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Wellness and UX: Going Beyond the User Experience — YouX 2023 Q&A with Dr. Christelle Ngnoumen of Headspace Health

Wellness and UX: Going Beyond the User Experience — YouX 2023 Q&A with Dr. Christelle Ngnoumen

A recording of the YouX 2023 session about wellness and mindfulness for UX researchers, plus a Q&A with Dr. Christelle Ngnoumen.

The research process can be stressful. Balancing user needs and business goals is a unique challenge, and understanding problems from a different perspective takes time. 

In this keynote session from YouX 2023—User Interviews's inaugural event focused on self-care for researchers—Dr. Christelle Ngnoumen discusses how you can put mental wellness at the forefront of your approach to research. 

You’ll learn how to create meaningful and impactful experiences for others, while also creating healthy and long-lasting practices for yourself.

Watch the session recording and read the Q&A recap below.

🎥 Watch the session

📌 About the keynote speaker: Dr. Christelle Ngnoumen

Dr. Christelle Ngnoumen is an applied behavioral scientist and experience designer who aims to align people's attention with their intentions to deliver empowering experiences. She is Principal User Experience Designer at Headspace Health where she leads product research dedicated to the design of Headspace's evidence-based interventions. 

She is a mindfulness and meditation expert, has published extensively on the topic, and is an editor of the Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness. 

Prior to Headspace, she built B2C and B2B solutions within L&D, HealthTech and FitTech. She earned her Ph.D. in Social and Experimental Psychology from Harvard University.

💬 Q&A

How do you define wellness?

Wellness is the process by which we become aware of and take actions to promote good health. This encompasses our physical, mental, social and environmental well-being.

What does it mean to bring your whole self to work?

It means showing up from a place of presence. Being fully present at work involves being attuned to the thoughts, feelings, sensations, reactions and especially intentions associated with each of our actions and decisions. Doing this helps us stay centered on who we are, understand the situation at hand, and allows us to more effectively gauge when to 'go all in' versus 'take a pause.' 

Showing up from a place of presence is the opposite of presenteeism (where a person may feel pressure to ignore their internal states and show up as a performative measure, which tends to have negative consequences on health and productivity).

Is “centering yourself” the same as being “self-centered”?

No. They are importantly two very different things. 

Centering the self can be a helpful (and even necessary) way to regain equilibrium when experiencing stressful moments. Centering techniques like attending to our internal cues (e.g., body scan) and reframing (e.g., reframing a problem as an opportunity) bring the individual to the present moment and can help expand their perspective. 

By contrast, self-centeredness lacks perspective and can keep someone replaying the same tape in their mind or worrying about the future.

How do you maintain a sense of open mindedness and a listening ear while also being direct, confident and sharing opinions?

Allowing other people’s worldviews and beliefs to penetrate our own can either solidify or reshape our thinking. In either case, there is the opportunity to develop a more informed conclusion after considering a much broader set of options and suggestions.

With the current market situation, can you share any advice for folks affected by a layoff?

Take time to process the news and the feelings associated with it, and without judgment. For some, the change may trigger a sense of loss of identity, which is completely normal. If this happens, it can be helpful to remember that at every given moment, we are more than our work. More than our thoughts and our feelings. Our experiences and sense of capabilities have a way of crystallizing around the labels we give them, when in reality, our experience is as big as the world. 

It’s also normal to become anxious in response to events not within our control. Try to identify and direct your attention toward those things that you do have some control over and work from there.

What is something you wished you’d been asked about this topic?

Is it better to meditate more frequently or for a longer period of time?

This is a question that tends to come up a lot. Basically, is frequency or duration more important when meditating. Or another way of asking it is, Is one 30 min daily session better than three 10 minute sessions throughout the day? 

The short answer is any bit of meditation is better than none! The more nuanced response is that the benefits of meditation are predicted more by frequency than by duration. So it’s better to spend those three 10 minute sessions throughout the day. A lot of research shows many of the benefits of meditation come from the consistency of the practice, rather than the duration. In other words, it's more beneficial to meditate every day for shorter periods of time rather than once a week for a longer period. 

Also with consistency, mindfulness skills and outcomes grow stronger and make integrating mindfulness into one’s daily life a little easier and more intuitive. That’s when and how the real transformation begins. Starting a meditation practice can certainly be challenging to the extent that starting any new behavior is challenging. There’s a lot of new learning and unlearning to do. 

But it’s not impossible, and that’s why there are apps like Headspace that break it down into a more digestible experience, offering meditations of different lengths that can easily fit into one’s pre-existing daily routines.

Lizzy Burnam
Product Education Manager

Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.

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