As each of you can probably attest to, stress leaves our bodies feeling pretty unhappy. Stress can actually make you physically ill too…but we’ll get to that in a later post.
Scientists have determined a clear definition of happiness that is based on two elements. The first is positive emotion – how you feel about a given experience at a given time. The other is overall life satisfaction.
Stress can serve as a major interruption for both of these factors simultaneously.
One app attempts to bring happiness (and health, for that matter) back to the lives of the people who operate everyday under the severely stressful conditions of the modern world. It’s called Happify.
Happify was launched in 2012 by three serial entrepreneurs, Tomer Ben-Kiki, Ofer Leidner, and Andy Parsons, who became interested in positive psychology. People who sign up gain access to games and guided reflection that promise, “significant improvement in your level of happiness, with increases in positive emotions and life satisfaction.”
The website boasts of scientifically designed activities developed through decades of cutting edge research by psychologists and neuroscientists from leading academic institutions around the world.
Happify is personalized for each person who signs up. The app recommends daily activities that deliver the best results for you based on goals you established upon initially signing up. The app asks for quite a few bits of personal information: gender, age, employment, relationship status, family relations, and social capabilities.
Then the questions become a little more complex. You’ll be asked about how important healthy living is to you, how you cope with adversity, your emotional capacity, stress levels, and a couple questions about how satisfied you are with your life at present.
The app first tries to educate users about happiness, as well as provide testaments about the effectiveness of Happify.
I must admit, the results are pretty profound, with significant gains in both facets of happiness – positive emotions and life satisfaction.
The stats speak for themselves.
Users get to choose from different tracks offered to them, based on their answers to the original questionnaire. Not surprisingly, I chose the “Cope Better with Stress” track.
I was pretty struck by the opening statement for this track: “85% of what we stress about never actually happens. You know it. Now live it.”
Pretty accurate, really. I personally stress about hypothetical situations and unlikely scenarios.
Before you begin, it also tells you how many people are currently working on this track (9434), and how many have completed it (38,442).
My first activity is called “Gratitude at Home.” The activity may sound unrelated, but the instructions reassure you that scientists have found that feeling thankful can increase your happiness and help you cope better with daily stressors. Here’s what it looked like:
Pretty satisfying, actually. I even uploaded a picture of my family.
My second activity was more of a game, where you earned points for clicking the positive words as they appeared on the hot air balloons on the screen while avoiding the negative words. The words disappeared after about a second, so you had to be quick to identify them. Here’s what this one looked like:
That’s all the activities on my agenda for the day, but I’ll have access to more tomorrow. In fact, I have 10 days to earn a gold medal in part one, and I’m just about a quarter of the way there. I’ve downloaded the app on my phone – seems like a good way to pass time on the Blue Loop.
So far, I’ve really enjoyed my time spent on Happify. The design of the app is fun and the text is written in an amusing and upbeat style. I think it has major potential for mitigating my seemingly chronic stress.
Other people seem to agree. According to iTunes, the app received 4.5 out of 5 stars from customer ratings. Most complaints are centered around the high cost of a premium subscription to the app. Apparently, you can buy happiness, I guess. Luckily, there is a pretty wide variety of free content to use before committing.
Many people remain skeptical – is it really possible to click your blues away? Is this a path to true happiness, or some kind of imagined happiness surrogate? If it makes you “appy,” can it make you happy?
I’m willing to stick around to find out.
Who wants to join me?