Helping clients de-stress, get better sleep and improve mental health are just some of what Hong Kong mindfulness coach Viv Kan does
What is a mindfulness coach—and what do their jobs entail?
Viv Kan, a Hong Kong-based mindfulness and corporate wellness coach and former TEDx speaker, has worked with a variety of firms to create bespoke wellness programmes, with mindfulness techniques that help them relax and improve mental health. Clients include HSBC, the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong, to name a few.
Here, Kan tells Tatler why she decided to become a mindfulness coach, what her workday consists of—and how she tailors programmes to help her students.
See also: Is Too Much Mindfulness Bad for You?
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of our thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations in our body and surrounding environment in the present moment, with no judgement.
Mindfulness is important, because almost half the time we’re awake, we’re not paying attention to the present moment. We have become a distracted society. When this lack of awareness happens, it’s usually when the mind is time travelling due to our default mode network (DMN) [a term in neuroscience describing a system in the brain that sees increased activity when one is not focused on activities in their surroundings] in the brain, creating scenarios in our minds which often contributes to worry, stress and anxiety.
Is mindfulness the same as meditation?
They are not the same and people commonly confuse the two. Mindfulness is a way of life and can be practiced anytime, anywhere and with anyone. Meditation is one form of mindfulness practice, where you carve out a certain amount of time and is usually done seated, laying down, or sometimes walking.
A mindfulness teacher will teach a variety of methods to cultivate mindfulness, depending on the intention of the individual.
What do you do as a mindfulness coach?
Using evidence-based mindfulness techniques, I create wellness programmes to help my clients de-stress, sleep better, elevate their relationships and improve their mental health. There’s typically stigma with mindfulness and mental wellbeing programmes—[they are thought of as] being quite bland—which is why I always use engaging activities to keep things fun and interesting.
How did you get into wellness?
I was a trained instructor of 500RYT, [a programme designating a registered yoga teacher who has completed 500 hours of teacher training under the US-based non-profit Yoga Alliance], teaching meditation and yoga part-time, while working full-time in a corporate role in Toronto and in Hong Kong. I felt the most present when I was teaching.
I experienced burnout first-hand. For a few months, I experienced constant cold and flu symptoms and insomnia, and felt emotionally and mentally drained. The irony is that I was teaching meditation and yoga part-time and I would tell my clients to listen to their bodies—yet I was being a complete hypocrite without taking days off.
After trying two rounds of antibiotics to no avail, I knew I had to listen to my body and slow down. I knew I could share my experience to help others improve their overall well-being through mindfulness, because I know my burnout story is all too common, especially in Asia.
I always describe yoga and meditation as a “gateway drug” to the world of wellness, and I never looked back.
What areas of mindfulness do you specialise in?
I specifically focus on two areas of mindfulness coaching: mindful workplace and mindful intimacy. What happens at work affects our personal lives, and vice-versa—and many of us ignore that connection.
I’d say mindfulness is still a relatively niche topic in Hong Kong compared to the rest of the world, but there is potential for growth.
What are examples of wellness programmes that you’ve created for companies?
I tailor the programmes based on the intention of each company’s wellness initiative. For example, I’ve created six-week to six-month holistic mindfulness programmes where we build on various practices week by week—from mindful listening and movement, to creating awareness to facilitate better relationships at work and even at home.
The wellness programmes for companies vary but involve some or all of these themes: mindfulness, sleep, stress and mental health. They include engaging team and individual activities—such as mindful movement, breathwork, role play and games—to help motivate and open their minds.
The aim is to help people “be” instead of “do”—we are human beings, not “human doings”. And in a society where we’re constantly “doing” and performing like machines, my job is to help people realise by just being human and switching off regularly, like recharging a battery, your mind and body and run much smoother and more efficiently with a healthier outcome in the long run.
How do you ensure you see results in your programmes?
I’d ask the clients and their teams what they want to see in a wellness programme and their intention for participating. Clarifying their intention helps bring purpose and heightened motivation. I also do a midway check-in and gather feedback at the end of programmes to ensure we meet their needs or tweak things as required.
What does a day or week in your life look like for you?
I start my day with a mindfulness practice, usually meditation or breathwork. Since my coaching is mainly done online, my days involve online sessions throughout the day and on weekends. I also have meetings and discovery calls scattered during the week. And in between, I’ll be working on programme planning, proposals, client check-ins—and a lot of coffee chats with like-minded people.
What do you like about your work?
I love how mindfulness tools can be so simple. We all have the innate ability to be mindful, yet most of us don’t realise our full potential—because we are constantly distracted, in our heads and creating judgement. I help individuals understand that just by being a little more aware of our minds, we can live our lives much more freely with less stress and suffering.