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Happify: A Professional Review

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Happify: For Stress & Worry Screenshots

Pros

  • Free version is offered with less options (paid version is robust)
  • Assessment questions individually pinpoint specific activities
  • 60+ tracks provide evidence-based exercises developed by experts in the field
  • Accessibility features for those who are blind or visually impaired
  • Combines many individual apps into one

Cons

  • Paid version is $14.95 a month, about the cost of a co-pay of medication
  • Only the paid version offers insights into progress and unlimited access to tracks
  • No clear indication of what happens if someone discusses self-harm in the Happify community, although there is a support email address in the Rules and Guidelines section


Reviewed on: October 28, 2019

About this Professional

Ellen Belluomini, Ph.D., MSW

Reading Time: 5 minutes Dr. Ellen Belluomini is an Assistant Professor in the Masters of Social Work program at Brandman University and the founder of Intentional Systems Mentoring, a future forward consulting firm. Dr. Belluomini is the author of the blog “Bridging the Digital Divide in Social Work Practice” and has written about challenges and opportunities of technology for social work practice.

Product Description

Happify offers a range of activities based upon assessment questions identifying areas in a person’s life needing support. Exercises based upon health and well-being, relationships, family and kids, mindfulness, medication, work and money, and personal growth. Each exercise is designed to improve happiness and develop positive habits. For example, one exercise, “the power of positive thinking” trains your brain to choose a positive mood through a game. Hot air balloons lift to the air with words like “respect, vitality, fortunate” or “stress, fright, boring”. The user progresses through levels by clicking on only the “positive thoughts.” Users can expand on their gratitude by taking a photo of something they are grateful for, then posting it to the community and describing why the picture embodies gratitude. “Smell the roses,” asks users to step outside and open all of their senses to nature with specific prompts. A “give” activity will encourage a user to plan an act of kindness and share their experience. The diversity of this app allows users to pick and choose from a vast array of tracks with many options. 

Three to four activities are offered each day. Completion of an exercise can take anywhere from a minute to ten minutes. The activities can be accomplished all at once or as needed during the day. Tasks can be accomplished within the app, such as games and meditations, or  require an action outside of the app (like being with nature or committing to an activity). The user commits to a track to complete. This track offers specific activities addressing topics from health and wellbeing, relationships, family and kids, work and money, etc. If the user finds themselves needing a “pick me up” they can also go to their instant play screen for an immediate uplifting activity. 

Recommendations for Use

This app can be used by anyone from consumers to clinicians, and is suitable for those who are not engaged with a licensed professional. Using the guided activities provided can supplement each person’s self-care routine. Some people may just need a pick me up or reminder during the day about being in the present moment. Others may benefit from the added support of the Happify community. Frequency of use depends upon the need for a shift in mood or commitment to developing new habits; for example, a person could use the app either at set times during the day and/or when negative thoughts intrude upon their mood.  The mindfulness practices within the app will provide a path for people to identify when an exercise is most needed. Happify is most beneficial to people who utilize their phones or computers regularly, but the less technology minded would also find it easy to use. 

Clinicians can use Happify as an adjunct to the therapeutic process. These exercises support many therapy models and theories including CBT, DBT, Motivational Interviewing, Positive Psychology, etc. While some of the tasks may seem too simple for some clients, clinicians should discuss the reasons these easy exercises work to improve mental health to supplement the information within the app. As usual, if this is a prescribed app, in order to help client’s efficacy, the clinician should develop an understanding of how to use it themselves, and be able to explain various different settings to the client; for example, education may be needed to let clients know if they choose to use a public mode with pictures. Clients whom can benefit from Happify can range in  age from middle school on up. Clients should be encouraged to use it daily for two – three weeks, at which point clinicians can review app statistics and outcomes with clients if permission is given. 

Content

There are four main sections of the Happify app. The home screen is “My Track” displaying progress, statistics, track options, prior community posts, and a personality assessment option. The “Instant Play” screen provides direct links to activities in the areas of Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give, Empathy and Recommended. There is a wide range of activities available which would keep a user engaged and interested. Activities can be personalized through short journal entries, photos, and an evaluation of how enjoyable the task was. The app  provides levels and badges tracking your progress, which can act as a reinforcement to drive motivation. The “Happify Daily” screen offers readers articles about making positive life changes, uplifting stories, education about mental health, and life hacks. The “Community” tab connects each user to the Happify Community. This is an active community of support for people using the app, and users can see featured posts of the day, posts the user is following, and group topics the app supports. The community tab is not as responsive as a post to other social media platforms, for example a Facebook Group, but there is current activity.

Once a user selects an activity to perform there is a selection of three tabs. The evidence-based content is impressive within each of the tabs. This section offers “You Decide How” (the task), “Why it Works” (the research), and “Benefits” (what area it will help you in). “You Decide How” empowers the user with a choice of how to complete the task. The tab “Why it Works” within each task explains the science behind the activity, with relevant citations. The website offers a page of 348 citations describing the science of happiness research. The “Benefits” tab bullet points what the activity specifically focuses on for better mental health. The directions and research rationale are written in simple, informal language focused on empowerment.

Ease of Use and User Experience

Happify’s simple screens allow for an easily maneuverable interaction. Icons on the bottom of the screen easily identify common user sections. Set up may need a bit of problem solving and explanation. Some people may not be versed in why they are taking the assessment and how it applies to this app. After the initial set up and review, anyone should be able to follow the app prompts. Exercises and tasks present as simple and easily accomplished. I appreciate the choices available for use, from the timing of meditations to which task to start. The meditation voices modeled calm and soothing tones. Overall, this app provides a relatively seamless experience for the user to practice and reinforce positive habits. 

Visual Design and User Interface

Happify’s design reinforces their mission to develop skills promoting happiness. The color pallet is bright and cheerful. Each screen is free of clutter with visual icons and large font text for ease of use. As with most tools, the website offers a more expanded interface than the app, but the app is straightforward enough to be effective. Statistics of progress are presented in easy to understand graphic models. Each page design offers a balance of pictures and text. Photos within the app provided a range of ethnicity, gender, and age. Happify does not use ads for revenue, so no annoying pop ups interfere with use, and no anxiety provoking issues of use were found from the design aspect. 

Overall Impression

Initially, I was skeptical about the use of Happify for my own personal use, but I enjoyed using this app. The features did seem too simple, but then I read the research behind each activity, and I found myself more engaged than I expected. My favorite part were activities which brought me forward to mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness more frequently did provide me with a noticeable lift to my spirits. 

The educator/therapist in me reviewed each contributor and the research behind the exercises. The tasks involved mirror many assignments I provide for my clients. The Happify app makes this type of homework easy to access and track. Motivation to track behavior is difficult with many clients. Happify uses motivational interviewing techniques which may support people vacillating about using an app for therapeutic uses. Integrating this app for use with clients may provide an exceptional tool for use in their toolkit. 

Click here to read more about Happify