Can An App Actually Make You Happier?

Nataly Kogan, creator of the new Happier app, has taken a fair share of guff about her vision. But she gave up being defensive, and instead uses the criticism to hone her strategy.

Few people would associate happiness with the stress and uncertainty of losing everything. But Happier founder Nataly Kogan believes that the seeds of her company were planted when she was 13 years old, living in an Austrian refugee camp after fleeing the Soviet Union. She had no home, no money, no passport, and a very dark future.

Despite the awful circumstances, her optimistic father wanted to go sightseeing at the famed Vienna State Opera, and his young daughter’s passion for positivity was born.

Two decades, a respectable career, and one successful startup later, Kogan is now a well-seasoned American entrepreneur. One year ago she decided to turn her father’s life lesson into a new project: a mobile app that helps users document the things that make them happiest, with the eventual goal of creating a data-generated “happiness graph” that will allow people to discover new methods of, well, pursuing happiness. Happier launched for iPhone in February to mostly positive reviews, but her unique vision is not without its fair share of critics.

“There is a lot of skepticism,” says Kogan. “There’s a lot of people who say, ‘An app can’t make me happier.’”

But defending ideas is repetitive, and Kogan would argue that it’s unproductive as well. Her advice? Turn criticism into a conversation and use it to build a stronger foundation. Just like her father, she figured out how to turn an unappealing situation into a free learning experience.

Bottom Line: When you stop being defensive, you start learning.

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16 Comments

  • jonathan

    The idea that an app can make you happier is at least as valid as the idea that green pieces of paper with dead people on it (known as "money") can make you happier.   We've been led to believe a lot of stuff about how to be happy, most of it not really true or scientifically validated.  I suggest that people try stuff and see what works for them.  On the web site: www.findinghappiness.com  there are a lot of free articles and methods for how people have become happier using techniques that take under a minute a day.  It's worth checking out and exploring for yourself...

  • Shauri

    Happiness stems from the eyes of the beholder.  If one believe they are happy, they are.  So maybe Nataly's graphing will give people ideas of how to be happy.  I know that creating apps with corporatcentral has made me happy, because it is all graphic.

  • Sarika

    Its indeed a great app idea..!! I strongly believe its all about :Being Happy" by the end of the day. And as for everything else.. documenting and analysing your happiness score indeed gets you close to being "HAPPY"

  • Tom Julie Purchase

    God has given me the genes to be a positive person (Thanks). Unfortunately, I have known too many people who lost out on those genes and see the glass 3/4 empty and think that's normal. Too bad for them! Your app may turn some of them around. Good going!

  • Wendy Merron

    When we shift our focus we change the way we feel. This is why the practice of gratitude is so powerful. Whatever way we can direct our thoughts to help us feel better is a good thing. 
    The bottom line is that whether we think about what makes us happy or document what makes us happy, we'll get the same results.
    What a wonderful idea.
    Kudo's to you Nataly!

  • Yasir

    Good for her!!! I had a similar idea some time ago and while I was wrapped up by finding sources of what makes us more happy! here she comes with a smart idea of creating a graph! I will def. install the app and give it a try! Good luck Nataly...

  • Yassir Islam

    I just happen to download this app  last week and love it. Its also really nicely executed.  There is scientific research that shows that people who have an 'attitude of gratitude' are happier.  It is writing down things you are grateful for at least once a week that makes the difference. This app simply makes it easier to do and helps create the prerequisite mental and emotional state to be happier.  The best way to see if it works for you is to try it out regularly for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference. If it does, use it. If not, find out what makes you happy and do that. But, I can guarantee that criticizing other peoples ideas or choices about what makes them happy will not do it.

  • Adam Hunter Peck

    I've had the pleasure of working with Nataly; she is an amazing, brilliant, and inspiring woman who makes everyone around her happier. I'm thrilled to see positive media coverage for this life-affirming app. Go Nataly! 

  • Bill Hewson

    Good for you Nataly, you are awesome for not letting others stop you from bringing your vision to life despite critics and naysayers. I can't wait to go download your app, I wish you the best of success!

  • Tyson Goodridge

    Bill- Stars must be aligned- you know Nataly as well? She is the best...

  • roblimo

    So to be happy, the first step is to buy an iPhone so I can use this iPhone-only app? Good to know. An expensive new car might make me happy, too. But I can't afford one. Guess I'll just have to go on enjoying being miserable. Oh, well.

  • Guest

    What this article doesn't touch upon is the science behind this app idea. Making a list of 3 positive things that happened each day (I believe) is proven to make you a more positive, more productive person. So, you could do this with a pen and paper -- keep a happier journal. 

  • Jack Ricchiuto

    The global research I did for my recent "The Joy Of Thriving" clearly supports the reality that for the happiest people on the planet, happiness is a function of focus. This app helps make that possible, so no "it" doesn't "make" people happy, it does facilitate the core of happiness as focus. A great idea.