Not a word you hear everyday, but it’s the name of a social media beta site: Happify.com.
The entire premise of the project is that happiness is a skill that can be learned, or at least improved upon, and that happiness habits can help the average person be happier/more positive on a daily basis. Before you roll your eyes or scoff at the idea, please keep in mind that there is growing interest in Positive Psychology, a sector of the psych field that connects the workings of the brain with good moods and positive feelings. Time magazine just did a big happiness spread, documentaries are being made, books are being written, all about the idea that science has more to do with our happiness and positive moods than we think. If you look at the attached chart, what do you see? Intentional activities is about 40% of humans’ chronic happiness levels. 40% of what you do with your time impacts our brain and body’s level of happiness. If you do some reading on your own, you’ll find that this research spans across more than this one study. Here’s a great TED Talk on the topic (thanks, Kate):
(Disclaimer: I’m totally aware that some of this may be quite trendy, but some – not all, but some – trends start for a reason: because people genuinely need something and when they find an in to what they need, they latch on. Plus with this trend, you can do a bunch of free reading and activities to get involved in it; it’s not a money-making scheme).
With such an abstract and relative concept such as happiness, it’s difficult to 1) quantify it, and 2) put it in a box. Everybody has their own ideas about ‘What makes you happy?’, but a very different question is, ‘How do we become happy?’ In other words, ‘What happens in our brains when we get in a better mood?’ When we ‘happify’ ourselves?
Answer the first question – what makes you happy? – however you want. In that question we’re talking about mostly outside forces that enter your world and put a smile on your face, or at least lift your spirits a little. I could answer: phone calls with my gram, hang-out time with my friends, quality time with my husband, holidays back home. But about the brain’s process of being in a positive mood on a regular basis, that’s a very different concept. And according to Happify, it’s a set of habits that we form which help us up our level of happiness.
Being a social media site created by scientists and game designers, Happify allows users to participate in and subsequently post on various happiness skills. They put 5 specific skills into a framework they call S.T.A.G.E.:
I was e-mailed about a month ago by a Happify admin asking me to be a Happify Pioneer. I am one of thousands using the site. I was asked via Life’s So Sweet, likely because I focus on positive living. Happify is a risk-free, novel social media semi-presence (it’s in beta testing), so I figured what the heck. My step-mom helped me look up some positive and negative reviews, and my publisher said it was a good idea. So here I am one month into the project, and here’s what I think:
While I am not yet convinced the individual’s long-term usefulness of this social media (and please keep in mind that if there are two sides of a fence, Social Media LOVE and Social Media DIS-LOVE, I am on the DIS-LOVE side for sure), I do absolutely believe in its premise. In my daily interactions, especially in my line of work of counseling, helping people focus on savoring, thanking, aspiring, giving, and empathizing, has the distinct power to change people’s lives. Case in point:
Who’s the crabbiest person you know? Now, keep them as a main character in this scenario. They are A, you are B.
A wakes up and looks out the window. “Ugh! Another sunny day! Can’t we get some damn rain around here? I hate this place.” A trudges to the bathroom to begin her daily routine: wash her face, brush her teeth, shower, stretch, dress, eat breakfast, and go to work. All the while, A grumbles, “I’m gonna have to stop at the store for toothpaste. Uh. Just one more thing to do today,” and things of the like.
A walks into her office. B says, “Good morning, A! Another beautiful day, huh?” “Yeah,” A replies. “And we’re stuck here.” In complete contradiction to her complaint when she woke up when she didn’t care about the beautiful day; she wanted rain. But people like A find a way to complain about everything, even if they contradict themselves.
B feels defeated. Every morning she says hello to A, sometimes even offering her Starbucks coffee, and every morning B is greeted with the same scowl.
And so it goes. A is known as Miss Crabbers. Until someone recommends she try Happify.
“Happify? Seriously? What the hell is that?”
B appeals to A’s sense of novelty and power: A will try anything that’s new and semi-exclusive. “It’s this new thing,” B tells A. “Only a few thousand people are being allowed to try it. It’s kind of a focus on positivity and stuff.” (B needs to downplay what could potentially be a deal-breaker for A).
But A tries it because she likes to feel in control and like she has a say in new products. A says, with a snarky tone to her voice, “Sure, send me an invite. I’d love to tell those Happify people what I think.”
You know the kind… never satisfied, always grumbling, can’t stand to be around others’ joy. She even once told someone to ‘Put that smile away. It’s only Tuesday for cryin’ out loud. You can smile on Friday.’ Well, after A spends four weeks on Happify – dutifully doing her Exploring the Art in Happiness track and completing her activities, A starts greeting B in the morning with a ‘Hello’ instead of a grumble. No smile yet, but old habits are hard to break. After another month of Happify (and successfully completing the Get Unstuck track, with only one 7-day extension), A even starts sitting with a group of women from the office during their lunch hour. It’s not Happify that has made her happier. It is the habits that Happify is trying to teach that are helping A become a happier, healthier version of herself. Happify creators are passionate about that, and they want users – eventually everyone in the world J – to focus on STAGE. So with A, if she wanted to successfully complete the track – and finishing a task is very important to power-driven A – she had to legitimately think about what she could savor in a given day, what she appreciated about her life, how she could put herself in another’s shoes, what she could aspire to that would be motivating enough to take action. Simple, small, almost infantile habits that the general population seems bent on ignoring. A stops using Happify after about 6 months, but her life has just about done a 180: she is in a relationship with a man she met while skydiving, she has girlfriends for the first time since high school, and she picked up recreational swimming and enjoys daily laps at her local YMCA. All because she got a little kick in the behind from Happify to focus on the positive.
Happify backs up its activities with scientific reasons for each task and users can easily look up any one of the studies Happify references, as they are linked to each activity. As with any social media, users follow other users and comment on others’ posts. If you like social media novelties and you like focusing on the positive and sharing it with others, or if you know someone like A who desperately needs to get out of the bitter barn and play in the hay – I recommend trying Happify. It’s kind of a back-to-basics mood improvement exercise that takes little-to-no time, so it’s virtually hassle-free and you don’t have to read an entire self-help book to learn a thing or two. It’s in the beta stage so you’ll have to put up with a few minor annoyances, but you’d be in on something new, from the ground floor, and 10-to-1 you’ll come away with a heightened awareness of STAGE in your life.
I have two freebie invitations I would love to give away! Send me your e-mail address via comment or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will happily send you an invitation. Time requirement is about 30-45 minutes per week, max. Think of all the time-suck Facebook time you could trade for something that is 100% positive! 😉