Why I Made the Grateful App
Toward the end of 2015, I noticed that my last thing before I went to bed would often be checking my phone. This was my ritual, created unintentionally. Though catching up on the latest social network post was fun, the overall experience, after the phone was set down, was unfulfilling.
We all have a say in what we choose to focus on. I wanted something more reflective and positive to end my day with, especially on the rough days. When I thought of the end of a day, I noticed how the night offers a wonderful decrescendo to the rhythm of a day. That allows space for reflection and intimacy — using that time with technology felt wrong.
A gratitude journal felt like the right solution. This would be a moment to remember that every day has something to be grateful for and would allow me to end the day in a reflective and positive state. But, as anyone who has tried a gratitude journal before knows, it’s hard to stick with it. A new habit is hard to form, especially one that demands attention at the end of day where attention may be drained.
I thought about how I might meet myself where I was, with a new solution. This is one of the most important lessons I learned from design school: in order to make something people will use, build based on how someone is currently interacting with the world. (This is why early computer interfaces closely resembled physical offices.)
So, where was I? I had my phone in my hand, responding to lingering messages. My gratitude journal out of sight. So I thought: what if my gratitude journal texted me? Then, just as I would feel the need to respond to a text message, I would feel the need to respond to my journal.
I built Grateful App so that I could end my day on a reflective and positive note, while being realistic about that fact that my phone was going to be nearby at the end of most days. In doing so, I took a step in a direction I’ve always wanted to go: exploring how technology can be used as a way to elevate consciousness (not simply intelligence).
Today anyone can signup for and use Grateful App. Messages of gratitude are kept private for just the sender to read. 100s of people are already using it.
I have used Grateful App for 365 consecutive days now, fulfilling a one year promise to myself. Here are some things that surprised me from my own usage (I’m sure you will find your own):
- People Are Paramount – I did not anticipate how many of my messages would be about the people I spent my time with during that day and the little joys in my interactions with them. This seems painfully obvious now but this was implicit gratitude I was now making explicit as the thing I was grateful for that day. This understanding has made me focus more on the people in my life.
- New Material Things Mattered, But Way Less – The interesting thing with every piece of gratitude being the same statistical weight (one text message) is that it puts into context quantity, normalizing spikes in data. A new material thing would be the focus of a day, or a few days, but people and simple joys always outweighed material things in sheer volume.
- Trends Form, These Matter – The things that really matter to you emerge over time. This will change how you focus your energy, how you see the things, and how you make decisions. I had consistent patterns of people, work, values, and things that caught my eye. I noticed these patterns even more as time went on.
- Maya Angelou was right, “[people] will remember how you made them feel.” – Countless entries were about the way someone chose to interact with me that day or a tiny glimpse of humanity that came out of an otherwise stale interaction. This makes me think more about the way I chose to interact with others.
Where to From Here
I had originally planned on this being a one year experiment but at the end of that year, through my own experience and the feedback of many trusted others, I see no reason to stop. Grateful App will remain active, using a $1.15/month subscription model, and I will continue to add functionality. Enjoy and remember your small moments of gratitude.
Want to give it a try? Signup for Grateful App.
This post originally appeared on Medium.