October 30, 2013
Launched last week, New York City startup Happify is turning the latest research in positive psychology and neuroscience into daily activities to make us happier.
Happify starts with a test to calculate your happiness score – from 1 to 100 – by asking about your emotions, relationships, work, and leisure time. Based on that quiz, it recommends a track: for example, coping better with stress, unlocking career opportunities, or avoiding negative thoughts. That track includes four weeks of activities, exercises, and games that can be done online or on Happify’s iPhone app.
Tomer Ben-Kiki, Ofer Leidner, and Andy Parsons started Happify two years ago to bring happiness research to the mainstream: from the labs at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and Stanford into our homes. Now, about 100,000 people are currently getting happier on Happify.
The activities focus on five core emotional skills:
- Savoring: This includes mindfulness, being present, and enjoying what’s happening now.
- Thanking and gratitude
- Aspiring: This includes having meaning, hope, and resilience in your life.
For example, Happify’s Uplift game helps cultivate gratitude and positivity with colorful balloons: you click on ones with positive words, and avoid balloons with negative words. This simple game can actually combat the negativity bias, which urges us to seek out negative things for evolutionary and survival reasons.
The Happify exercise Three Good Things – writing down three positive events at the end of the day – is grounded in multiple scientific studies and shown to increase happiness. Apparently the writing part is crucial; just thinking about good things doesn’t work as well.
Each activity comes with a “Why It Works” section – notes about the rationale behind it – and links to scientific research if you want to learn more. Happify’s advisors include coaches and PhDs in positive psychology and neuroscience who help ensure that the exercises are doing their job.
During its beta test, Happify helped 86 percent of users see increases in their happiness – a result that’s inspiring to the founders, who come from a background in gaming.
“We hoped that we could find something more meaningful to do with this skill set besides getting people to click on purple cows,” says Leidner.
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