Mementos - A Guide to Self-Kindness


Mementos is inspired by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi in which we find beauty in the imperfections of life. Wabi-sabi doesn’t exist in the shiny out-the-box items you have just purchased but rather it dwells in a well thumbed book, the creases of your couch, and the coffee stains in your favorite mug.  

It cannot be bought and is something that has been kneaded and crafted by the marks and scratches left over the passage of time. It is a love for the authenticity of these imperfect moments of your life that have made you--you. 

Mementos is dedicated to this Wabi-Sabi philosophy by acknowledging the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to care for oneself. We want to celebrate all of the happy moments but also admire the scars that you have bared witness to as a memento of your journey. 

The Molecule: My Users, The Problem, The Solution

My users

Mementos's target audience are individuals who exhibit depressive tendencies or symptoms and are looking into using self-care as a way of managing their depression. I have purposefully defined my target users as individuals who exhibit depressive tendencies or symptoms because not everyone has been officially diagnosed with depression by a doctor.

During my research interviews, I spoke with an individual who was reluctant to speak to me because they were not officially diagnosed by a doctor (for various reasons) and if I had the label stopped me, I would have missed out on amazing insights. This label of clinical depression is actually a large entry barrier and I want to be inclusive as I possibly can.

The Problem

The act of looking after oneself has been dubbed as self-care and it plays an incredibly important role in maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health. Self care can range from going to the spa to unwind after a long day or simply eating dinner. In other words, self-care is care provided to you by you.

However, those living with depression often find self-care difficult and even impossible to attain. Research believes that since depression interferes with the frontal lobes--the areas responsible for executive reasoning--those struggling with the disease will also struggle with even the most basic tasks of self-care. Depression also drains their energy and willpower, often leaving them too exhausted to perform the basic necessities such as eating or bathing. This physical discomfort then feeds into the negative mental state which further exacerbates the depressive cycle.

Self-care is critical to co-existing peacefully with depression and chronic illnesses such as depression do require the patient to make some lifestyle changes. Self-care does not work as a cure for depression but more as a way to manage depression so that one does not spiral into a deep depressive cycle. By alleviating physical discomforts, one can take proactive precautions rather than reactive countermeasures.

The Solution

After conducting interviews and synthesizing my research, I would like to propose a toolkit rooted in the idea of self-care as a way of managing mental health and this will take the form of a mobile app. An app on the phone can hold a lot of content but it is also very portable, which means that the user can access it at any point in time.

In addition to that, a phone is very private and personal which allows the users to access the content in a space in which they feel safe, which is important in cases where there is a lack of social support. From my research, I was able to confirm that social support is incredibly important to someone struggling with depression; however, that social support is often fickle and can also be the source of a lot of anxiety and fear for the individual.

In some cases, there was a total lack of social support and the stigma regarding mental health can really colored the individual's experience with their social circle. For example, one individual I spoke to recounted the time they tried to reach out to a trusted family member only to be shut down with, "you're not crazy. You don't need to see a doctor."

And since my concept is rooted in the idea of self-care as care provided to you by you, I wanted to ground my project in the idea that you are capable of nurturing yourself back to health; and so I wanted to create a space for my users to turn to when their social circles of friends and family are not as supportive as my users need them to be.

The other precaution I have taken is using the guise of "self-care." Self-care is currently a popular trend with hashtags such as #treatyourself and many people participate in this fad. It is not strongly associated with mental health and will help protect users from any backlash against mental they may receive either from others or themselves.

My Research

Research Insights

1. Depression is a cycle of exhaustion and lack of motivation which then continues to feed off of each other as the individual continues to spiral into a deeper depressive state.

2. Support from social network is incredibly important to the individuals but can also be a source of anxiety and fear even when family and friends end up being supportive.

3. Indulging in physical sensations (i.e. nice bed sheets, favorite snacks) can help improve moods and alleviate depressive symptoms. 


How Might We

create a safe space for individuals suffering from depressive symptoms and empower them to nurture themselves back to health?

Working Sketches

I created a couple of paper prototypes and with these paper prototypes I was able to quickly user test and even iterate on the spot.

Please note that this is an ongoing project and will be updated periodically, 

Irene Ti