A new app has all sorts of games and activities that were built to increase your happiness scale. A new app has all sorts of games and activities that were built to increase your happiness scale. A new app has all sorts of games and activities that were built to increase your happiness scale. (Photo: PathDoc / Shutterstock)

Can you use your phone to find happiness?

Research by renowned psychologist inspires new tool to help users develop positive habits.

Happiness isn’t just a state of mind – it’s a skill you can develop. Happify is a new web platform with an accompanying app based on five key happiness skills: savoring, thanking, aspiring, giving and empathizing. By developing these skills, the thinking goes, you can improve your emotional well-being.

Israeli entrepreneurs Ofer Leidner and Tomer Ben-Kiki, both graduates of Tel Aviv University, co-created the app. Leidner says he was inspired to develop the app after reading "Flourish," a book about understanding happiness and well-being by American psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman.

Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is known as a pioneer of positive psychology. His theory is that happiness can be cultivated through skills that can be learned; by learning to think more objectively about the past and more positively about the future, you can be happier in the present.

“The ingredients for happy or fully lived lives are skills that you can actually teach people. It's something you can learn and develop,” Leidner told Fast Company.

Leidner says all of the activities presented in Happify are based on science, from the benefits of meditation as explored by researchers at the University of Minnesota, Duke University and the Wake Forest School of Medicine, to the science of goal setting and goal pursuit.

Using Happify is easy: After you create an account, Happify will ask you a series of questions to assess your current level of happiness, and then suggest various “tracks,” which include physical, mental and emotional exercises designed to get you thinking and acting more positively.

Activities range from playing an online game called Uplift, in which you have to find and click balloons with positive words on them among a sky full of negative sentiments, or a “gratitude walk,” giving thanks for something with every step.

So what is happiness? According to Acacia Parks, assistant professor of psychology at Hiram College, it’s not feeling ecstatic all the time or the short-term excitement of a pay raise or a new car, but rather a sense of personal satisfaction, how you feel on a day-to-day basis and finding meaning in work and relationships.

Happify works on a "freemium" model, offering a large chunk of its program for free, and charging for premium content.

Happify works on a "freemium" model, offering a large chunk of its program for free, and charging for premium content.

“There is conclusive evidence that success in life flows from being happy first – we don’t get happier because we reach our goals, we reach our goals because we start in an emotionally flourishing place,” writes Caroline Adams Miller, author of " Creating Your Best Life."

Happify reports that 86% of its users report feeling happier after just two months of using the program. Of course it takes time and commitment on the part of users to make it work: Happify suggests using the app at least three times a week to maintain health, just like you might go to the gym three times per week to maintain your figure.

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