Positive Psychology and Encourageing Thanfulness for Others

This quarter I’m in a positive psychology research group led by Sean Munson. The past few weeks we have been ideating and designing new ways to promote health and wellness though positive psychology and social technologies.

After an initial brainstorming session I presented three design ideas to the group. I then took my favorite and then further developed my favorite into a prototype.

It’s an app which for now I am calling “Thankfulness Letters”.
Project goal: Encourage people to express thankfulness and/or care to and for their friends.

Here is my initial storyboard


ThankfullnessLettersStoryboard_2 Note: after discussion with my group, I switched from paper letters to emails to avoid potential user awkwardness and the “creepy stalker” factor. I realized that it is pretty common to have email addresses, but far less common to have email addresses.






A study  on positive psychology methods by Martin Seligman and Tracy Steen (University of Pennsylvania), Nansook Park (University of Rhode Island), and Christopher Peterson (University of Michigan) showed that expressing thankfulness to others is one method that is potentially very effective at promoting happiness in the person expressing thankfulness.

Why did I choose to design an app? Yes, there is an app for everything… I chose an app however because I wanted to easily integrate my design into people’s normal lives, and my target user group (most people in the US) generally have smartphones.
How the project goals are met in the app:

  • Randomly generates a friend once per the set period of time (one week default)
  • Gives a example/prompt to send to the person – helps with writer’s block, and makes the writing process less awkward.
  • Connects to email
  • Reminders are ephemeral – a backlog would probably discourage people (feel bad for not talking to x person), or be overwelming if it gets too large. Also gives a sense of urgency.

Feature Interaction Requirements:

  • Need to be able to change default time increments
  • Visual design needs to be accessible to visually impaired

Visual Design Look/Feel:

  • Happy
  • Peaceful
  • Caring

I also made an Axure Prototype.


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