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A Glimpse Inside Sophie's Mind

Sophie is the Founder and CEO of Department Store for the Mind. Follow her @howarthsophie

What’s it like inside your mind?
A bit like a spaghetti traffic junction: free flowing on a good day, congested on a bad day, gridlocked at rush hour.

How do you look after your mind?
I’m careful about what I feed my grey matter. I try to resist mental junk food, and not to over-stuff my mind, both of which are tricky disciplines in our age of information overload. There is so much truth in that old adage "garbage in, garbage out".

How do you deal with stress?
I go for a walk. Around the block will usually do, but into the wild is better still. Walking focuses my thoughts, helping me forget those that aren’t worth holding on to, and hone those that are.

What do you do well?
Enthuse people, myself included.

What do you struggle to do well?
Listen with full attention and without interrupting. It’s such a generous and beautiful thing to do. But so hard.

Tell us something surprising about you.
I love being alone. This makes running a business challenging!

Where did you get the idea for the Department Store for the Mind?
From my own strengths and struggles, and a strong belief, developed from experiences over the last twenty years, that knowing more about our own minds is the best way to make the most of their remarkable capabilities.

Why do you think it's needed right now?
We live in a world increasingly stuffed with bland and thoughtless communication. And more and more of us feel anxious, overwhelmed or misunderstood. I want to champion a more mindful and compassionate approach to looking after ourselves and the people we care about.

Isn’t shopping part of the problem?
Large parts of today’s consumer culture have a corrosive impact on our souls. We are advertised so much stuff we don’t need; it's hard not to feel confused or lost, wanting more and more things but not really knowing why. But retail doesn't have to be a bad thing. The Department Store for the Mind tries to offer real retail therapy. It's a finding place rather than a hiding place. Somewhere that helps you explore and respond to your psychological needs. Thoughtfully made objects can nourish and connect us. I don’t think we need to reject material culture, we just need to recover what’s best about it.

Do you have a favourite object in the store?
I love the Human States of Mind poster - for its celebration of our emotional complexity, the Box of Blessings for its generosity of spirit, and the Ten Deep Breaths because it helps me hang in there when everything feels overwhelming.

Whose mind do you admire?
Mary Oliver for her deep commitment to simply paying attention, Parker Palmer for his humour and integrity, Maira Kalman for her wide-eyed interest in everything around her, Anne Lamott for her no-bullshit warmth, Cheryl Strayed for her wholeheartedness and willingness to take risks. One of the best things about the Department Store for the Mind is that it’s given me a chance to collaborate with so many of the minds that inspire me.