They Think You Should Be Grateful


“The Five Minute Journal” rode a wave of new emphasis on self-improvement and mindfulness, but it has helped create it, too. Now there are journals and workbooks for almost every conceivable mental health need or psychological philosophy: There’s “The Anti-Anxiety Notebook,” for adherents of cognitive behavioral therapy, or “The Shadow Work Journal,” for exploring emotional wounds. In December, Apple rolled out a dedicated journal app for the iPhone.

The hype has turned Alex and Mimi Ikonn, the London-based couple behind “The Five Minute Journal,” into unlikely publishing juggernauts. Under their brand Intelligent Change, they also sell a $30 deck of “mindful affirmation” cards, a $65 set of glass hourglasses, a $59 scented candle and a line of related products for children. Last summer, they hosted a three-day invitation-only summit in Ibiza where guests participated in mindfulness-themed workshops and mingled at beachfront banquets.

They lead jet-setting lives that they document on Instagram, where Ms. Ikonn has over a million followers, and Mr. Ikonn has nearly 200,000. Recently, Mr. Ikonn, 37, delivered a short front-camera monologue about how to be present as he stood knee-deep in the ocean, the sun setting behind him. A video of Ms. Ikonn, 37, throwing open her arms as she steps onto a balcony at a seaside resort, is captioned with the song lyrics “I’ve been feeling so grateful.”

In January, Ms. Ikonn answered a video call from her sun-drenched hotel room in Zurich, her brown hair expertly coifed in loose waves. She was preparing to give a private talk the next day in Davos, Switzerland, to guests who had flocked there for the World Economic Forum. The event, she said, would be “all about how collaborative ecosystems can make a positive change in the world.”

Born Mehri Naghizada in Baku, Azerbaijan, Ms. Ikonn decided early on to pursue a life overseas, she said. When she was 16, she and her family moved to Toronto, where she later enrolled in college to study business. But after about a year and a half, she felt overwhelmed by multiple part-time jobs and by the pressure to help support her parents financially.



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