Staying positive isn’t always easy. While finding formulas for happiness may seem like science fiction, a new discipline of psychology known as "positive psychology" has emerged to do just that.
The positive psychology movement examines “the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.”
The discipline focuses on helping people adopt positive emotions and traits that make them happier, to make the world more lively, one person at a time.
For years, traditional social media companies such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have conducted a vast global experiment on billions of users - how to exploit users’ psychology for profit. They have successfully fine-tuned their algorithms to maximize the collection of users’ data that they can then sell to advertisers and other companies.
But when the rate of major depressive episodes in female adolescents doubles in just five years, we cannot ignore their approach's societal and individual costs.
My Stories Matter believes social engagement is essential but should value users' well-being. We built our engagement platform on positive psychology and academic research on emotional well-being and meaningful connection.
What is Positive Psychology?
Martin Seligman, the founder of the positive psychology movement, created an “outline for happiness” in his PERMA model.
Incorporating positive psychology into our digital interactions can help us to use our time online for good.
Here is an outline of each component of the model and an explanation of how My Stories Matter incorporates positive psychology:
P – Positive Emotions
The first aspect of positive psychology involves positive emotions.
According to psychologist Mariana Pascha, “focusing on positive emotions is more than smiling: it is the ability to remain optimistic and view one’s past, present, and future from a constructive perspective.”
Life is full of ups and downs, but focusing on the ups will improve mood and well-being in the long run.
Fortunately, this optimistic perspective comes naturally to older people. The phenomenon of “nostalgia goggles” leads older adults to naturally focus on life’s positive aspects when reminiscing, with negative memories fading into the background.
But nostalgia doesn’t always have to involve purely positive experiences. When we are nostalgic, our brains can stimulate our reward system in times of adversity and overwrite recalled memories more positively after reflective experiences.
My Stories Matter elicits the recall of fond memories because they tap into a powerful source of positivity that is resilient even to the most challenging circumstances.
E – Engagement
We all have a hobby that makes time fly by—it truly engages, delights, and immerses us in the moment.
These moments of immersion potentiate our well-being, grounding us and reminding us of what we genuinely care about.
The social shift caused by the coronavirus has significantly impacted people's mental health worldwide. A Forbes survey shows that four in 10 four out of ten adults (40%) felt stressed, and one in every four people (27%) experienced sadness.
Even before the pandemic, the founders of My Stories Matter were concerned about aspects of traditional social media, such as carefully curated and filtered photographs and performative posts.
We designed My Stories Matter to provide a different experience focusing on long-form content promoting authentic and meaningful engagement.
R – (Positive) Relationships
Forming deep and meaningful relationships with others.
Another essential aspect of positive psychology is forming strong social networks, living longer, accomplishing more, and having better health than more isolated ones.
Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman even calls human connection a superpower that makes us brighter, happier, and more productive.
But those networks can be challenging to maintain in a socially distanced world. America faces a loneliness epidemic—46% of Americans frequently feel alone, and 47% reported feeling left out.
Moreover, research shows that feeling lonely, physically isolated, or alone can increase mortality more than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes daily. Unless you actively fight it, loneliness can take years off your life!
Digital social engagement can complement face-to-face interactions and remove barriers of geography and time. One way to build positive relationships from a distance is to employ the power of storytelling.
Storytelling is in our DNA. For millennia, humans have used storytelling to share knowledge and pass down wisdom from generation to generation.
Research shows that when a story engages you, you experience the same brain pattern as the person. You develop empathy because you “live the experience” of the person telling the story.
Empathetic connections created through storytelling can help counter the adverse effects of social isolation by bringing people together in a mutual experience.
M – Meaning
Having meaning and purpose in our lives is essential to our well-being.
Research shows that people shift their priorities from social approval to societal approval to self-approval as they age. Older people focus more on cultivating meaningful relationships with loved ones than growing massive social networks like their younger counterparts.
But meaningful online interactions aren’t only crucial to older people. Research claims that self-disclosure is vital in eliciting positive emotions from online interactions for all age groups.
Sharing personal, meaningful information is crucial to digital and face-to-face intimacy. It reflects our most authentic selves and allows us to form strong bonds with others.
Self-disclosure can be anything from recording life stories, sharing personal challenges, or expressing gratitude to people who have impacted our life beyond sharing memes.
A – Accomplishment / Achievement
We are at our best when we succeed, achieve our goals, and improve ourselves.
But as we age, it’s also important to remember everything we’ve already achieved—having a successful career, starting a family, or fighting for the causes we care about. My Stories Matter enables users to share memories of those achievements to boost positive feelings of accomplishment while simultaneously providing the joy of reminiscing.
However, remembering accomplishments isn’t always enough to make us truly happy. One crucial component of deriving joy from your successes is legacy—using your values or achievements to help others find future success.
My Stories Matter enables users to share their hard-earned wisdom and knowledge with others. By sharing life advice and career advice, older users can provide a source of valuable information, understanding, and comfort, all while gaining greater satisfaction from their achievements.
A Platform That Uses Positive Psychology
My Stories Matter follows Seligman’s PERMA model to create an environment of acceptance and belonging filled with the warmth of human connection.