Want to be happy? Of course you do. Then, you might want to check out Happify–a new platform full of activities aimed at making you feel better about yourself.
You start by answering some personal questions–age, work situation, relationship status, kids–and making some self-assessments, like how well you deal with setbacks and whether you find life exciting or boring. Based on this, Happify will recommend a “track” for you, like “build self-confidence” or “appreciate what you have” (you can also choose one yourself).
Once you’ve got a goal, you begin the activities. Say you want to make “more time for yourself.” You might take a “body scan meditation” (find a quiet space and imagine a scanner going over your body). Or, if you want more confidence, you could play a game called “Uplift,” where you get points for clicking on hot air balloons containing positive words.
This may sound trite or insubstantial. But Happify is predicated on the legitimate science of positive psychology. “The common finding is that happiness is a skill,” says Ofer Leidner, one of three co-founders. “The ingredients for happy or fully lived lives are skills that you can actually teach people. It’s something you can learn and develop.”
In exchange for completing activities on Happify, you gets points across five key skill-sets: “savoring,” “thanking,” “aspiring,” “giving,” and “empathizing.” Savoring is about being present in what you’re doing, and not letting your mind wander to other things. Thanking is about being grateful for what you have, and taking pleasure in small things, and so on. According to Leidner, these are the building blocks to a happier life, based on about 25 years of research.
Positive psychology is different from traditional psychology. Rather than treating mental illness, it’s about teaching people to live fulfilling lives. The “father” of the field is Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1960s, Seligman was part of the team that came up with the theory of “learned helplessness,” which gives reasons for why some people cope better with setbacks than others. Since the late 1980s, Seligman has proposed a theory of optimism as a way of building personal resilience.
Leidner says all the activities on Happify have research underpinnings. For example, the meditation activity is based on neuro-imaging studies (“meditation can lower high blood pressure and lessen chronic pain, anxiety, and depression”). Happify points to the involvement of best-selling authors in designing the tracks, and claims its research library is the most comprehensive ever assembled.
Still, it’s very much up to you to make yourself happier. Once you’ve completed an activity, you often need to blog about it. And, there’s a strong suggestion that happiness requires an investment of time (like exercising, you need to Happify three times a week to maintain health). Also, the site encourages interaction between members, which, like Facebook, means constant liking, linking, and acknowledgement. Happiness is hard work.
As for Happify itself, it recently announced seed funding of $3.8 million. 100,000 users tested out the platform during its beta period. Leidner points out people make 250 million Google searches a year for happiness topics, and that there are more than 23,000 books about well-being on Amazon. This suggests that Happify, which has a freemium model, could fill more than a niche, if people accept the happiness-as-skills premise.