Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An App to Make You Happier

I've now been using the Happier app for a year.

In honor of that anniversary, here's an article I wrote about the app featuring some local users.

Amy Oliver wanted to follow her therapist’s advice.

“She wanted me to start keeping a gratitude journal,” recalls Oliver, a 44 year old who lives in Clinton. “And I was constantly forgetting.”

Then she remembered an app called Happier that she’d seen on the iPhone app store. “I thought maybe that would be a good way to do it, to keep track of things without having to write it in the journal every day,” she says. “I became hooked really, really quickly.”

Happier launched one year ago, and was named one of 2013’sbest apps by Time Magazine. The brainchild of Nataly Kogan, Happier is based on scientific studies showing that people who write down a few positive things about their day are healthier, more energetic, less stressed and anxious, and get better sleep. The app makes it easy to share those little happy moments.

“If you actually use Happier, if you get into the habit of finding small positive things, it actually makes you happier,” says Kogan. “We have thousands, tens of thousands of emails from people that tell us just how much this has impacted their life, which is amazing.”

“It helped me to celebrate the tiny little moments that I might otherwise just forget about,” says Oliver. “The fact that other people can ‘smile’ at your moments, it helps me to realize that it’s not so stupid that I’m enjoying a coffee at Starbucks.”

Kogan sees these little moments as validation of a larger truth. “To be happy in life, you don’t need a billion dollars, you don’t need to go to the moon, you don’t need to have the perfect wife, husband, career – you can appreciate having a coffee at Starbucks. I can appreciate that I got in my car and had heated seats. I’m not going to post that on Facebook, it’s not a status update, it’s not anything epic. But you know what? I’m really grateful.”

Eighteen year old Rachel DeSilva, a senior at Spartanburg’s Chapman High, joined Happier with the intention of becoming more optimistic. “Before Happier I used Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr,” she says. “They're completely different because mostly people try to down you or complain or show how their life is better than yours in some way…But Happier is just everyone sharing their happy moments of the day and instead of ‘liking’ their status, you ‘smile’ at their happy moment. I personally love the confetti that it shows when you share your happier moment.”

Kogan recently launched a 21-day gratitude course that can be taken within the Happier app. She’s following that up with a 7-day meditation course and, later, a short yoga course. It’s all about finding ways to look for good things even when things don’t seem so good.

“It’s a place for teaching each other that these tiny moments are there, even on the bad days,” says Kogan, “and, yeah, you actually should appreciate them. It’s a moment, it’s not just the blur of life.”