Mental Health App with Cybersecurity Implications

Did you know that your new Apple watch can measure stress levels and offer ways to manage them? This was the pitch from the PR agency to get me to talk with MetaBrain Labs. Many PR agencies send press releases capitalizing on whatever the latest media frenzy watches. Many are too over the top for my focus. Mental health is a media frenzy–it is also a very real problem. People suffering from depression, anxiety, grief, and more often are told the closes appointment with a therapist is six months away. An app sounds good, I’m sure.

With 35.5% of people already leveraging apps and other forms of technology to address emotional or mental struggles, according to a survey conducted by MetaBrain Labs that spanned across the US, Canada and Europe, this technology is a great way for people to jump into the developing sector of mental health technology.

However, being able to measure stress is only part of addressing the problem of stress management.

“While the new Apple Watch measures stress levels and offers ways to manage them, it doesn’t address the underlying causes of stress. The MetaBrain chatbot and wearable, on the other hand, guides a conversation with your unconscious mind, akin to the way a coach would, through a series of strategic questions. This process employs deception detection via the chatbot wearable to workaround cognitive resistance, to pinpoint the specific mindsets responsible for generating stress, facilitating their transformation into positive ones,” explains Alexandrea Day, Founder & CEO of MetaBrain Labs.

I had an opportunity to interview Day. I brought along an assistant, my daughter who is a licensed therapist. Too often these psychological devices and “fixes” lay in the realm of quacks and get-rich-quick schemes. Following much probing about the background of the app and device and potential uses, my daughter said that Day’s work coordinates well with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and other approved therapies. I felt better about writing about this.

Apple’s stress identification technology or other forms and apps that allow users to practice mindfulness can help people find temporary relief, but MetaBrain is working to get to the root of stress to help guide people and reverse self-defeating behaviors and mindsets that are holding them back and causing stress in their lives.

Day continues, “Merely identifying stress through devices like the Apple Watch doesn’t put an end to it. Mindfulness may provide temporary relief, but it often resurfaces with new triggers. The MetaBrain chatbot and wearable aim to break this cycle by guiding users through a structured session to identify and reverse self-defeating mindsets. This process is swift, and consistent reinforcement over two weeks ensures lasting change.”

MetaBrain Labs, led by the pioneering Neurotech Innovator and CEO, Alexandrea Day harnesses the power of their patent-pending Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology to explore and retrain the unconscious mind. This helps individuals unlock and shift hidden mindsets, facilitating rapid behavioral change for a profoundly better life in as little as two weeks. The process, rooted in Adaptive theory and used by Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) spans its use across all human endeavors from improving a golf score to becoming a mindful parent or a better public speaker.

This device will be useful as an aid with a professional therapist to boost mental health of their clients. It can also be used for cybersecurity vulnerability prevention.

Blessing for Work

I was greatly blessed at work. For most of the positions I held, I was the first person to hold the position. I had the opportunity to forge new paths and ways of doing things. Yes, I had several terrible bosses that cost my health for a bit. But many more were the bosses who taught and provided opportunities for growth. Most of the time I did not feel like a functionary simply filling in my time—like the protagonist in Franz Kafka’s eerie story of the man who turned into a cockroach over night.

Given an Irish and Welsh ancestry and vast eclectic reading habits, I don’t know how I missed John O’Donohue. Jerry Colonna introduced us in his book Reunion: Leadership and the Longing to Belong.

O’Donohue seems (although I haven’t found the document to study) to be the closest to my interpretation to the German philosopher GWFHegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit. That enough was enough of an enticement. But it his capture of the Celtic spirit that captivated me.

In the fourth chapter of Anam Cara (soul friend), he discusses work. And how modern work can be soulless robbing us of imagination and creativity. (He also references an early essay of Karl Marx about the alienation of the worker in modern industrial work. One of my favorites.)

With that long introduction, I will leave you with O’Donohue’s blessing for work.

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.

John O’Donohue

Can You Cost Your Company Billions?

No one can figure out Elon Musk. Erratically brilliant, I’ve heard. How can he cost himself and his investors billions? Spouting off support for a white nationalist post on his social media platform X.

2,000 years ago this wisdom was published, “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire.” James the Apostle

I have heard many times, “I’m an American. I have a right to my opinion.”

My readings in literature and history teach that having an opinion is the human condition. Opinions are easy. Thought is hard. Informed opinions thoughtfully expressed are rare as a gem in the desert.

You can say whatever pops into your mind. On social media it is easy to just pop off something. And then you live with that forest fire that James warns us.

