A young St. Albert tech entrepreneur is offering her entire mental wellness app for free during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sophie Gray, a 25-year-old entrepreneur, created a journaling app, DiveThru, after her own struggles with mental health and now wants to share it with anyone who may be struggling during the pandemic.
Gray is no stranger to starting a business. At just 18, she began to amass a large following on Instagram as she kicked off a fitness business.
Gray’s initial business focused on physical health. She sold workout plans and gave nutrition advice through Instagram, where she now has 292,000 followers.
“I was in the health and wellness space online for about three to four years and I sold workout programs,” Gray said.
On the way home from a trip to New York, where she was speaking on a panel, Gray had a panic attack on the airplane. Gray and her boyfriend landed in Toronto and she knew she couldn’t get on another plane back to St. Albert, so the duo drove across the country to avoid another panic attack.
“It was just a horrendous experience,” Gray said, adding from that point forward she continued to have panic attacks.
“My mental health was just in such a bad place and I realized that even though I was physically fit, I was mentally and emotionally not.”
Gray stepped back from her growing fitness empire to heal her mind. Through that journey, Gray found journaling.
“I found this really incredible tool that previously I thought it was just note-taking or even just writing down my day – but journaling can really be this tool that can help you.”
As Gray stated writing down her thoughts, she started to find a huge personal benefit to it.
As an entrepreneur, Gray decided she wanted to share what she had learned with her community so she started putting together an app.
Gray started the development of the app in January 2018 and worked with a mental health professional to ensure the information was scientifically supported.
In October of 2018, the app was finished and Gray and her company relaunched in November 2019.
Michelle Vandegriend, a registered psychologist in St. Albert, said there are many benefits of journaling.
“It absolutely does have its place and especially I think in times like this, during COVID. It certainly can be a useful tool in the tool belt for people,” Vandegriend said.
The psychologist said the decades old practice can help anyone suffering from low mood, depression, self esteem, addiction, trauma, confidence issues, stress, worry, rumination and working through complex emotions.
“It doesn’t have to have any flow or form to it,” Vandegriend said.
“In our deepest level of processing in our brains, we write it down. And so that's where it can be helpful for individuals to really get in tune with some of their emotions and get them to pause and reflect,” Vandegriend said.
The processing of journaling can be very versatile and Vandegreind said there are many types of journaling, including journals focused on goals, happiness, focus and gratitude.
“The one thing I caution people about when it comes to journaling is being careful so that it doesn't turn too negative,” Vandegreind said.
“It can just reinforce negative thought patterns and send individuals into a spiral sometimes, so we want to be careful with that.”
The psychologist said journaling can be used with other mental health tools or strategies.
DiveThru is a guided journaling app that offers up journaling prompts based on the areas of your life you would like to dive into. The app also offers guided introspection beforehand and has a two-minute breathing exercise that helps prepare the mind for the journaling session.
The journaling itself is done with pen on paper, which Gray said is a best practice in journaling therapy.