On today’s episode of Worth It, we’re talking to Marc Champagne, the co-founder of Kyō App, (pronounced KEY-OH). His app, which blends journaling, mindfulness, and what Marc calls “mental fitness,” offers a place for smartphone users to write down their thoughts, access journaling prompts and mindfulness resources, and build a routine of self-awareness and self-care.
The discussion ranges from Marc’s background in Big Pharma, the importance of a daily routine, to handling money stress. We had a lot of fun talking to Marc and really appreciate his insights. Check this episode out if you want to take back your smartphone use, build a daily practice that makes you feel good, and understand your thoughts and emotions better.
[04:24] Why daily practices aren’t just for “zen” people
[06:42] How a simple prompt on the Kyo App can help you set an intention for the day
[11:42] The definition of mental fitness
[14:55] Finding ways to fit a daily routine into your life for better mental health
[17:30] How to reframe your relationship with your phone and technology
[26:23] What Marc has learned from Kyo App users
[29:27] Different themes in money mindset and how this affects mindfulness
[33:00] How to prioritize happiness while knowing your (financial) limits
[34:00] Why it’s important to get clear on what’s stressing you out
[35:00] How to find out the next step forward
[38:46] Why a financial plan can lift that mental weight that drags you down
[41:41] Why making a list of 10 things that make you feel good can turn your day around
[44:09] What Marc would leave behind (and keep) in revivement
[45:12] What’s on the horizon for Marc and the Kyo app
One of the most interesting parts of our talk with Marc (for us) was hearing about his background and path to entrepreneurship. He didn’t go to school for app development, or even business. He graduated and was hired in sales for a pharmaceutical company and, before he left to build Kyō, he was a product brand manager. But it was his morning routine that really led him to creating the Kyō app with his brother-in-law; he would spend each morning in his sales training trying to create a positive environment that helped him “stand out from the crowd,” which led to him journaling. With journaling, he was able to increase self-awareness and better understand himself, which helped him immensely in his career.
Today, after 3 years of developing the Kyō app and embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, Marc’s goal is to give people a space for daily reflection that helps them break the negative cycles of attachment we often attach to our phones. The Kyō app itself has gone through updates and changes to help people cultivate self-awareness they need to succeed in their own lives. The app gives daily prompts, offers resources, and continually updates the user experience to improve mental fitness.
Most all, Marc hopes the app helps people use their smartphones in ways that build mental fitness, rather than impact it negatively.
Any good discussion about smartphone use would be incomplete without talking about notifications and apps. Marc recommends turning off number badges and screen notifications for social media, at the very least. But if you can swing it (or work up to it), it may serve you to turn off notifications for all non-essential apps. This can help you increase your focus at work and in personal life, but it can also improve happiness and mental health.
You can also rearrange your apps so that only the first screen have the apps you need to use, not the ones that will distract you. Marc also talks a lot about using our phones for mental fitness — using apps and activities that actually benefit our brains and mental health positively. The Kyō app, in particular, helps users create a daily journaling routine that also helps them gain insight into their thoughts and emotions. Instead of constantly distracting ourselves from what’s going on inside, apps like Kyō actually make it possible to be happier. Studies show that the overuse of technology is affecting mental health, and Marc believes that we’re in happiness recession. That’s why believes (and so do we) that it’s so important to arm ourselves with tools that make us happier and better people.
During our chat with Marc, we also touched on how there seems to be a separation between the “penny pincher” and “treat yo’ self” advocates, and how either approach to money isn’t always the healthiest. As with anything, Marc says that it’s important to know your values and to engage in positive experiences. From getting a cup of $2 tea at the Four Seasons hotel to exploring the city you’re in, there are ways to “treat yo’ self” without going overboard, and that can actually be more fulfilling. Again, it goes back to social media and how much we feel pressure to do what others are doing. But at the end of the day, whether you save or spend, you should be doing it for yourself — and you should be aware of why you’re doing it.
This led into the topic of financial stress, which can take up a lot of brain space for many of us. To alleviate some of this money stress, Marc explains the importance of being present: simply asking yourself, “Am I OK right now?” In most cases, the answer is “Yes.” We get so caught up worrying about having enough for next month, or what we’d do if another recession hit, but we have everything covered for now.
Marc says that grounding yourself in gratitude — from taking in the fact that the lights are on and you have food in the fridge — can help with a lot of that momentary feeling of scarcity. From there, he says it’s important to think one step at a time. Ask yourself: “What’s one step forward to better this situation?” Eventually, if you put in the work and you’re patient enough, things will get better. And just practicing mindfulness like this will help you weather the really big obstacles that are totally out of your control.
Another feature of our conversations with Marc was what he sees as “cornerstones” of successful living; the things that people (users and guests on his podcast) do to stay on track, build their mental fitness, and feel good. Among users, the simple act of daily reflection is important; they make time to do the prompts on the Kyō app and to filter their thoughts onto digital paper. This helps them notice trends in their emotions and gives them a tool to really explore their thoughts.
Guests on Marc’s podcasts, Kyō Conversations, have non-negotiables: the things that don’t slip even when they’re traveling, sick, or out of their regular routine. For some, this can mean going to the gym or doing yoga everyday, a 20-minute meditation every morning, or taking quiet time anywhere they can.
But how do you know what your non-negotiables are? It helps to create a list (maybe in the Kyō app!) of what you do for yourself everyday. If you don’t already have a routine like this, you could start with a list of 10 things that make you feel better no matter what, like deep breathing, a quick jog, a snuggle with your cats, or a dance session. Then, do one of those things everyday and write down how it made you feel. This simple commitment to “one non-negotiable” can help you feel in control every day, and even turn that frown upside down.
Last but not least, we talked to Marc about what’s next for Kyō. His response was one that many entrepreneurs can relate to: working on the tech to make it more helpful for people and expanding the ecosystem. Kyō wants to go beyond the app and really give people the information and tools they need to be happy — this could include print material, events, etc. and of course includes the podcast. Marc and his team are also working to release it in Google Play Store (it’s currently only available in the Apple App Store).
The Kyō Conversations podcast releases every Thursday with new guests, but new daily prompts are coming, too. Pretty exciting stuff, so make sure to check it out — and download the Kyō app if you want to focus on a daily routine that helps you be more mindful and more mentally fit. You can also get some great doses of inspiration by following @kyoapp on social media.
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