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UT launches gratitude app

The University of Twente will launch a free app called the ZENN app. The app is intended to support people who are experiencing reduced well-being as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The app encourages participants to reflect on the positive things in their life every day for a six-week period, using their own photos, inspiring quotes, and keeping a diary (on paper) that addresses a different theme every week. Professor Bohlmeijer, the initiator of the project explains: ‘The University of Twente will use this app to begin a study into the effects on the mental well-being of people who are experiencing reduced mental health issues due to the coronavirus pandemic.’

Recent studies show that many people are suffering from mental health issues as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This is regrettable, but also inevitable. The research also reveals the need for simple, low-level interventions that can help people through these challenging times, staying positive and resilient. One effective strategy is to focus on appreciating the positive things in life, while also acknowledging the problems one might be experiencing. That is why the University of Twente has developed the ‘ZENN’ app (also known as the ‘Not that Bad’ app).

The ZENN app

The gratitude app is made up of six parts, each accompanied by an introductory video, a written explanation, and an exercise to complete. Participants keep a written diary for six weeks, covering a different theme each week. The themes include appreciating simple everyday things and focusing on what other people mean to you. The app keeps track of the exercises that have been completed by the user. Participants also receive automated tips based on their experiences with an exercise. On the home page of the app, each completed exercise adds another coloured segment to a picture of a sunflower. In addition, users are sent daily quotes and can upload photos of things they feel grateful for. The participants are sent an encouragement to complete the exercise every day. Users of the app will spend around 10-15 minutes each day doing the exercises.

Scientific evidence

Gratitude means focusing on the good things in life. There is scientific evidence that we can train our gratitude, and that people who feel more gratitude are better able to handle adversity, experience more positive emotions, worry less, and develop better interpersonal relationships. All these things contribute to increased mental resilience and well-being. Previous research carried out at the University of Twente showed that a six-week programme of exercises greatly improved people's mental well-being (Bohlmeijer et al., 2020). This programme is now available as a Dutch app, which will be translated into English and maybe highly applicable to other contexts as well, such as among students, healthcare workers, or in the workplace.

Registration for the app and the research

The University of Twente now wants to find out whether the free ZENN app could also be effective for people who are struggling mentally due to the coronavirus crisis. Half of the participants will be able to start using the app after completing a number of questionnaires, and the other half will begin eight weeks later. This will be decided by drawing lots. For more information and to register, please see the website.

drs. M.M.J. van Hillegersberg - Hofmans (Martine)
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