You can say what you  want, but there are consequences. Not everyone must agree. Many will vehemently disagree. There is no rule that you will not suffer consequences from saying stupid or inflammatory things.

It’s not the ability to say whatever you want; it’s doing the responsible act.

Your tongue, or your social media post or email, can create a whirlwind of emotions. Taking a breath before hitting the enter key asking if this is the responsible thing to do works wonders.

The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut

Dan Lyons, technology reporter, came to awareness of a glaring fault while sitting alone in an apartment while his wife and children were still living at home.

His problem—he talked too much. When he got started, his kids would talk about “Danalogues.” The problem is so prevalent in our society that it has a name—“overtalking.”

Some people never stop. My mother-in-law was a sweet lady, but she never met a silence that shouldn’t be filled. Maybe you know people like that. Even worse are those in such a rush to talk that they constantly interrupt and talk over others. Now we’ve gone from gently amusing to greatly annoying. If any of this resembles you, you may be a “talkaholic.” In that case, this book is for you.

His book is Stfu: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World. There is a little analysis tool in the beginning that will help you discern your talkativeness.

“Speaking with intention,” he says in the introduction, “that is, not just blurting things out, improves our relationships, makes us better parents, and can boost our psychological and even physical well-being.”

Lyons not only describes the malady in graphic detail, he also offers five tips to STFU

  1. When possible, say nothing.
  2. Master the power of the pause.
  3. Quit social media.
  4. Seek out silence.
  5. Learn how to listen.

If you read nothing else in the book, do the first chapter on the problem and the last chapter on listening. Most people hear noise, but most people don’t really listen.

I can enter a room and quietly listen and observe and be happy. But if someone asks me a question, I’m capable of a half-hour exposition on the topic. I needed the book! I once taped a small note to the top of my notebook that said only STFU. (That means shut up, if you don’t get the initialism.)

Try it. You’ll like it.

How Do You Get Things Done?

I try to stay on the positive side of looking for ways to live a meaningful life. 

I picked up an idea from an interesting English writer—Oliver Burkeman who writes The Imperfectionist blog and wrote the influential book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.

Let’s say you go to a nice restaurant. They show you to a table. You and your guest are seated. They hand you an elegantly printed menu. You look over all the options presented and choose. Perhaps you choose an appetizer to start dinner. Then you choose a salad, an entré, and a dessert. Perhaps a bottle of wine to complement the meal.

Now, let’s change the venue. You are at your desk. You need to decide what to do next. You look at your to do list. You know, that list that never stops growing thanks to email and Slack and other computerized incoming enemies.

Do you just take the top item? Do it? Check it off? Then look at the next thing?

Do you look at the list and panic at its size?

How about your email? You read about “inbox zero” but know that it is an unachievable vision of heaven.

Burkeman suggests looking at these things like a menu. Ah, I’m presented with a fine list of options. Which shall I work on now? I will select this one first as an appetizer. Later I’ll select the entré.

Thank you, Oliver. Somehow I feel a little better about the whole productivity thing.

What Happened to Microfinance, or Is It Time to Reevaluate Your Processes?

I bought into the microfinance system almost 20 years ago. An avid reader at the time of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog, I joined his group lending $25 to people around the world to support their nascent businesses. We used Kiva.

For many years, repayments came in regularly, and I would re-loan the money. I don’t know when I first noticed that the loans were not going to people but to organizations. And the repayments became infrequent. It would be months before one of my $25 loans was repaid in order for me to loan again.

Meanwhile there came a barrage of daily (or more often) emails from Kiva to loan more.

I was growing suspicious. Didn’t know why. But something had changed.

I also started to read little snippets about microfinance not always working.

Then came this article in MIT Technology Review. What happened to the microfinance organization Kiva? A group of strikers argue that the organization seems more focused on making money than creating change. Are they right? By Mara Kardas-Nelsonarchive.

“The Kiva users noticed that the changes happened as compensation to Kiva’s top employees increased dramatically. In 2020, the CEO took home over $800,000. Combined, Kiva’s top 10 executives made nearly $3.5 million in 2020. In 2021, nearly half of Kiva’s revenue went to staff salaries.”

Despite this income, Kiva turned over CEOs almost as fast as the Cleveland Browns turn over quarterbacks.

All this to suggest that we all need to reevaluate our processes and patterns periodically. Sometimes our path had turned into a rut leading somewhere we don’t wish to be.

This works for leadership, as well. It is good to have people question processes from time-to-time. The process that worked ten years ago may be detrimental today.

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