Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 2:13 pm | Partly Cloudy 68º



UpJoy Aims to Promote Positivity at Work and Home with Free Web App

The Santa Barbara-based startup launches a tool designed to encourage users to take a break from routine to improve their mood

In another mind-numbing rut at work? Perhaps a picture of a curled-up kitten, heroic sports montage or video compilation of high-five fails could do the trick.

Mental health can be just as important as the physical, which is why Santa Barbara startup UpJoy has launched two versions of its web-based tool promoting positivity at work and at home.

Corporations have been piloting wellness and fee-based since July, but the company just began making a free version of the app available for individuals at

UpJoy, which is a subsidiary of local firm SelfEcho, is proven by science and psychologists, according to its developers, and encourages folks break from the norm a few minutes a day to gaze at adorable memes, watch YouTube videos or get lost in other materials gathered from the interwebs.

The idea came out of work SelfEcho has already been doing the past two years to produce Mobile Therapy, technology that could soon improve wellness in the mental health industry by allowing clinical psychologists and medical professionals to track patient well-being between sessions, according to SelfEcho CEO Jacques Habra.

Individuals can sign up to UpJoy and create customized feeds of positive media to be watched whenever and wherever users need a silver lining.

Creativity and productively are supposed to follow.

“We’re in the business of using technology and science to improve well-being,” Habra said. “In the meantime, mental health is an issue for a much broader community of people.”

While many might already be periodically turning to their Facebook news feed or reaching for a shot of espresso, UpJoy offers a more positive experience by displaying uplifting messages not tied to people we know, said Jonathan Schooler, a UC Santa Barbara psychology professor and a member of UpJoy’s research team.

Research shows people compare themselves to others on Facebook, he said, since users engage in self-promotion of relationships, vacations, babies and more.

UpJoy is also less text-heavy than the popular, similarly named UpWorthy, he said.

Exposure to UpJoy can immediately shift moods by breaking every 20 minutes or for just 10 or 15 minutes per day, depending on profession, Schooler said.

“We need to take breaks from time to time or you become stale,” he said. “This product is designed to help people take the right breaks at the right time and improve their moods. People that give it a shot have given us really positive feedback.”

Fewer than 1,000 users are currently taking advantage of UpJoy, although interest in the corporate version has ranged from companies as large as Anthem Blue Cross to 100-person startups, said Habra, who wouldn’t name any local or national businesses using the product because of confidentiality reasons.

“Corporations have a lot more control over when and how UpJoy breaks are disseminated, more bells and whistles,” he said.

UpJoy content can be shared via email and across social media, including on Facebook, where Habra hopes to nab some of the site’s 1.3 billion users.

“We’re hoping in the millions,” Habra said. “As we learn more and more about what people want, we’ll continue to modify the system. Today it’s still a scientifically validated merit that hasn’t gone mainstream. We’re excited about it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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