The Daily App: Think Positive With Live Happy
Can an app make you happier? Live Happy gives it a shot, putting a handful of proven positivity boosters at users' fingertips.
The field of psychology initially grew out of a concern and interest in mental illness and other pathologies of the mind, but in recent years, a growing number of academics and professionals, led initially by Dr. Martin Seligman, have turned their attention to the study of positive emotions.
As a result, positive psychology -- the study of how to boost and sustain expansive states of mind such as happiness, confidence and joy -- has exploded in recent years, backed up by a growing body of academic research and interest. The surging interest is fueling a slate of best-selling books and popular websites, as well as a new generation of apps that promise to leverage the convenience and omnipresence of mobile devices to foster happiness in our everyday lives.
What's the App?
The "Live Happy" app -- available for iOS for $1 and developed by Signal Patterns with positive psychology pioneer Sonia Lyubomirsky, author of "The How of Happiness" and professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside -- is a mobile-based "happiness-boosting" program offering a set of daily activities and exercises designed to foster both short- and long-term happiness.
The chosen activities, which are based on Lyubomirsky's happiness research and make up key elements of her bestselling book, are relatively simple: keeping a gratitude journal, assembling photo albums of particularly cherished memories, setting and defining meaningful goals, recording acts of kindness, as well as meditations on how you want to live your life and who you want to be. Anyone with a passing interest in self-improvement -- or a cursory interest in Oprah Winfrey -- is aware of the positive impact these activities can have.
Though simple, research has shown that deliberate, mindful, regular engagement in these actions does boost relative happiness in people. The key, however, is in turning these activities into habits. The Live Happy app helps create a sense of structure and intention around these happiness boosters, helping to inculcate them into regular behavior patterns. In the same way that we can boost our physical health through daily exercise, the creators of Live Happy believe we can approach our mental and emotional health in the same deliberate manner.
You'll Want It If...
You're a self-help enthusiast -- or just someone with an interest in being pro-active about the amount of happiness and well-being in your life -- and you want something at your fingertips to help engage you in your pursuit of happiness. Users start off in the app by taking surveys that show personality strengths and current moods, for example; the app then reveals recommended activities for you. You can choose to enter something in a gratitude journal, record an act of kindness, set and delineate steps towards a goal or take part in other activities. The app keeps a record of all your happiness app activities, and you can also share your progress via Facebook and Twitter.
There's often a danger with this type of content to be glib and facile, but the Live Happy app avoids this trap. The overall look-and-feel of the happy is bright and cheerful, but beyond the perky aesthetics, there's actually a lot of content in the app -- video content, for example, as well as an "Ask" section that features Lyubomirsky's advice to reader-submitted issues. The navigation is simple and basic, almost too much so -- users need to explore a bit and poke around until they discover the real assets of the app, like its customization features and the deeper content on positive psychology in general.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
There's a lot that works with Live Happy -- the activities highlighted by the app are all proven mood-boosters, and the program itself is easy to use and fun to engage in. Some features -- like the photo-album making features, and expressing gratitude towards loved ones -- are well-structured, while other features, like the goal-setting section, are simply basic and could do with a little more customization or options. The app in general is very buggy -- in my experience, it crashed randomly, introduction screens keep popping up even when I asked not to see them any longer, and the app "stuck" in certain sections, refusing to let me navigate elsewhere. Other users have noted the bugginess of the app, so the developers may want to finesse future updates and improve implementation. For frustrated users seeking an alternative, Mindbloom has garnered praise for its beautiful, elegant design and game-based approach to positivity and inspiration.
Overall, the Live Happy app does fall slightly short of the happiness-boosting program it sells itself as, most likely because it doesn't feel like it's truly leveraging all the capabilities of a mobile device. It doesn't use reminders -- a powerful feature of many mobile apps, for example -- to help keep happiness at top-of-mind for users, and in the end, the app feels like a useful set of tools, but not necessarily a comprehensive approach to positivity. Still, anyone seriously engaged in the pursuit of happiness will find aspects of it useful. ♦
Categories: Lifestyle | The Daily App