A Life with many Thanks

By Li Sze Pui U1330796L 

Do we take the little gestures of gratitude we do as wholly habitual? How bad can keeping it bottled up be for the people we interact with?

Masaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water has become somewhat infamous among the scientific community for claiming that water fed with positive words can crystallise into more symmetrical and beautiful formations, while water fed with negative words freezes into irregular and unclear shapes.

Naturally this form of pseudo-science is controversial in its scientific foundation, but of note is the question that a surprising amount of people formed from the theory:

If words can affect plain tap water in this way, then won’t the effects be carried over to humans, who are 70% water?

Positive Psychology is still a relatively new study. Its origins date back to William James’ time (1842 – 1910) although the term was first coined by Abraham Maslow in 1954 and it was Martin Seligman who founded the study as its own field when he became President of the American Psychological Association.

This study deals with the opposite of what was imagined of psychology before the 2000s, which was basically “psychoanalysing people for anything wrong with their behaviour and curing mental illnesses”.The idea of positive psychology is the notion that the absence of mental problems or emotional turmoil does not equate to a mentally healthy individual. Rather it is the humanistic approach to living happily that indicates a good mental foundation.

This study is rather slow to catch on in Asian countries, particularly because we’re of a high-context society where our communication is mostly implied instead of being literal. Authoritarian methods and the ‘tiger mom’ are common parenting tactics that had only begun to be questioned just before the turn of the millennium, as meritocracy has an extremely firm root in the Asian society so therefore any method to let children get exceptional grades is “justified”.

As a result of such a social influence, the Asian personality even in Singapore is said to be withdrawn and carrying a knee-jerk reaction for holding back expressions of any emotion, including joy. This results in a society that lacks certainty that anything positive is happening in an individual’s life since all other people’s emotions at this point are speculative. Asian children, from a young age, learn by themselves that saying things like “I love you” or “I’m glad you’re here” are embarrassing and awkward even to their own parents. Hardly anybody questions the relationships in the family, and a common worry for both parents and children alike is if they are actually loved and appreciated in the household, especially if the family is not especially stable.

My goal is to bring the expression of love and gratitude back into the daily lives of children (and secondarily their parents) by incorporating the show of gratitude into mediums that children of schooling age can enjoy.

I’ve been told that the design should be colourful and DIY enough to appeal to most children of both genders, but yet not overtly childish so as to not to push away the ones who don’t like being treated as children. The aesthetic of the project emulates water and dissolvable vitamin tablets in the shape of a heart, which brings the idea back to Masaru Emoto’s theory that started the inquiry and serves as a metaphor that it is something humans would need to stay healthy.
My first medium would be a party game named Thank You for Letting it Out; basically Truth-or-Dare: Small and Nice Acts version.

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The box is a clasped one to keep it closed in case someone shakes it.

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There are 80 cards in total: 2 sets of 18 variations for both Truth and Dare, plus 8 “Keep-it-in” cards which function as passes.

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The rules (for 2 or more players):
1. Each player takes turns to draw either a Truth or a Dare card. Dare cards usually contain more points than Truth cards.
2. Once a player draws the card, they have to do what’s written on the other side, and they’ll earn the points as shown on the heart tablet.
3. If the player draws a Keep-It-In card, he/she is allowed to pass any future turn by returning this card to the bottom of the respective deck and shuffling it.
4. If the player does not have any Keep-It-In cards but wants to pass, 4 points will be taken from that player.
5. The game ends when 15 minutes is up or the cards have run out. The player with the most points wins!

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This game encourages thought on what and how he/she is grateful towards interactions in daily routine and also prompts players to disclose information about their view on gratitude, allowing the players to bond in a positive manner.

My second product is a wall calendar with the title Thank You for being here all year.

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Every month brings a theme for children to show their creativity in decorating the top of the poster.

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There are random dates highlighted in red where users are encouraged to use the Thank You for the Vitamin app to send a nice message to their parent (or anybody else).

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Stickers are packaged with the calendar. When the user gets exceptionally thanked, thanked someone, received a Vitamin etc., they can stick one of the stickers on the date.

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do1j0gThis calendar is supposed to prompt users to notice thankful acts more in their daily lives, be it from themselves or from others. This practise can form a habit once they find themselves doing it everyday.
My last product is an app named Thank You for the Vitamin. It is a cross between a simple message platform and a status updater, with the purpose of giving a bit of positivity to somebody’s day.

 

The app has a constant wave animation in the background.

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Once the user has registered, he/she can log in based on category (parent, child, friend etc.)

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The main screen is a calendar showing all the Vitmains received this month, and if the Vitamin is tapped, the message will show.

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To send a Vitamin, tap on “Send a Vitamin” and select a templated or customisable message.

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Type out the message and either send it immediately or add it to a queue, which delays the message to a set time so that someone can receive messages in a spread period of time instead of getting a lot of them at once.

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Flick to send the packaged Vitamin.

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When a Vitamin is received, tap to dissolve it in water and the message will show. The Vitamin will then be saved in the phone calendar. Tap to view previous messages.

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This app is a simple and accessible way to compliment, thank or cheer someone up. Since it’s much less stressful to express emotions through a virtual means than physically, this app allows people to make expressing positive thoughts a frequent thing.
Conclusion:

The design process was quite a struggle for me since I don’t have any primary sources on what would motivate children to use something. Someone then told me to not underestimate children since kids today are much more mature than they seem and a childish design may turn them away. So I revamped my entire design to a much more simple interface and worked with as little of a range of hues as possible. The results are much easier to reproduce and animate and I was quite glad I got the advice.

With these 3 products, I hope to promote a better mindset for everyone, but especially children. It can be suffocating to grow up having to keep every compliment and word of love bottled up, wondering if we are hated when in actuality it’s often the opposite. If this could make anybody’s lives even a bit happier, I’d be satisfied with what I’ve done.

 

References:

History of positive psychology: http://mina.education.ucsb.edu/janeconoley/ed197/documents/Froh_TheHistoryofPosPsych.pdf&ved=0CCcQFjAAahUKEwj__bSehZjJAhUWCY4KHbLiCs0&usg=AFQjCNGuui3H4fh7clGUFPQXVVrMGrhP-g&sig2=BTfsQ6p1ien5nRbjVb9r9Q

Masaru Emoto’s experiment:
http://is-masaru-emoto-for-real.com

Founding fathers of positive psychology:
http://positivepsychologyprogram.com/founding-fathers/

Lew, W. (1998). Understanding the Chinese personality: Parenting, schooling, values, morality, relations, and personality. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.
Rinn, R., & Markle, A. (1977). Positive parenting. Cambridge, Mass.: Research Media.
Chua, A. (2011). Battle hymn of the tiger mother. New York: Penguin Press.
Snyder, C. (2002). Handbook of positive psychology. Oxford [England: Oxford University Press.
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