Affirm Me: App for Positive Self-Talk

 
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For many of us, technology can contribute to feelings of failure or not being good enough–and so we’re delighted to see this app completely flipping the equation. We spoke with Jon Buehler, Co-Founder of Affirm Me, who told us about this “affirmation app.”

Tell us about Affirm Me.

Affirm Me is an iOS app that helps users build new healthy habits to overcome the challenges of negative mindsets. 

What is the goal of this app?

To improve people's mental well-being and reduce negative thought patterns in their lives by way of positive affirmations; to bring this simple practice of self-care into a users life only takes a couple minutes a day. The goal is to bit by bit become the best you and reflect that into the world. 

What inspired you to create Affirm Me?

I have long sought a balance between the intensity of being a software engineer and the harmony found from meditation and mindful awareness practices. I saw a unique opportunity to build something on the phones that we already spend so much of our time on. {Editor’s note: Agreed! What a great idea.}

Firsthand experience during therapy several years ago led me to discover the practice of affirmations. My therapist and I would sometimes use positive affirmations as a way to jump start believing something I did not believe at all in my logical mind (note: can you think of anything in your life you do this with?) I needed to remember these new beliefs, which felt impossible when depressed and anxious so I would have my therapist write them on post-it notes and then leave them in places I could not avoid them like my car, in the bathroom, and on my desk. This got a bit chaotic after a while so I started using popular to-do list apps on my iPhone to remember the affirmations, but that also got difficult quickly as lists were often half-full of chores or things to do. So I would alternate between being stressed about things I hadn't yet done and focusing on the positive changes I hadn't yet made! Not a recipe for success at all. 

 
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At the same time as of all this, I had been self-teaching myself to program iOS apps in my spare time and had built a tiny therapy app which gave some helpful advice to parents of teenagers. That advice app ended up going nowhere but, inspired, I decided to build another app that was more than a to do list––and instead let me practice these affirmations on my phone in a peaceful manner that I'd be willing to come back to day after day. This idea kept inspiring me long beyond the initial phase, enough to make it to a released version and become something I truly enjoyed practicing with and sharing with others. 

Odelia, my wife, has been working in the mental health field for over a decade and has always been curious about what leads people to thrive, heal, and live meaningful lives. As a trauma therapist, she discovered no matter what background we come from, we all struggle in our lives with toxic stress and thoughts. Through her own challenging personal journey in maintaining positive habits and prioritizing self-care, she learned a calm and happy you radiates good feelings to everyone you meet!

Together we came up with icons, imagery and a whole set of explanations to help people understand how to use the tool. Before long we had a releasable prototype so we put it into the AppStore in August 2018 and started getting as much feedback as we could. 

How do you see this project contributing value to the mindful technology community?

I think the project illustrates the kind of direction we can take with iPhones. There's lots of other apps about affirmations, and meditations of all kinds, and they all contribute to giving people another option instead of social media (*cough* Facebook) to spend their time focusing on. Like it or not, people spend an average of 5-7 hours a day on their smartphones so we really need to pay attention to the kinds of activities we use our focus on. Positive affirmations have a very long history of working (even outside a spiritual realm of thinking) and from my experience often work regardless if you believe in them or not. There's literally no downside to spending time each day focusing on things you want to manifest in your life, even if it's super simple things like giving more hugs! 

 
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What advice would you give others who are trying to build technology for a better world?

That's a great question. The lessons learned here are endless, and honestly I'm still learning a ton. There's so much I could say so I'll try to just summarize what I think my biggest lessons are already. 

1) Ignore everybody else. There's so much noise and digital marketing out there, you will drown yourself in "death by comparison" if you keep looking at what others have built before you. There's very little gained from this, except if you are able to draw inspiration without also drawing overwhelming anxiety from everyone else's projects. It's all part of a larger story being written in the world––every single bit matters, and the only path to being great and big (think the meditation app Headspace) means starting super small and not worrying much about anyone else for a long, long time. (Can you tell I am writing this advice to myself, too? Ha).

2) Always keep in mind that users are people first, customers second. Serve these people by solving their problems before worrying about them sticking around in your product/service. There's huge, huge trends right now in "subscription based" business, especially in apps, and its quickly becoming a seriously predatory business model. For every Headspace like company that is doing it right, there are others locking users into subscriptions with poor content that Apple makes hard to cancel. We as mindful technology builders have the responsibility to keep in mind the value we're providing to people, not just treating them as mindless users who fund our companies and our businesses. It's a two-way street if you want to survive long-term. I always look to icons in the entrepreneurship world such as Pat Flynn (another local San Diegan) for how he treats his loyal fans and customers amazingly well. 

 
Affirm Me creators Odelia and Jon Buehler.

Affirm Me creators Odelia and Jon Buehler.

 

How do you personally create a tech / life balance?

This is a good question too! It can be really difficult to work on a project like this while also being full-time employed. When work hours often extend to “whenever" and "always," work easily bleeds into every available night and weekend. Some of this is unavoidable, required, and especially necessary when learning a new trade, but eventually you will burn out at this pace. So practicing my own medicine (the affirmations), I often have to remind myself that the current pace, whatever it is, is absolutely okay. Things unfold as they need to, and there is no great hurry. 

Personally, keeping my full-time job is how I maintain the balance of not needing to generate profits right away and to keep the hours worked to a sane medium. I also make sure there's time for being in nature whether that's rock climbing, hiking or just enjoying coffee outdoors. That said, when I get excited and want to finish something, I will do whatever it takes to make it happen. The best thing I've learned here though is to always get good sleep––it is better than any other single work hack. {Editor’s note: Cosign!}

What can we expect next from you and how can people follow along?

Now that the app is out of the prototype stage and into what feels like a real product, we are eagerly building out the app into a tool that's easier to form positive habits with. This can be harder than it sounds and we've been studying, redesigning, and imagining where we can go next. We want to greatly expand the types of categories offered, the way affirmations are suggested, and help people enjoy the process as much as possible. I've begun to record more types of music for the affirmations backgrounds, exploring the ever-more-popular binaural beats trend and trying to blend things of that nature in as well. We've introduced some beta testing of users recording their own voice so they can listen to their affirmations at night/while they sleep for another way to let them sink in.

The more I work on the ideas that are inspired by this affirmation app, the more I enjoy the work itself. I'm going to take this app as far as the idea is meant to go, and hope that it benefits as many people as it possibly can. Every time we make a little bit of positive technology, it's a little step further in a better direction. I don't blog regularly (yet) but if people want to check out the progress, look at our Instagram. Eventually we'll have a blog up and going as well!


We believe that affirmations can be an important part of self-care and love what Affirm Me has created. We totally got this and so do you! Find out more about Affirm Me by visiting their website.

 
 

All images from Affirm Me.

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