UCSB Psychology Students Create Website to Promote Well-being, Self-Improvement

Two students in UCSB’s psychology department played a part in launching a new website called UpJoy.me, a site that works to promote positive moods, productivity and relaxation after just a few minutes of use.

Created through the self-improvement company SelfEcho, UpJoy offers an expansive collection of pictures and short videos possessing mood-improving characteristics, which are organized into simple categories that cater to users’ preferences. UpJoy went live at the end of February, and is now available to the public.

UCSB biopsychology students Tanya Valluri and Catarina Manahan were responsible for providing the preliminary content for the website. The creators said they made the site with both students and workers in mind, aiming to provide quick stress relief in a way that coincides with a busy schedule and fast-paced lifestyle.

Project Director DJ Wetmore said the concept behind the new startup came from a desire to counteract the overwhelming amount of “negative media” to which most people are exposed.

“When you turn on the news, most of what you see … tends to be scare-tactic negative — there’s a good amount of research that shows when you watch your local news … you tend to think your chances of being mugged or shot are much higher,” Wetmore said. “We wanted to come up with a way for people to have an outlet to access that would not only entertain them, but also increase their positivity.”

Wetmore said the research of renowned Professor of Psychology Barbara Fredrickson, which highlights the benefits associated with a positive mental orientation, provides much of the basis for the website’s strategy. According to Wetmore, Fredrickson’s focus is on “positive emotions and how they impact humans.”

“Her theory is called ‘broaden and build,’” Wetmore said, “that when we are in a positive mindset we become much more open to new ideas, we’re more creative, we’re more productive, we engage better in interpersonal relationships, we reduce our stress, we improve our cardiovascular health.”

Fourth-year biopsychology and communications double-major Valluri, who contributed to the project, said the video content is modeled off of websites such as Buzzfeed and YouTube, among others. Valluri cited their videos about travel as an example of the ways they try to spark inspiration in users.

“We have a lot of different traveling ones under motivation or inspiration that make you think about where you want to go or that are just awe inspiring places to visit,” Valluri said.

Wetmore also said the videos on the website are specifically chosen in order to appeal to the more positive range of human emotions.

“The idea is to choose media that either boosts peoples’ mood by making them laugh, connect with people by inspiring them or providing them with some sort of affirmation, or results in calming them or putting them at peace or at ease,” Wetmore said.

The other student on the project, fourth-year biopsychology major Manahan, said she and Valluri got involved in the project through online advertising.

“We both found this on Craigslist,” Manahan said. “We were both interested in the psych field and it was advertising through psych that it’s promoting positive psychology.”

UpJoy allows for an optional one-step survey before and after using the site to measure any change in mood. The survey recorded an average increase of roughly 10 percent in the moods of 200 users who spent just 15 minutes on the site.


A version of this story appeared on page 4 of Monday, March 3, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.