to a health and economic crisis. We responded immediately by sharing guided practice and insights from our research to help people cope with all the uncertainty and anxiety right away for free.”
“We also began offering (at the time) daily guided meditations on YouTube, fostering an international community looking for connection as we all physically distanced from one another.”
“We also saw our requests for Healthy Minds speakers and our workplace program, Healthy Minds @Work, spike as companies sought to support their employees’ well-being during this time of great stress.”
Tech inside Out: Describe the future of your industry. What does the future hold? What is society going to look like?
Peggy Panosh: “We are inspired and excited by the future of measurement in this space. There will be a time in the not-so-distant future where exercising for your mental health will be just as much ingrained in our culture as exercising for your physical health.”
“Picture a world where you get a well-being check-up via your HMI app and then are served a number of interventions that address the results—sort of like a prescription that is tailored specifically for you. Those interventions could be served up as guided meditations and practices that come to life via your AR or VR headset.”
“We’ve come a long way in normalizing the conversation of mental health, but we have a long way to go. We believe in a future where meditation and well-being practices are embraced as a way of life in work (meditation challenges will be the new step challenge), healthcare (preventative mental health exercises), schools (imagine teaching awareness, kindness, and insight to middle schoolers), pro-sports, politics and beyond. That promise and that hope is what drives our organization.”
Tech inside Out: What would your advice be for people trying to get into your industry?
Peggy Panosh: “Please do! This work is rife with opportunities for people who share the vision for a kinder, wiser, more compassionate world. And it’s a space where you can truly live and work a purpose-driven life, put your talents to work with other innovators, explorers, and creators to make that vision a reality and share it with others.”
“Seek out leaders and practitioners and innovators in this space – explore, ask questions. Use your talents in software, QA, marketing, UX design, research, content, product development, analytics, revenue generating collaborations and philanthropy – there’s room for all of you.”
“These kinds of opportunities, and the ability to have a positive and lasting impact in the world is positively soul-filling and 100% necessary.”
Peggy Panosh has the sweeping vision, inspired wisdom and creative energy to detect emerging opportunities and turn them into formidable business results with speed, scale and style. She is hailed as a nimble problem-solver and compassionate leader who knows how to usher in a positive and profitable future.
Through roles in marketing, business development, experiential and corporate strategy, Peggy has been a trusted advisor and energizing force of leadership teams delivering growth for Fortune 500 companies and some of the world’s biggest personalities as well as early and mid-stage companies looking to accelerate growth.
Her work includes building new business divisions for brands, rocketing the audience reach of global personalities including Oprah Winfrey. She forged and nurtured relationships with partners including Live Nation, WW + Unilever and guided joint ventures with Viacom Cable networks, CBS, NBC, the Olympics, the NFL, and other cultural titans.