In this final email, I am sharing a resource that I hope will help you continue to use psychology in your own life over the summer – and to learn more about the science of well-being in the process. The app Happify brings together psychologists and technology experts and draws on the principles behind gaming and technology to engage users with evidence-based activities that promote well-being. Many of these activities draw on areas of research that I have shared with you over the past few weeks or that you might be familiar with from your psychology classes, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, positive psychology, and mindfulness. You can sign up for a free Happify membership to access their “tracks” – sets of activities that progress to achieve different goals, like coping with stress or improving your sleep. (Although there is an option to pay for more options through “Happify Plus,” you do not need to pay to use many of Happify’s resources!)
Dr. Acacia Parks, the Chief Scientific Officer at Happify, recommends reading this article for an introduction to Happify and how it came to be. A randomized controlled trial found that users assigned to the Happify app who completed 2-3 activities each week were more resilient and reported less depression and anxiety than users in a control condition or users assigned to the Happify app who did not achieve the recommended level of use. Completing a greater number of activities and engaging with the activities over a longer period of time has also been found to predict more positive outcomes for Happify users. Importantly, this second study found no difference in the degree to which users with and without chronic health conditions were able to benefit from using the app – suggesting that these exercises can help improve your well-being even if you are coping with challenging circumstances.
I have enjoyed sharing these positive exercises with you over the past few months. Thank you for the good things, #MuseumChallenge artwork, creative photographs, and all of the other positive ideas you’ve shared with me!
Positive Psychology Exercises for the Summer: Happify
Check out Happify to explore a wide range of evidence-based activities designed to promote well-being and reduce distress. Various “tracks” include activities related to goals such as reducing stress, increasing gratitude, and strengthening your social connections. The website also provides a great range of resources to learn more about the science of happiness and well-being.
Parks, A. C., Williams, A. L., Tugade, M. M., Hokes, K. E., Honomichl, R. D. & Zilca, R. D. (2018). Testing a scalable web and smartphone based intervention to improve depression, anxiety and resilience: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Wellbeing, 8(2), 22-67. https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v8i2.745
Abstract: Psychological interventions targeting wellbeing can reliably increase wellbeing and decrease depressive symptoms. However, only a handful of studies have implemented wellbeing interventions online, and those studies have largely done so in a way that prioritizes experimental control over realism and scalability. We sought to take existing wellbeing interventions with established efficacy and to evaluate their impact when translated into a format that is publicly accessible, scalable, and designed with the goal of engaging users. Participants in this fully online trial were first-time registrants of the Happify platform, a fully automated web and mobile wellbeing intervention grounded in positive psychology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction, which has offered wellbeing programs to over 3 million registrants to date. Consenting participants were randomly assigned to access the full Happify platform or a psychoeducation comparison condition and further categorized by their usage during the study: recommended usage (a minimum of 2-3 activities per week) or low usage (usage less than the recommended level). Participants were assessed on depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and a composite measure of resilience at baseline and 8 weeks later. Participants who used Happify at the recommended level reported fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms and greater resilience after 8 weeks than participants who used Happify at a low level or participants who used the psychoeducation condition at any level. The Happify group also experienced greater rates of reduction in depression and anxiety symptom severity category, and had a greater net benefit (% users who improved minus % users who deteriorated), compared to the other groups. The results of this study suggest a successful first attempt at implementing and scaling a comprehensive package of lab-tested wellbeing interventions without losing efficacy.